With Data Stewards Day fast approaching I started to reminisce about the many data stewards I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past.
What struck me was just how many people take on the role of data steward - but under the guise of conventional roles. For example, my first role was classed as a software engineer, but I was responsible for monitoring the health of data as well as data quality awareness training and a continuous improvement programme to transform all data-related processing. They were all classic data steward roles - but introduced by stealth in the form of a software developer! The reality is that your organisation probably has far more data stewards than you realise.
But what makes these individuals likely to gravitate to this type of role?
The skills of a data steward are varied, but perhaps the most common trait I’ve witnessed is the ability to effect change.
Great data stewards are passionate about changing the status quo, so not only is the quality of data improved but the quality of working life is improved (not to mention bottom line profits and performance).
Change management is definitely a skill that can be taught, but it’s also a skill that many people naturally possess. For many, simply turning up to work and completing allocated tasks is all they need to be fulfilled in their role. But change agents need more. They need to understand how processes are constructed so they can innovate new improvements. Change agents are often persuasive without resorting to brashness and arrogance. They can be forceful, but in a collaborative way. The focus is on working together, across silos, for the good of everyone - not just their own status or results.
Change agents in data steward roles need to build cross-functional relationships not just with peers and frontline workers, but often up into the senior management layers of the organisation. This is often a key difference with some of the more administrative data roles such as a DBA. In many ways, the modern data steward overlaps with the role of a data scientist. They need to be inquisitive and creative problem solvers, not bound by silo politics and restrictive policies.
Data stewards are the data lifeblood of your organisation and should be valued and supported. To help give them the recognition they deserve, nominate yours for a Stewie on Data Stewards Day and share your views in the comments on the most important data steward trait.