Businesses struggle with this question: Who owns the data within my organization? Is it IT or the business? 

My answer: Option C - create a data governance council to understand and own data within an organization.
In our experience, there are specific areas that the technology team needs to own to have proper data constructs, data models, and an operating model for managing that data. Additionally, the business team has a role in identifying what sort of outcomes they are trying to achieve by leveraging the data. Those inputs will inform what types of data we should be maintaining, how we should be maintaining that data, and what sort of fields or values, or ongoing maintenance that data may require to get those outcomes achieved and accomplished. 

In this video I’ll explain why and how to build a data council in order to effectively address data ownership within an organization. 

Video Transcript

All right, folks, today, let's talk about a fairly simple question with a not so simple answer.

Who owns the data? And when I talk about data, we're talking about corporate data, enterprise data. 

When we hear the term, "Hey, we need to increase first-party data. We need to build a data-driven organization." Well, we need to identify that data, and we have to understand how we're going to be maintaining it and how we're going to be leveraging it for the future of our business. 

And we hear this question a lot: Who owns the data within my organization? And unfortunately, HR dotted lines don't really work in terms of data itself, because if I were to split out the idea of, well, IT should own data because they own systems and technology within my business. Or conversely, I say, "Well, no, no, no. Systems and technology, that's very important and vital, but the business is who should be owning the data because the business is the one that's going to be leveraging the data for any of this future ROI, or for any of this future decision making, or for things that are going to support the business in the long run." 

When No One Owns Data In the Organization

And so you get this push and pull of a model that says, "Well, data is important to my organization, but because I've failed to identify who is going to own it, who's going to have the final authority and decision making around data, we end up sweeping it under the carpet." 

We end up going to the easy solutions. 

Well, data is what it is. We have the systems in place, we have the processes in place already. The data's just there. Let's go build a data lake. Let's go build a data warehouse. Let's go purchase a bunch of licenses that help me do data visualization, or in the modern era, help me do some generative AI analysis around my data. 

And unfortunately, this really leads us into the cyclical kind of phenomenon where organizations continuously identify that they want to leverage data, while at the same time pretty much sit there and I don't wanna say the word complain, but they complain, they don't know how to get the data in a way that's going to produce any of these things that they're hearing. Whether it's from C-suite or whether it's from peers within the industry to acknowledge that data is this critical function. 

And it all comes back to ownership. 

Understanding a Data Governance Council

And so this is where we build into a concept of a data council. So what a data council will be able to do for you as an organization is, remove the obstacle that I have to force a decision on which group, again, if I just elevate ourselves up a little bit, which group is... Whether it's IT or the business owns data. And the answer is both, right? 

Because there's going to be specific areas that the technology owners need to maintain to have proper data constructs in place, and to have a proper model, an operating model for fundamentally managing that data. But conversely, the business needs to identify what sort of outcomes they are trying to achieve by leveraging the data. And that's gonna inform what types of data we should be maintaining, how we should be maintaining that data, and what sort of fields or values, or ongoing maintenance that data may require to get those outcomes achieved and accomplished. 

So we can't come into this with an idea that data has to be owned by one individual or group or another. 

A data governance council will allow us to essentially build a lockstep model between the organization. Because I'm gonna have various business units. I'm gonna have various areas of operations, various areas of sales, and of customer service. And within IT, I'm gonna have different system owners. Maybe it's in regard to SAP or Oracle. And then I have my middleware I have to take into account. And then of course, I have my reporting, and I have my analysis. And then, I have to understand what I'm trying to get out of it. 

Organizing for Business Sustainability

So in order to build out this model that says, "Hey, we're going to come into this together and be one unified organization that knows data is important, that knows first party modeling is going to be important for the sustainability of my business." You build a council.

And what is the council? The council is a group of high-level executives within the organization that represent each area that I just described. So I'm gonna have areas within sales, I might have areas within marketing and merchandising, I will have areas within IT. Whether that's the middleware team or the reporting team, or elevated up to the owner of IT initiatives. And then they are going to meet on a quarterly basis and identify exactly what our vision is going to be for leveraging data within the organization. 

Now, how does that manifest itself into tactical programs within the org? Because what we've talked about is data governance councils, we elevate it, right? You have to have an elevated position, has to be executive level buy-in because they need to bring that vision down to the people that are the doers, so that they know that there is no more push and pull of who owns what. 

And what that governance council will inevitably do is they'll deputize folks. We will have deputized people within the various organizations that then become your data stewards, your data designers, your information architects, and your data custodians. Those who manage the actual input and management of data. And when I do that, I'm all of a sudden working in this end-to-end model of maintaining data within the enterprise through all of the other operational necessities that have to go on. 

Integrating Data into Every Business Area

Data needs to be incorporated and ingrained into every area. I had mentioned, supply chain, digital marketing, planogram design for brick and mortar. It could be everything from customer service, to sales internal and external outreach. All of these areas need to be incorporated with proper data stewardship. And the only way we do that is if we create proper data ownership. 

And we can't be kidding ourselves in the long run to say that, "Hey, only the business is allowed to own data." Or only IT is allowed to own data because they own the systems. It's both. The answer is both.

And yes, HR does not go nicely to the model of, "Well, we need to straddle different areas of the business to maintain a proper data construct," and that's okay. We don't work with the HR construct. Those are in place for a lot of different reasons, for a lot of different operational models, and that's great. 

We need to recognize that the data governance council needs to be step one. We have to create that model. We have to be lockstep, then we deputize, and then we execute. And if we do that, we're on our way to building out some really fantastic, new data structures and data ways of thinking throughout the enterprise in the business.

About the Author

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Vinny Maurici

VP of Data Engineering

As Vice President of Data Engineering, Vinny is accountable for the growth, success and thought leadership of the Data Management business at Object Edge. He brings 15+ years of master data, merchandising, and governance experience; and has launched several successful enterprise and Fortune 500 global product data programs in B2B Manufacturing and Distribution, Retail, and Food Services.

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