One of the most influential factors on human behavior is culture. In the corporate world, culture is reflected in management styles, policies, operational procedures, mechanisms of collaboration, and how people respond to problems. Corporate culture affects an organization’s likelihood to except less than ideal behaviors and its ability to address them. In the context of data management, far too many organizations have cultures that support secrecy, individual ownership of data, and a willingness to step around formal data management processes. The result is a perpetuation of “bad” data. In light of these bad cultural norms, what can you do to improve your data quality?
The SAS Best Practices organization counsels companies to formalize the people part of your data management process. Introduce jobs with roles and responsibilities that establish accountability, like data stewards. We define data stewardship as the act of overseeing and ensuring the maintenance of the data as an asset. Data stewards serve as a point of contact between business and IT, answering to both the data governance team and executives. They make sure that processes and policies you create for managing your data, preferably through data governance, are executed properly. When there are data problems, stewards are the “go to” source of information and solutions.
We don’t want to give you the impression that there is no one in your organization capable of serving as a data steward (or willing to serve as for that matter). You may already employ someone who has the right qualities and is itching to see more responsibility over the data. Look for individuals with the following characteristics:
- Enjoys collaboration
- Familiar with core business processes
- Can speak “tech” when necessary
- Understands and can work well within your corporate culture
- Can articulate the value of a data model
- Knows when and how to call on higher-ups for support
Data stewardship is a great way to show other employees that data management is about more than processes and policies. They actively demonstrate to other employees that accountability is supported and expected. Over time they can serve as catalysts, role models, and even leaders in fostering a more transparent and responsible corporate culture.
Your flock needs a shepherd! Your data flock that is. Someone needs to be accountable for it and oversee it on a day-to-day basis; otherwise, you may not achieve the level of data quality that you know is vital to your business.