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Data Governance and Data Stewardship – keys to successful enterprise data initiatives

When embarking on enterprise data initiatives, such as Meaningful Use, BI or supporting the conversion to ICD-10, success is very often correlated to the degree of business involvement.  For enterprise data initiatives, there are three types of business (here meaning non-IT) involvement required:

  • Stakeholder involvement (these, of course, are the people for whom we are undertaking the initiative or who are approvers)
  • Data Governance
  • Data Stewardship

Our focus here is on the latter two – but one way we can think of these types of business involvements is that stakeholder involvement is vertical in nature (i.e., their involvement is often for a specific enterprise application e.g., an Enterprise Data Warehouse), while Data Governance and Data Stewardship are horizontal in nature (i.e., governing or stewarding cross functionally, business unit neutral, and independent of any specific system or application).

Let’s define what Data Governance and Data Stewardship are:

Data Governance – the practice of treating data and information as enterprise business assets and making strategic enterprise decisions about data and information, data management practices, and data/information environments.

Data Stewardship – is assigned responsibility, authority, and accountability over a data subject area for the enterprise to ensure that data is well defined, of high quality, properly secured, and effectively utilized.

As a lot of things tend to get lumped into the term “Data Governance,” let’s contrast it with the term “Data Management” (or Information Management).  Here is the DAMA DMBOK definition:

Data Management – “is the development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets.”

Data Governance and Data Stewardship are components of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) – other components including structured data management (e.g., database management), unstructured data management (e.g., email, document and content management), data architecture (e.g., data modeling, etc.), metadata management, data quality management, enterprise data warehousing, master data management, etc.

Data Governance and Data Stewardship are key ways that the business is involved in EIM.  Data Governance focuses on making strategic enterprise decisions (such as, do we need an Enterprise Data Warehouse, what policies will be enacted for HIPAA compliance from a data perspective, etc.).

The strategic decisions that are made as part of Data Governance are made typically through an enterprise level board or committee formed specifically for Data Governance.  Participants in a Data Governance Board are primarily from the business, with IT playing a supporting role.  This helps to ensure that the data/information environment is in greater alignment with business needs and objectives.

Data Stewardship is more tactical in nature as it is focused on a specific data subject area (Patient, Practitioner, Claim, Encounter, etc.).   There are different types of data stewards, with the most critical being the Business Data Steward.  This role should be filled by someone from a business unit (non-IT) who has the skills to work across the enterprise to achieve consensus on data and term definitions, data quality measurement and improvement, monitoring compliance with policies for the subject area, etc.  The Business Data Steward is primarily a facilitation role – but of course the Business Data Steward must have subject area expertise.  Business Data Stewards are assisted by Technical Data Stewards, Data Custodians and others and might chair a subcommittee for a complex data subject area.

There is much more that can be written about Data Governance and Data Stewardship – but the most important take away is that these are primarily business undertakings and are critical ways to enable business involvement in enterprise data initiatives.

Does your enterprise have a data governance board or committee?  If not, what are some obstacles to forming one?

Have you served as a Data Steward? What challenges did you face? 

I’d like to hear about your experiences or questions!

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