Who Owns Data

Data Quality is a risk without a clear understanding of responsibilities

There are other questions that have come before this one like, “why am I here?” but, for those of us especially interested in data management, none are as critical to answer. And while at first the answer may seem easy to discern, on closer examination, it is not so straight-forward.

Consider trading within the Financial Services industry and the ubiquitous need to maintain a master list of securities and related indicative data, such as Security Identifiers, Name, Issuer, Ratings, Rates, Classifications, etc., each security type having different attributes to describe from the next. And that’s where the challenges begin. Are all of the attributes for all security types owned by one person or group; or is there a distribution of responsibilities based on asset class? Different firms have different approaches, which, in large part, depend on the firm’s size, scope and organizational structure.

So, which approach is right? Or, to be exact, which approach yields the best results? Ownership of data comes down to two major components: who owns the data content and who owns the data structure. Consider this analogy – as a condominium owner, you have responsibility for the contents of your condo. You’re allowed to put anything you want into the condo, with some limits (no elephants allowed, for example). At the same time, even though you own the condo, you are not allowed to change its structure – that is left to the building manager, or structure owner. The structure owner is required to maintain the structure according to a set of standards (e.g., SLA, settlement or regulatory requirements). And may, with prior notice and sign-off from condo owners, even change the structure (to improve performance, add features or increase capacity). So, who owns the condo? Who owns the data?

There are close parallels between the condo owner and the data content owner, and the building manager and the data structure owner. The most effective answer is that there should be a collaborative relationship where there is shared ownership with “the business” more responsible for data content and their technology partners with primary responsibility for data structures and systems. Joint ownership will have a positive impact on data quality, the ability to properly govern that data (in terms of both content and structure), and ultimately on the usability of the data as well.

If you would like to know more, contact Craig at Craig.Bliss@exusia.com.

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