Data governance council: What is it and why do you need one?

A data governance council is a governing body for strategizing data governance programs, raising awareness of its importance, approving enterprise data policies and standards, prioritizing related projects, and enabling ongoing support. Giving the right direction, the data governance council empowers all to create value from data assets while complying with security and privacy.

What does a data governance council do?

An average of 30% of productive time is spent on non-value-added tasks because of poor data quality and availability, according to the McKinsey Global Data Transformation survey 2019. Add to that the increasing focus on compliant data with the introductions of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), and other privacy laws.

A data governance council strategizes and steers the enterprise-wide data governance program to enable data quality and regulatory compliance.

Sometimes called a data governance committee or an advisory board, it ensures that: 

  • Trusted data is delivered across the enterprise.
  • The availability, usability, and integrity of data are managed continuously.
  • Data is used effectively.
  • Data is not misused.
  • Policies and standards are defined and implemented.
  • Procedures for data security and privacy regulation compliance are established. 

The data governance council also oversees the prioritization of data issues raised by data stewards and reviews of the data governance program.      

Roles and responsibilities of a data governance council

The data governance council typically includes delegates from core function teams of marketing, sales, finance, and HR; all teams that depend on accurate data to perform their jobs effectively. For example, the sales team extensively leverages client data and the HR team uses employee data, which is often classified as sensitive personal data under many privacy laws. This cross-functional approach ensures proper representation of all the employees using data and their guaranteed access. 

The data governance council typically comprises an executive champion, a convener, council members, and data stewards.

Executive Champion:

  • Chairs the data governance program
  • Ensures alignment of the organizational strategies, digital transformation and data strategy, and data governance program objectives
  • Secures support and funding from top management
  • Makes executive decisions for the council
  • Provides organization-wide visibility and communication
  • Reviews the progress and success of the program


  • Advocates priority for the data governance program  
  • Convenes meetings and facilitates team collaboration
  • Monitors program progress and reports it to the executive champion
  • Communicates updates and feedback to the team

Council members:

  • Provide representation from CIO, IT, security, and privacy teams
  • Represent functional teams such as marketing and finance
  • Evaluate value and risks to set priorities
  • Define the operational model for data governance
  • Develop data governance policies
  • Propose data standards, procedures, best practices, tools, and resources  

Data stewards

  • Implement executive decisions
  • Enforce the approved data governance policies
  • Ensure adherence to defined procedures  

How to create a data governance council

A data governance council’s structure will depend on many different factors, such as the organization’s industry, its business goals, the complexity of the data it holds, and regional regulations. 

Creating a data governance council begins by asking three questions:

  1. How does the data flow in the organization? Which teams and individuals create data and add value? At what stage data creates risks? Which roles use data the most? Does everyone understand the importance of data governance?  
  2. Which functional teams need data governance the most, now and in the future? What is the level of current efforts to match that need?
  3. How can the program align with the other enterprise-wide governance programs? How can a governance culture be created?

The data governance council members must be motivated and fully invested in the program to inspire others to participate. The data governance council members also need to be responsive and open to communication.

  • Executive champion: Executive-level officers acquainted with the data landscape and compliance programs are best suited to this role.
  • Convener: Those already functioning in a similar capacity in data management are ideal for the role of convener. For example, a CDO envisions data strategies, enables delivery of trusted data, and ensures value-creation from data assets within the framework of policies. Director of Data Governance, Enterprise Data Architect, SVP of Data and Analytics are also a good fit for this role.The convener must be empowered to drive organization-wide change.
  • Council members: For the role of the governance council members, those representing IT, security, and privacy teams should be able to contribute with the relevant experience of developing policies. Individuals representing functional teams should be senior business executives aware of the data risk areas.   
  • Data Steward: A dedicated lead data steward can steer the implementation, supported by a team of functional stewards representing data domains, business functions, or regions. Data stewards oversee the lifecycle of data in the organization to ensure its quality and integrity.

Top-level support drives the data governance program while the data stakeholders creating value ensure its success. For smooth functioning of the council, ensure that roles are easily transferred in case of any non-availability, and all the council members collaboratively contribute with their own specific skills.

Data governance is essential for unlocking the value of data effectively to power trusted business decisions. The data governance council offers guidance on the data governance strategy, ensures the focus on the program’s success, and handles conflict resolution. Driving the organization-wide data governance program, the council also provides the foundation for data quality improvement initiatives.

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