Keeping it real: Why your data program needs a data steward

Big data analytics offers enterprises the opportunity to uncover hidden value in their data assets. But as discussed in a recent post, data can’t analyze itself.

Data scientists and other enterprise employees dependent on data analysis to do their jobs must ask the right questions and draw the correct conclusions from the data. Both bad data and incorrectly analyzed data can lead to costly strategic decisions.

Over at CIO.com, contributor Kumar Srivastava makes the argument that enterprise big data programs need stewards “to ensure that the enterprise’s strategic decisions and actions are based on sound analysis that do not misinterpret, mis-analyse or misrepresent the truth.”

“The data steward has the responsibility to ensure analytics is used to drive enterprise strategy and actions and that it is done so in a systematic, scientific manner based on sound reasoning and logic,” Kumar writes.

And the most obvious candidates for the job of enterprise data stewards, he says, are data scientists. That’s because a good data scientist is, by definition, a scientist, which means he or she should have no vested interest other than pursuing knowledge through data that will support the enterprise’s business goals.

“History is full of examples where analytics have been purposefully designed to prove a narrative as opposed to analysis defining the narrative,” Kumar writes. That’s a real danger in an enterprise with headstrong leadership. Charting a strategic course based on flawed data or flawed analyses intended to support a CEO’s “gut feeling” can lead an enterprise toward disaster.

In an enterprise world where many employees have access to data — and aren’t afraid to use it! — it’s imperative that data scientists act as strong data stewards, guiding the organization’s efforts to leverage data in an objective and logical manner. And that sometimes may mean standing firm and speaking the plain truth to the C-suite. They may not like it at first, but eventually business leaders will come around when they see the benefits of a quality data analytics program.

Does your enterprise have strong data stewards?

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