• Data Governance
  • 04.22.20

Data Governance: Who Are the Stakeholders?

  • by Henry Zheng, The Ohio State University and Vaughn Hopkins, Delaware State University

This month, we discuss who the key data governance stakeholders are and how to engage them effectively.

A stakeholder in any data governance program is an individual or group that could affectAIR-2118 Recent News-_Digitalization_automation or be affected by the data governance process. The obvious examples of stakeholders are institutional researchers, data managers, data architects, and business intelligence staff. Beyond those who are more closely related to data management roles, other groups need to be viewed as stakeholders as well. For example, a university provost who is looking at a dashboard report on the percent of faculty teaching online courses will need to know how “faculty” is defined and whether adjuncts or lecturers are being included. An effective data governance program has the right information and definitions embedded within the dashboard so that the provost can understand and correctly interpret the data. Data governance programs need to be built to support data consumers in a wide range of groups within the institution.

With a more technical definition, the data management blog Dataversity identifies three roles that are closely related to data governance operations: data trustee, data steward, and data custodian. A data trustee is from the business or operations area and represents this unit in a data governance committee. Data trustees are accountable for the data definitions, data quality, and compliance with data management policies and standards for a specific data domain. Data stewards are subject matter experts in their respective data domains and support business unit staff in data management and access. Data stewards are often the data managers for the business areas. Data custodians are typically the IT or system managers who review and grant access rights to data they oversee, and are responsible for data security, quality, and integrity. 

Depending on the size and organizational structures of an institution, the three distinct roles for the data governance programs are often not as clear-cut as one may think. In many operational areas, the boundaries are blurred and the same staff member may assume two or three roles at the same time. Regardless, data trustees, data stewards, and data custodians are the stakeholder groups that are foundational to any functioning data governance program. Leadership structures for data governance need to reflect the various roles that different stakeholders play and engage them appropriately.

A successful data governance program must have the right leadership structure to support its stakeholder engagement. Effective programs are often sponsored or overseen by senior level officers of an institution. For example, Lehigh University’s data governance structure includes faculty members who represent each of the colleges' senior administration officers and is co-chaired by the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Institutional Research Officer.

Data governance programs rely on the time, energy, and persistence of all stakeholders to succeed. Having the right leadership to rally and sustain support is essential.