A Rose By Any Other Name

To quote Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet."

You don’t have to have studied Romeo and Juliet at school, seen the play or even have read it, to know the saying “a rose by any other name…”. As with many Shakespearean quotes this one gets used in our everyday lives and if you’ve been reading my previous blogs, you will be starting to pick up on the fact that I often view the world through data governance tinted spectacles.

The reason why this particular quote resonates with me is the debate I often find myself involved in when starting work with new clients. There is often some debate over what to call the roles of the people involved in the data governance framework. You may have come across Data Owners, Data Stewards, Data Custodians, Data Champions, Information Owners etc. and a host of others I’m sure. Personally, I favour a fairly straight forward set up with Data Owners, Data Stewards and Data Custodians as the primary roles, but I’ve learnt not to be precious about it.

Through both my own personal experience and from watching others, I know how emotive job titles can be and even additional responsibilities which do not ostensibly change a job title, need to have a descriptive name which fits with the company culture. So you might be the Finance Director, but you can also say that you are the Data Owner for Finance data and people would understand what that means.

Role titles are nice neat things, they enable you to deliver a message about what you are responsible for, succinctly and quickly, so it is no wonder that people use them. But what happens if you have the wrong titles?

Well that depends on the culture of the organisation and the individuals concerned: at best it could lead to confusion and make the operation of the data governance activities less efficient and at worst I’ve seen it delay the implementation of the data governance initiative as people debate what the roles should be called.

What I’ve learnt through experience is quite simple, the name is important to a degree (don’t insist on one set of titles if they really aren’t going to work in your organisation) but what is critical is what that role is responsible for and what you need the role holders to be doing to make your data governance initiative a success.

So my advice is to start with the list of things you need done and work out how best to group those responsibilities together in a way that fits with your organisational structure. Try some of the “usual suspects” out and test the reactions. If they like Data Steward – go with it, if they don’t try something else. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t called a Data Steward as long as they act like one.

As with all things Data Governance, pragmatism is vital (you can read more on my views on pragmatism in my blog on the subject) so in my view “That which we call a Data Steward by any other name could work just as well…”

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