We've seen a lot of wacky technology job titles come and go over the years, especially among those "bleeding-edge" financial and technology companies that found themselves in fast company circles. What ever happened to the "minister of progress" or the "chief imagination officer"? Today we are seeing legitimacy offered to the "business architect," "process analyst" and "SOA enterprise architect."One name that I've always found rather interesting is "data steward." The title has been around for several years, chiefly as additional iterations of "database administrator," "data analyst" and "data master."

In the insurance industry, the custom of having a formal data steward is not standard operating procedure, chiefly because data quality is typically not directly tied to profitability, improved efficiencies or reduced operating costs.

Yet many carriers struggle through the data silos and typical integration issues inherent in acquisition-related growth, making data quality a big deal. Because if you can't access the data you need, or the data you access is dirty, the entire enterprise suffers.

We can thank and quietly curse the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 (particularly Section 404), which created a sense of exigency for insurance executives to take a real interest in the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of their data. SOX, corporate compliance and governance continue to create a sense of genuine accountability-not just for executives, but for all stakeholders.

That role of genuine accountability carries with it a call to action. Rather than throwing money at the typical "recover and fix" project, some insurance companies are now investing in entirely new platforms (mostly service-oriented architecture) to enable those data silos to talk and interact with stakeholders-all the way down to the policyholders, who really just want accurate information about their claims or current invoices.

In a recent Insurance Networking News virtual trade show, two industry consultants, Gary Knoble, retired vice president of data management at The Hartford, and Tracy Spadola, senior industry consultant at Teradata, a Dayton, Ohio division of NCR, suggested effective data management requires a larger role than that of a single data steward. They described "data stewardship" as having its roots at the organizational level, requiring senior level oversight of corporate data-but from an enterprisewide perspective. In other words, data stewardship dictates that business users and their requirements-not merely IT-must drive data planning, strategy, quality and access.

What if the data stewardship role included accountability for profitability, measurable improvements in efficient processing and a drop in costs?

What if the data stewardship role was assigned to all stakeholders?

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