by: Stella Bui

The growing importance of data in driving business decisions has led organizations to focus on data governance. Data governance ensures that data is accurate, consistent, and accessible to the right people at the right time. In this article, we will explore the various data governance roles and their responsibilities, which are essential for implementing an effective data governance strategy.

Introduction to Data Governance

Data governance refers to the management of data assets within an organization, ensuring that data is accurate, consistent, and accessible to the right people at the right time. It involves creating policies, processes, and best practices for data usage and security.

The primary objective of data governance is to establish a data-centric culture within an organization, where data is valued as a strategic asset and used effectively to drive decision-making. To achieve this goal, organizations must employ various data governance roles, each with specific responsibilities and expertise.

>>> Explore more: The Four Pillars of an Effective Data Governance Framework

Understanding the Different Data Governance Roles

There are several key data governance roles within an organization, each with specific responsibilities and expertise. Some of the most common data governance roles include:

  1. Data Admin
  2. Data Steward
  3. Data Custodian
  4. Data User

While these roles may have different titles in different organizations, their core responsibilities remain the same. The successful implementation of a data governance strategy depends on the effective collaboration and coordination among these roles.

Data Governance Team Structure

An effective data governance team structure consists of a combination of both technical and business roles. The team should be structured in a way that allows for cross-functional collaboration and communication, ensuring that data governance policies and practices are aligned with the organization’s overall business goals.

The data governance team structure may vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization. However, a typical team structure includes the following roles:

  1. Data Governance Sponsor or Executive Sponsor: This role provides strategic direction and oversight for the data governance program. They are responsible for ensuring that the program aligns with the organization’s business goals and objectives.
  2. Data Governance Program Manager: This role is responsible for managing the overall data governance program, including planning, implementation, and monitoring. They coordinate the efforts of the various data governance roles and ensure that the program is on track to meet its objectives.
  3. Data Governance Council or Steering Committee: This group is composed of representatives from various business units and functions within the organization. They provide input and guidance on data governance policies, practices, and priorities.
  4. Data Governance Roles: This includes the data admin, data steward, data custodian, and data user roles discussed earlier. These roles are responsible for executing the day-to-day activities of the data governance program.

Data Admin Role and Responsibilities

Who is a Data Admin?

A data admin is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the entire data governance program. They serve as the primary point of contact for resolving data-related conflicts and ensuring data integrity.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data Admin

The main responsibilities of a data admin include:

  1. Ensure the usefulness of data: Data admins are responsible for overseeing data transformations, monitoring data flow within the organization, and designing data models. They also plan, implement, and maintain data repositories such as databases, warehouses, and lakes.
  2. Enable data analytics for decision-making: Data admins handle training and onboarding requirements for both technical and business users, ensuring that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively use data in their decision-making processes.
  3. Ensure data integrity: Data admins track data lineage throughout the organization, ensuring that the data is credible, relevant, and updated.
  4. Database administration tasks: Depending on the organization, data admins may also be responsible for maintaining the data dictionary, choosing the right tools (software and hardware), and monitoring database performance.

When hiring a data admin, organizations should look for seasoned data team members with a solid understanding of both business and technical aspects of data management.

Data Steward Role and Responsibilities

Who is a Data Steward?

A data steward acts as a bridge between business and IT, ensuring that business users can access the right data to make informed decisions. They are responsible for standardizing data definitions, rules, and descriptions, as well as defining access policies and optimizing data-related workflows and communication.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data Steward

The primary responsibilities of a data steward include:

  1. Creating data assets: Data stewards own data asset creation, policies, and security. They ensure that data assets are properly documented and managed.
  2. Ensuring data quality: Data stewards work with the rest of the data governance team to evaluate, manage, and monitor data quality throughout the organization.
  3. Protecting data assets: Data stewards establish data security protocols that align with the organization’s data governance goals, policies, standards, and compliance requirements. They also assess potential threats to data security and collaborate with the IT team to mitigate them.
  4. Defining access policies: Data stewards help set up access policies, ensuring that the right users have access to the data they need.
  5. Optimizing workflows and communications: Data stewards play a crucial role in data collaboration and sharing, helping data users search, discover, trust, and use the data they need.

When hiring a data steward, organizations should look for a senior data team member with deep domain knowledge, familiarity with the data stack, and strong communication skills.

Data Custodian Role and Responsibilities

Who is a Data Custodian?

A data custodian is responsible for managing the movement, security, storage, and use of data within an organization. They work closely with data stewards to ensure that data is properly managed and protected.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data Custodian

The main responsibilities of a data custodian include:

  1. Controlling data access: Data custodians authorize and control access to data, managing the technical aspects of setting up and implementing permission controls.
  2. Collaborating with data stewards: Data custodians identify data stewards for each data asset or domain, and work with them to address data quality or integrity issues.
  3. Overseeing data storage: Data custodians handle the technical aspects of data storage, including versioning master data, setting up system backups, and implementing a disaster recovery plan.
  4. Staffing requirements: Data custodians also manage staffing requirements for data governance teams, ensuring that the right resources are in place to support the organization’s data governance efforts.

When hiring a data custodian, organizations should look for a senior engineer or scientist within the data team who can navigate the modern data stack with ease.

Data User Role and Responsibilities

Who is a Data User?

A data user is anyone within an organization who extracts value from data to inform decision-making. This can include marketers, researchers, executives, business managers, and other stakeholders.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data User

The main responsibilities of a data user include:

  1. Attending training and educational sessions: Data users should attend training sessions on data governance, access, and use to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively use data in their decision-making processes.
  2. Using tools to extract value from data: Data users should make use of tools such as data dictionaries, catalogs, and knowledge bases to find and extract value from data sets.
  3. Interacting with the data governance team: Data users should collaborate with data stewards and data custodians to understand and use data effectively.
  4. Identifying data issues: Data users should bring any data quality or credibility issues to the attention of the data governance team.
  5. Following security measures: Data users should ensure that they follow appropriate security measures to protect sensitive data.

The Importance of Collaboration Among Data Governance Roles

Effective data governance relies on the collaboration and communication among the various data governance roles. Each role plays a crucial part in implementing and maintaining a successful data governance strategy. By working together, these roles can help organizations achieve their data and business goals, driving better decision-making and improved business outcomes.

Adaptive Data Governance and the Future of Data Governance Roles

As organizations continue to evolve and adapt to changing business environments, data governance roles and responsibilities must also evolve. Adaptive data governance, as suggested by industry experts such as Gartner, is an approach that embraces flexibility and agility in response to varying levels of uncertainty.

This shift in data governance thinking requires data governance roles to become more adaptable and versatile, with an increased focus on collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement. By embracing adaptive data governance, organizations can better meet the needs of their digital business and stay ahead in a rapidly changing world.


Incorporating SimpleMDG on SAP BTP Master Data Governance can significantly enhance an organization’s data governance capabilities. Collaboration and communication among the different roles are essential in ensuring that policies and processes align with business goals. Adaptive data governance is crucial in responding to changing business environments and continuously improving data governance practices. With a strong data governance team and culture of improvement, organizations can effectively leverage their data assets to drive business success.

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