The Emerging Role of Data Governance in Data Heavy Environments

It is brutal when your failed federal audit report, with 148 issues related to unreliable, inaccurate, and inconsistent data, is made available for public review and comment. Ouch! It is even more painful when the report lists proper data management as the competitive advantage necessary to keep your company in business. It should feel like a jab in the eye, when you read about how you didn’t “follow through” with data governance and data stewardship programs that were initiated 10 years prior. This is exactly what happened to the United States Postal Service.

Although this debacle is painful for USPS, it does highlight great job opportunities for those IT professionals interested in data governance and stewardship. Let’s start with understanding what data governance encompasses, as described by industry experts:

“Data governance is an emerging, cross-functional, management program that treats data as an enterprise asset. It is a collection of corporate policies, standards, processes, people, and technology essential to managing critical data to a set of goals.”

Maria Villar and Theresa Kushner

“Data governance is the organization and implementation of policies, procedures, structure, roles, and responsibilities, which outline and enforce rules of engagement, decision rights, and accountabilities for the effective management of information assets.”

John Ladley and Danette McGilvrary

The theme that is consistent in both of these definitions is that data governance is an asset management practice with attention to data-related policies. The three primary roles in data governance are data owner, data steward, and data custodian.


Data owners in this business role make decisions about data access, distribution, retention, etc.

Data stewards facilitate consensus about data quality, data definitions, and compliance with regulatory requirements. This is a leadership role, and is at the core of the data governance team.

Data custodians have custody of the data in an IT responsibility. These data specialists take on such roles as data architects, data modelers, database developers, and database administrators.


There are tremendous job opportunities in data governance as the volume and velocity of data continues to explode. It is truly a collaborative relationship between the business and IT, as organizations begin to accept data as a corporate asset.