Industry Insight

Data Governance is Strategic; Data Stewardship is Tactical

By Rachel Haines May 3, 2012

What is the difference between data governance and data stewardship?  As the title of this post would imply, stewardship is a tactical function. And by tactical I mean short-term, specific, and local.   The common thread here is that these tasks all are executed against specific business terms or data elements.  Examples of tactical data stewardship tasks include:

  • Defining the data – Identifying key data, gathering definitions, documenting allowable values
  • Defining business rules – For creation of data, for usage of data, for derivation of data
  • Documenting data sources – Identifying system of record/system of recommendation
  • Setting data quality targets – Fit-for-use thresholds
  • Metadata identification/documentation
  • Remediation of data issues


On the other hand, data governance is a strategic function. It is strategic in the sense that it is long-term, general, and global. Examples of data governance tasks include:

  • Creation of a structure for participation – The committees, working groups, and councils for the data governance program
  • Defining the goals and principles – Guide the data governance program
  • Establishing a communications plan
  • Defining the policies and processes – Used to implement data governance
  • Define the roles and responsibilities – Rights and obligations of the participants in data governance

Clearly, data governance is not about the data. It’s about the people, policies, and processes to manage an asset that happens to be data.

For more interesting nuggets of information on data governance, check out this great blog post by my fellow InFocuser Bill Schmarzo. Within it the ‘Dean of Big Data’ offers a fantastic deep dive definition of the term and explains its vital role in business decision making.

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6 thoughts on “Data Governance is Strategic; Data Stewardship is Tactical

  1. Rachel,

    You’re so right on. Our industry is guilty of placing most of the emphasis and discussion around the technology (tactic), when the far more strategic, and frankly harder part to get right is around governance — people, policies, and process.

    Thanks for reminding us all.
    -Michelle Agul

  2. Pingback: Data Governance is Strategic; Data Stewardship is Tactical | ILM Solutions

  3. I beg to disagree – it’s a combination of both; you can have all the policies, procedures, committees in the world, but if they are not related to the actual items you’re meaning to govern, all your effort will go stale very quickly. Indeed, the challenge really is reconciling strategy to tactics. You can have the best generals and battle plans in the world (your strategy) but if you have no means of actually moving the supplies to your front line and controlling that the ammo is really getting to the cannons, you’re not going to survive the day.