What is an Information Steward, and Why You Should Care?

Information stewards are dedicated to managing and integrating data between software applications to achieve some sort of business outcome. They are the critical link for organizations committed to innovation and maximizing the effective use of data.

Haven’t heard the term “information steward” before? If your organization has any kind of data and analytics initiative, then chances are you have people – maybe even an entire department dedicated to managing and integrating data.

However, if you haven’t explicitly defined what information stewardship is, or there is some confusion regarding roles and responsibilities for your precious data – your data-related projects are at a high risk for failure.

By solidifying your understanding of information stewardship, you ensure:

  • Better use of internal resources
  • Lower cost data processes
  • More effective business process execution
  • Increased business outcomes through exploiting information as an asset

This article is will help you understand the critical role of information stewardship as it relates to data and analytics.

More Than Meets the Eye

Information stewardship is a key concept in information governance. Essentially, it is well-defined role of providing day-to-day operational support using data. An information steward may be a single individual, or a team, but what it isn’t is a blanket concept that applies to everyone. It’s also much more than just data compliance or regulation.

Because an information steward owns the role of ensuring the business value of data, you can see that it is much more than just using or entering information.

Most organizations are feeling increased pressure to drive not just success, but also innovation through better use of data. Add to that the cold reality that information governance is often neglected and you can see why data-related projects have such a high rate of failure.

Is a Power-User or a Data Scientist an Information Steward?

Information stewards are more than just power-users of a software application. Known for their problem-solving ability, these experts don’t have operational or strategic control over how information is used. The same applies to data scientists whose main concern is working with temporary datasets and solving problems using existing data sources.

information steward sheriff

An information steward is involved with the implementation and day-to-day management of an organization’s information governance program.

Information governance is like a state’s ruling law, and information stewards are like the Sheriffs who uphold the law.

These stewards monitor the input and output of data integrations and workflows to ensure data quality. Their focus is on master data management, data lakes / warehouses, and ensuring the trackability of data using audit trails and metadata.

How to Get Started with Information Stewardship

Before the work of information stewardship can begin, a formal information governance policy must be set up. This should be a comprehensive plan that spans data security, access, quality, maintenance, retirement, etc.

The first step in planning needs to include prioritizing the most critical information assets to be governed. Then, based on the requirements of the information governance program, the information steward can begin working on cleaning up and resolving information-related problems.

It’s easy to imagine that this process of getting started could consume quite a bit of time depending on the quality of existing information. Maintaining compliance with regulation like HIPAA, GDPR, and the California Consumer Privacy Act is certainly made easier by the use of information stewards.

Larger enterprise organizations will likely need to deploy multiple information stewards. They can be organized by department, by function (in support of specific governance policies), by data domain (product data, patient data, customer data, etc.), or geographical dimensions.

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