I have encountered the term “Data Owner” many times, and I want to share my perspective on why this in an inappropriate term.  This point of view is not intended to be a legal review of the term, but there are some important distinctions as it is applied to data, and the promotion of data as a corporate asset.

Ownership most often implies personal proprietary rights of possession.  Ownership includes a “bundle of rights”, including but not limited to, use, gain, transfer, loss, inheritance, gift, exchange, foreclose, seize, damage, benefit and division, along with many others.  Some of these characteristics are useful concepts, but many of them are invalid when applied to information assets and inconsistent to the purpose of governance when applied to data.

I define data governance as a process that instantiates the decision-making authorities to consistently maximize the utility of information assets for business advantage.  Data governance is about increasing revenue, reducing cost, improving operational efficiency, reducing risk, and improving the customer experience.  These are very different objectives than the characteristics and rights of ownership.

So, what’s a better term than “ownership”?  There are many good examples, but the most prevalent is “steward”.  A data steward is accountable for implementing and enforcing the data governance agenda by protecting the integrity of information assets across the supply chain.

Data stewards:

1) promote the implementation of data governance;

2) coordinate initiative funding;

3) define critical data and business rules;

4) define controls and risk remediation strategies;

5) conform solutions to a data governance framework;

6) approve solution design;

7) assign responsibility for solution implementation;

8) measure implementation results;

9) certify the quality of the data; and,

10) align employee performance objectives with those congruent with maintaining high quality data standards across the organization.

The term “steward” more accurately reflects a role with a position of authority who supervises the orderly operation of the environment, coordinates activities, encourages effective and efficient collaboration of various parties as necessary and ensures the highest and best use of precious assets.

Using the right role names for your data governance program can have a major impact on how it operates, including employee performance to protect data integrity, making it everyone’s responsibility for all data.



Mr. Mohit Sahgal is the VP of Analytics of Paradigm Technology. He is an accomplished senior executive with decades of management consulting expertise. Mohit has held various leadership positions including Senior Executive at Accenture, Partner at IBM, Partner at Capco, and Executive Director at Ernst & Young LLP.

Mr. Sahgal LinkedIn profile can be found here: www.linkedin.com/in/mohit-sahgal

Paradigm Technology is a strategic consulting company serving the banking, airline, manufacturing, high-tech and retail marketplaces.  We utilize innovative business and technology solutions to help clients enable their digital transformation programs, and improve their Analytics, Cloud, Master Data Management, and Project Leadership solution delivery. Paradigm is ready to support you in your GDPR compliance journey.  For more information about Paradigm Technology and GDPR, email info@pt-corp.com or visit us at www.pt-corp.com.