What's the Difference Between Data Governance & Data Stewardship, and What Does It Mean for Secure File Sharing?

by Shirish Phatak on March 21, 2016

Organizations are dealing with two issues when it comes to data. First, they are dealing with an increase in data volume, that is, they are collecting and storing more data than ever before. Second, organizations are contending with an increase in the importance of data. Data is more critical than ever for producing business intelligence, insight into customers, and more. With the growth in data's volume and importance in the organization comes a greater need for specialists to oversee the management of all that data. How is it collected and stored? How is it kept secure? Who has access, and under what conditions? Two such data specializations are data governance and data stewardship. Though sometimes used interchangeably, the two do have separate meanings and the disciplines have different focuses.

Defining Data Stewardship

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Data stewards are professionals with a tactical focus on what data the organization has and how it will be stored, accessed, and used.

Data stewardship is tactical in nature. That involves management in the short term with a focus on the local and the specific. For example, a data steward is responsible for:

• Defining the data and identifying what data is critical, as well as documenting the allowable values of the data
• Defining the business policies for creating, collecting, storing, using, or denying access to or use of the data
• Documenting the sources of the data, which involves a system for recording where data comes from
• Establishing thresholds for the quality of the organization's data
• Adding and managing metadata
• Remediating any issues that come up relative to the organization's data

Defining Data Governance


Data governance is more focused on the people who use the data, while data stewardship involves direct management of the actual data.

Conversely, data governance is more strategic in nature, and focuses on the long-term general uses of the data across the organization. For example, a data governance professional:

• Creates a team of overseers to govern the data
• Defines the goals of the data and the principles by which it will be handled
• Establishes a plan to communicate the policies that govern the data
• Defines the roles and responsibilities for those who oversee data governance

As you can see, data governance has a focus on the people who manage the data, whereas data stewardship is focused on the data itself.

In a relatively small organization, a single person might very well be able to handle both responsibilities. But in larger organizations, or any entity that deals with massive quantities of data like Big Data, it will require separate positions, and most likely entire teams dedicated to data stewardship and data governance.

The most critical aspect of data stewardship and governance is going to be the data infrastructure. A centralized infrastructure assures that the personnel, policies, and procedures are manageable. Enterprises can handle this by utilizing a cloud infrastructure like Microsoft Azure, and then empowering use of the data via secure file sharing tools like CloudFAST™. These products allow the data steward and data governor to allow and disallow data access smoothly and seamlessly across the organization. You can see how this works in other enterprises when you read our customer success stories.

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