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8 February 2024

ESG Compliance in 2024

Data owner vs. data steward: What’s the difference?

A common query that arises in the big data management world is the differentiation between a data owner and a data steward. This article aims to shed light on their distinct roles, highlighting their responsibilities and how they converge in the grand scheme of data management.

Data owner: The ultimate authority

In any organization, the role of a data owner cannot be understated. This pivotal position, often misconstrued simply as a titular one, goes far beyond nominal authority. A data owner typically holds a significant mantle of responsibility over specific datasets within an entity. They serve as the lynchpin, bridging the gap between data as an abstract entity and its tangible impact on business operations and strategies.

The term “ownership” in this context doesn’t denote exclusivity but embodies a heightened sense of accountability. Entrusted with pivotal decision-making rights related to their designated datasets, data owners wield the authority to grant or restrict access, instate security protocols, and even make decisions on data disposition. Their overarching presence ensures that data isn’t just stored and accessed but is leveraged effectively to drive organizational value.

Furthermore, the data owner’s responsibilities aren’t limited to the present. Their vision encompasses the evolving data landscape, forecasting future needs, and ensuring data adaptability. By doing so, they not only protect the data’s present integrity but also pave the way for its future relevance, making sure that as business needs evolve, the data remains an agile and responsive asset.

Data steward: The guardian of data quality

Data stewards, often deemed the unsung heroes of data governance, carry a mantle of vast responsibility. Their role orbits around data quality to ensure data accuracy, consistency, and reliability for all data users. At a granular level, this translates to a pursuit of high data quality, where every data point’s integrity is vetted, validated, and vouched for.

While a data steward’s authority might not encompass the broader strategic decisions that a data owner undertakes, their influence is palpable in the day-to-day handling of data. Through meticulous checks, regular validations, and timely corrections, they maintain an unwavering standard of data quality. It’s a dynamic role, requiring them to be on their toes, anticipating issues, and rectifying them proactively.

Moreover, in an era where data is ever-growing and diversifying, the data steward’s role becomes even more paramount. They serve as the gatekeepers, ensuring that as data streams flow into the organizational reservoir from varied sources, their purity remains uncontaminated. By championing the cause of data quality, they ensure that data, when accessed for insights or decisions, stands up to scrutiny and delivers the value it promises.

Distinct roles & shared goals

At first glance, the roles of a data owner and a data steward might seem separate, each operating within their designated domains. However, a deeper dive into the dynamics of data governance reveals a harmonious symphony of collaboration between the two. Their paths, while distinct, are intertwined, each playing its part in the grander orchestration of data management.

A data owner, with their strategic oversight and decision-making prowess, might determine the direction in which a particular dataset’s potential should be harnessed. They set the stage, laying down the guidelines, ensuring alignment with organizational objectives, and laying the foundation for data’s effective utility.

Conversely, the data steward, with their acute focus on data quality and intricacies, ensures that the stage set by the owner is primed for performance. Their role, albeit granular, is pivotal in guaranteeing that when the data is accessed and utilized, it stands robust in its accuracy, relevance, and reliability.

Convergence in data catalogs

Data catalogs serve as the center of data-driven organizations and are designed to make data discoverable and understandable.

A data owner’s influence in the realm of data catalogs is evident in the strategic decisions that shape its content and accessibility. They decide which datasets get the spotlight, and which ones are pivotal for organizational success and therefore should be more prominently featured or accessed. Their decisions are guided by the broader organizational strategy, ensuring that the catalog remains aligned with the company’s overarching objectives.

Alternatively, data stewards dive deep into the mechanics of the data catalog: Their expertise ensures the accuracy of the descriptive metadata, the nuances of data relationships, and the intricacies of data lineage. They are the ones who ensure that when a user accesses the catalog, they’re greeted with data points that are not only relevant but also rigorously vetted for quality.

Metadata management tools: A collaborative stomping ground

Using a metadata management tool also helps align the paths of data owners and stewards by providing insights into the data’s lineage, relationships, and transformations.

While the data owner focuses on the broader strategic insights these tools offer, the data steward delves deep into the nitty-gritty, ensuring that the metadata remains accurate and reflective of the data’s true nature.

Data security & compliance

Data security and compliance are shared concerns for both roles: Data owners usually set the policies and procedures related to data security, ensuring they align with the organization’s broader goals. Data stewards, meanwhile, often find themselves implementing and monitoring these policies, ensuring that data practices adhere to internal standards and external regulations.

Skillsets & backgrounds

Typically, data owners come from a strategic or managerial background, possessing a broad understanding of the business and its objectives. Their decisions are often guided by the organization’s goals and strategies. Data stewards, meanwhile, usually have a more technical background. Their expertise lies in understanding data, its intricacies, and the tools and technologies that surround it.


In the debate of “data owner vs data steward,” it’s crucial to understand that one role doesn’t overshadow the other: They’re two sides of the same coin, each bringing their unique strengths to the table. In the complex tapestry of data governance, their collaboration ensures that data remains a valuable and trusted asset for any organization.

Still have questions about data governance? Turn to DataGalaxy to create your company’s data lineage mapping, develop a standardized Business Glossary, and much more! Check our calendar and select a date that works for you. Jumpstart your free 15-day platform trial access & start making the most of your data today!

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