Data Owner vs Data Steward

Owners are embedded in data teams, Stewards are in data governance teams

Data Owner vs Data Steward

Today, as organizations grow, so does the volume & complexity of their data. These data-driven organizations get tons of complex heterogeneous data coming from multiple internal and external sources on a daily basis. This shift in the nature and volume of data has made the need for effective data management really important, now more than ever!

Nowadays, organizations need specific job roles focused on different parts of managing their data and ensuring data governance. This makes sure the data is both well-looked after and follows the rules, which helps keep things safe and affordable. Two important roles in this area are called Data Owner and Data Steward.

With roles like Data Owners and Data Stewards emerging as key players in data governance, it's crucial to understand what sets them apart. Both roles have distinct responsibilities and scopes of authority. Knowing these differences can significantly impact how effectively an organization manages its data.

In this article, we'll delve into the roles and responsibilities of both the Data Owner and the Data Steward, highlight their differences, and explain why having both is essential for a robust data governance framework.

What is a Data Owner?

A Data Owner oversees a specific data domain within an organization. The person with data ownership within the organization ensures that the data is properly maintained across different systems and operational activities related to data. Their core duties encompass:

  • Collaboratively addressing data inconsistencies across departments within an organization.
  • Reviewing and endorsing overarching data management strategies and results.
  • Ratifying data glossaries while safeguarding data accuracy both internally and externally.
  • Overseeing processes directly tied to data integrity.
  • Assisting in resolving more intricate data issues flagged by data stewards.
  • Relaying insights on tech tools, company policies, or legislative mandates potentially impacting their data domain.

What is a Data Steward?

Data Stewards are responsible for specific data sets within an organization. Their job is to focus on data quality, consistency, and usability within a company. Usually working closely with Data Owners. Their essential responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining data dictionaries and ensuring the data adheres to established definitions and classifications.
  • Regularly auditing data to find data quality issues, and verify its accuracy as well as integrity within and across organizational units.
  • Implementing corrections and improvements to data is often flagged through quality checks or external reports.
  • Facilitating communication between Data Owners and other stakeholders to clear up any misunderstandings about data usage or definitions.
  • Supporting larger data governance efforts by executing data policies and procedures set by Data Owners.
  • Data stewardship also involves advising on tools and systems that can optimize data storage, retrieval, and quality.

Key Differences

There are three key differences between these two roles -

Level of Authority

Data Owners generally hold more clout in an organization. They're often found in executive roles, making pivotal decisions about data usage and governance. On the other hand, Data Stewards usually work at the operational level, executing the decisions made by Data Owners.

Scope of Responsibilities

Data Owners are focused on broader objectives. They look at the data landscape from a high-level perspective, deciding on data domains, setting policies, and ensuring legal compliance. Data Stewards, however, zoom in on the fine details. They're the ones who roll up their sleeves to ensure the data is consistent and validate its accuracy.


When it comes to who gets to access what, Data Owners have the final say. They approve or deny permissions and ensure the data's security. Data Stewards, on the other hand, work more on the how-to side of data. They figure out the best methods to maintain data quality and facilitate its use within different teams.

Do Organizations Need Both of These Roles in Their Data Governance Teams?

Having both Data Owners and Data Stewards on your governance team is highly recommended for a well-rounded and effective data governance program. Each role brings a unique set of skills and responsibilities to the table.  The synergy between these two roles enhances the overall data governance framework. Here's why having both is crucial:

Comprehensive Oversight

Data Owners bring a macro-level perspective, focusing on overarching policies, access controls, and strategic goals. Data Stewards, conversely, work at the micro-level, ensuring the quality, accuracy, and consistency of data. The two roles together offer a more comprehensive oversight of your sensitive data assets.

Better Risk Management

Data Owners are typically responsible for ensuring compliance with legal regulations, which is vital for risk management and protecting data. Data Stewards contribute to this by ensuring the data is accurate and reliable, further mitigating potential risks.

Enhanced Operational Efficiency

While Data Owners strategize, Data Stewards execute. The latter ensures that data is formatted correctly, up-to-date, and easily accessible, making it easier for team members to do their jobs efficiently.

Collaboration for Decision-Making

Business decision-making improves when it's based on accurate, secure data. Data Owners set the framework for data access, while Data Stewards ensure the data within that framework is reliable. Together, they provide the organization with the trustworthy data it needs to make informed decisions.

Future Trends

As the digital age advances, the intricacy of data grows exponentially, elevating the significance of roles like Data Owners and Stewards. Several factors will shape their evolution:

  1. Complex Regulations: As data privacy concerns rise globally, stricter regulations will emerge. Data Owners and Stewards will shoulder greater responsibilities in ensuring compliance.
  2. Technological Advancements: AI, machine learning, and blockchain will influence data governance. These roles will need to adapt to harness these technologies effectively.
  3. Data Volume: The sheer volume of data being generated will demand more advanced data management strategies, refining the roles further.
  4. Cross-functional Collaboration: As data integration across departments becomes standard, Data Owners and Stewards will work more closely with other teams, ensuring seamless data flow.


Data Owners and Data Stewards both have an important role to play in managing your data. Recognizing the unique contributions of each role and fostering collaboration between them can significantly enhance your organization's data management practices.

In a world where data has become an invaluable asset for determining an organization's growth and success, these roles, working in harmony, are your best bet for keeping that asset secure, compliant, and valuable.

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