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What is Data Ownership?


We are going back to basics in this blog with a simple question that I’ve been asked quite a lot recently, and that is: ‘What is Data Ownership?’

Now, I think the reason this question is popping up a lot more frequently at the moment is that people are confused. They think that data ownership and data governance are different disciplines and that there are different things you have to do for both. This causes problems when trying to work out how to do either data ownership or data governance. However, we must have a good understanding of both concepts in order to effectively implement our Data Governance initiatives.

If we go back to the real basics of what a Data Governance framework is made up of, then we need to think about a few different things. First of all, we need a policy that tells you what you’re going to have to do to implement your Data Governance Framework. Then, you will need some processes so everybody does the same thing consistently and – most importantly of all – you will need to decide and agree on roles and responsibilities.

This is one of the most important aspects of implementing a Data Governance initiative, because if we don’t agree on who is going to do something then it may never get done. Even if everybody agrees it is a really good idea, if someone doesn’t take responsibility for getting it done you may find yourself in a situation where everyone passes the buck because they thought someone else was going to do it. For example, if you say to somebody, ‘we should have better quality data for our organisation’, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find somebody who says, ‘no, that’s a stupid idea’. However, everybody will think that somebody else will do the job. And let’s not forget, if your job title has anything to do with data, data governance, or data quality in it, they’re going to think you will be doing everything!

No one person in an organisation can understand everything about the data and manage it accordingly. So, we need to get business users involved. One of the key roles in a data governance framework is that of the Data Owner, and hence the term data ownership, because you’re not going to have one person owning all your data. As we’ve just laid out, you’re going to have several people (but not too many). Otherwise, you’ll have problems there too.

So, you’re going to have to have a small number of people – maybe between 15 and 20 – who own all the data in your organisation, and they’re going to be accountable for the quality of that data. When people talk about the concept of data ownership, they really mean just this key role in the data governance framework. They’re not the only roles in a data governance framework, but they are the senior people who are going to make your data governance framework work.

In short, don’t get confused about data ownership. And also, don’t get uptight if your organisation doesn’t like the term ‘data owner’ or ‘data ownership’ – call them what you like, whatever will make it resonate and fit for your organisation!


Find out more about implementing a Data Governance initiative by reading her full article on LinkedIn.

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