Data Ownership vs. Stewardship in TOGAF

In its architectural principles, TOGAF says that we must move away from the idea of mere ownership of data.  If we examine Principle 9 “Data is an Asset”, we see the proposal to move towards a culture of stewardship instead.  What does this mean?

Perhaps TOGAF assumes that ‘owners’ say ‘this data is mine’, without accepting any real responsibility for the data.
‘Stewards’, on the other hand, look after the data in the interests of the whole organisation “because obsolete, incorrect, or inconsistent data could be passed to enterprise personnel and adversely affect decisions across the enterprise”.

A simple (though not perfect, and non-PC) analogy would be the old country estates in the UK. An estate and house may be owned by Lord Grumpy, and he has the final say on what happens to it, and has a direct interest in the quality and timing of the shooting. His prestige and standing in the community would be severely dented amongst his peers if the shooting was not perfect. He delegates the day-to-day decisions to his steward, a very powerful figure locally, who decides who gets hired, what skills are needed, when to burn back the heather, and generally ensures that the estate’s objectives are met.

There is some potential confusion in the TOGAF text, as it says both of the following:
* (Principle 9) – “We must make the cultural transition from “data ownership” thinking to “data stewardship” thinking.”
* (Principle 12) – “a cultural change from data “ownership” to data “trusteeship” may be required”

Principle 12 implies that the trusteeship role is a subset of the stewardship role, so my analogy still stands. The trustee of the estate is the gamekeeper, to whom the steward delegates the tasks related to managing the quantity and quality ‘game’ on the estate, while the steward focusses on the wider issues.

One thought on “Data Ownership vs. Stewardship in TOGAF

  1. Mel November 4, 2017 / 15:13

    Hi George,

    Thanks for the blog. I came across your blog site while doing my research on SAP PowerDesigner. I’m an SAP BW admin/developer.

    I see the the owner/steward relationship when dealing with data management security. As data stewards we setup locks/keys (security roles) to the data per the owners requirements. The data stewards give the keys (role assignment) to the owner to distribute (assign) to other people.


    Mel Calucin

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