Data governance: the essential roles and responsibilities within a data governance team

Data is everywhere in today’s business world. It’s an integral part of every workday, helping with everything from providing customer insights to enabling strategy analysis and driving process optimization. The ever-growing volume and complexity of data in today’s business landscape means that if you want your business to thrive, you need to prioritize data governance.

Like a trusted compass, a well-designed data governance model guides your company’s data journey, ensuring accuracy, consistency and security of your data assets. However, this doesn’t happen automatically. To keep data governance running smoothly and make sure nothing falls through the cracks, you need to delegate clear roles and responsibilities for data management.

There are five essential roles to consider as you embark on this journey. You need a leader—your Chief Data Officer (CDO)—as well as data owners, data stewards, data custodians and data consumers. In a full-fledged data governance program, there are other important roles to consider, such as data architects, data protection officers, data analysts, and more. But in the beginning, the most important thing is to define the five essential roles and assign them to the most suitable employees.

The 5 essential roles in data governance

An easy way to understand data governance is to think of your organization as a bustling city. Data is the electricity that powers everything from streetlights to skyscrapers. And just like a city needs electricians, engineers and policymakers to manage its power supply effectively, an organization needs people in specific roles to govern its data. These roles each require certain skills and come with unique responsibilities.

Whether you’re a small startup or a large corporation, understanding these roles is the first step towards designing your data governance operating model.

The Chief Data Officer

Your Chief Data Officer (CDO) is your data governance leader—the mayor of your data-powered city. They orchestrate the flow of electricity (data). Armed with expertise and experience, the CDO ensures the city is always powered up and functioning optimally. They are the visionary leader who charts the course for the city’s growth. They shape the policies and procedures that underpin how data is collected, stored, managed and utilized across the organization.

The CDO engages with stakeholders across the company, educating them about the value of data governance, addressing their concerns, and securing their buy-in, much like a mayor engaging with citizens and local businesses. As the city’s chief regulator, the CDO ensures all data practices comply with relevant laws, regulations and industry standards.

The CDO weaves data governance into the very fabric of your organization. Embracing the ever-changing nature of the business landscape, they ensure a nimble program that evolves alongside your organization, tackling new data governance challenges and seizing opportunities along the way.

Ideally, the CDO should be part of the C-suite, with a direct line of communication to the top-level leaders. This allows them to make strategic decisions that impact how data is managed and utilized, just like a mayor shaping city policies.

The foundational data governance roles

It’s important to build a strong foundation on which your data governance system can thrive. This means making sure you understand the different roles and responsibilities associated with data governance and choosing how you will define them for your company.

Data owners: steering data accountability

Think of data owners as the city’s policymakers. They are responsible for making strategic decisions about how the city’s electricity (your company’s data) should be used.


Data owners are high-level individuals within an organization who have legal authority and control over a particular set of data.




  • Setting policies for data usage and security.
  • Making strategic decisions about data-related issues or investments.
  • Ensuring compliance with data regulations and standards.

Ideal fit

Senior executives or department heads who understand the strategic importance of data and can make decisions that align with the organization’s overall goals.

Data stewards: ensuring data quality and usage

Data stewards are like city planners. They ensure the city’s power infrastructure (data flow) is well maintained and meets the needs of its inhabitants.


Data stewards are responsible for maintaining the quality and usage of data within an organization.




  • Implementing the policies set by data owners.
  • Overseeing data quality and resolving any data-related issues.
  • Coordinating with other roles to ensure data is accessible, reliable, and secure.

Ideal fit

Individuals with strong project management skills who have a deep understanding of your organization’s data landscape.

Data custodians: safeguarding the technical side of data

Data custodians are like the city’s electricians. They ensure the city’s power grid (data governance model) is functioning properly and safely.


Data custodians are responsible for the technical aspects of data management. They ensure that data is stored securely, backed up regularly, and accessible when needed.




  • Managing data storage and backup procedures.
  • Implementing data security measures.
  • Ensuring data is accessible and retrievable for data consumers.

Ideal fit

IT professionals with expertise in data management and security.

Data consumers: using data for informed decision taking

Data consumers are the city’s inhabitants. They use the city’s electricity (your company’s data) for various purposes, from powering their homes to running businesses.


Data consumers are the users of data within the organization. They rely on accurate and reliable data to perform their job functions.




  • Using data responsibly and in accordance with company policies.
  • Providing feedback on data quality and accessibility.
  • Participating in data-related training and development programs.

Ideal fit

Any employee within the organization who uses data to perform their duties, from sales and marketing to finance and operations.

Allocating roles and responsibilities

Once you’re clear on the roles and responsibilities required for smooth-flowing data governance, it’s time to take a close look at your team.

  • Identify key players: Identify the key players within your organization—these are the people who will implement your data governance system.
  • Role definition: Decide who will perform the roles of data owners, data stewards, data custodians and data consumers. Then, define the responsibilities of each employee’s individual role accurately and with as much detail as possible—clarity is key! A data steward shouldn’t be expected to handle the technical aspects of data management and a data consumer shouldn’t be put in charge of ensuring data quality. Stick to the roles and responsibilities you have defined.
  • Match skills and expertise: It’s also important to assign roles based on an individual’s skills and experience. In the same way that city managers would select a trained electrician to manage the power grid, you should choose individuals with the appropriate expertise for each role in your data governance system.

Preparing for long-term success

With clear roles and responsibilities in place, your data governance is off to a flying start. But this isn’t a set-and-forget solution. Change is inevitable. You need to embrace change management to keep your data governance system agile and adaptable. Your system—and the team of people implementing it—must continuously evolve to succeed in the long term. This means you need to be open to feedback, ready to implement improvements, and prepared to manage the impact of any changes.

Important things to remember:

  • Communication is key. Clear communication ensures everyone understands their role and their individual responsibilities. They know what is expected of them, what they need to do, and the ways in which they contribute to the system’s overall goals.
  • Ongoing development is essential. Foster an environment of learning and improvement to ensure your team remains effective and adaptable.
  • And be sure to provide regular training to keep all participants up to date with the latest data governance practices and regulations.

A robust data governance model is essential for modern businesses. And with the right people in the right roles, your organization is not only able to reap the benefits of well-managed data, but also able to ensure regulation compliance and better serve your customers.

Need to assign data governance roles and responsibilities?

Mathias Vercauteren, Senior Data Governance Consultant at LACO

Mathias Vercauteren

Senior Data Governance Consultant at LACO

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