Alation Named a Leader in BARC Score Data Intelligence Platforms Report

By Steve Neat

Published on September 1, 2022

A focused shot of hands typing on a laptop computer

BARC has named Alation a leader in the new BARC Score Data Intelligence Platforms Report. A strong product strategy, roadmap, and powerful collaborative features were all reasons cited for our strong showing. We’re thrilled to be recognized in this new category, which aligns closely with our vision for the future of this market.

Data Intelligence platforms from the BARC report showcasing Alation as a leader.

The Business Application Research Center (BARC) is a European analyst firm headquartered in Germany. The firm focuses on business software that supports business intelligence, analytics, data management, and other key data areas. The goal of this report is to “evaluate software that provides a large number of different users with the agility they need to use data in an effective and efficient way.” By definition, a data intelligence platform must serve a wide variety of user types and use cases – empowering them to collaborate in one shared space.

The problem Data Intelligence Platforms solve

Why is a data intelligence platform needed in the first place? The report shares sobering statistics that reveal inefficiencies familiar to modern data users. Of respondents surveyed:

  • 65 percent agree that analysts spend a lot of time searching for the right data and analyses and repeating work that has already been done

  • 59 percent consider providing more information about data as the topmost priority to improve this situation… but, only 39 percent are taking steps to improve the situation.

So what’s holding people back from solving this problem? Not surprisingly, lack of documentation and detailed knowledge blocks projects from progressing. What’s worse, those best equipped to help are too busy: 55% of respondents stated that, “the few available data experts with business domain expertise have neither the time for nor the inclination to prioritize this task.”

The solution? Activating metadata within a data intelligence platform surfaces key insights and unburden experts from tedious manual work. “Data intelligence goes beyond systematic data collection in organizations and metadata to link and interconnect additional information,” the report states. This not only supports superior understanding of data for the people that work with it – it leaves the experts to pursue more useful, rewarding projects.

IDC analyst Stewart Bond was the first person to define data intelligence, calling it “intelligence about the data, as informed by metadata.”

What goes into a Data Intelligence Platform?

Since our launch, Alation has provided people a single place to find, understand, govern, and use data. Echoing this sentiment, the report states that, “Core functional elements of Data Intelligence Platforms support search and discovery, collaboration and knowledge sharing, and data governance processes.”

As such, the three portfolio capabilities analysts weighted most heavily were data governance, data interaction, and self-learning capabilities. Architecture, connectivity, and semantic modeling were granted medium weight.

It bears emphasizing that collaboration and knowledge sharing features are integral for improving search performance and data governance. In other words, a DI platform should learn from user behavior to improve all capabilities. But what does this look like in practice?

As an example, Alation’s UI empowers users to mark data as deprecated or of good quality – which signals to others what data to trust, and what to avoid. Stewards can label private data as PII, which masks it completely from certain groups or guides on compliant usage for others. Yelp-like ratings and wiki-like editing features effectively capture human wisdom, support community understanding, and elevate the data literacy IQ of the entire organization.

“Alation promotes data collaboration like no other tool.”

BARC scored Alation as a leader for these reasons. “The platform scores well for data interaction by offering good data exploration capabilities, but especially because it promotes data collaboration like no other tool,” the author notes.

Not only does the platform support human collaboration – it is heavily influenced by said collaboration or what some may call the wisdom of crowds. Take search as an example. When a person searches for “customer data” Alation returns assets it deems most relevant based on behavioral metadata. Is this asset popular? Has it been marked as trusted? Have seasoned experts added conversations or queries to its wiki page? All of these factors are weighted to determine what data assets appear – much like Google.

As the report paraphrases, “The tool is characterized by the ability to assess the relevance of data assets through the evaluation of behavioral metadata.” Not only does Alation assess relevance, it further “enriches data knowledge through expert knowledge and crowd wisdom.”

For all of these reasons and more, BARC concludes, “Alation has a strong product strategy and roadmap…. the vendor has experienced strong year-on-year growth.”

Helping customers collaborate with data with confidence

So how do real customers leverage these features? One customer, Vattenfall, has chosen Alation for its powerful collaborative features, as well. With dozens of power stations, across multiple industries and countries, the opportunities around breaking open silos and collaborating across sectors for this enterprise company cannot be understated. Data Governance Lead Sebastian Kaus points out, “Alation is democratizing our data. It’s bringing people together to collaborate to solve our business problems.”

Retailer Albertsons uses Alation to drive marketing ROI for customers in their loyalty program. Data leaders rely heavily on collaborative features to collaborate across the world, creating timely, personalized digital flyers. Albertsons’ Director of Analytics recounts:

“The clock was ticking and we had no idea where to start. I was told that the data we needed could be found in “RTPP” in Teradata. I didn’t even know what that stood for. So I typed it into the Alation data catalog and searched for the term.

Not only did I then quickly understand the meaning and the data definitions, but I was also able to find related tables and queries, and get information on table columns, common filters and joins on the table.

This curated catalog of data simplified the process for the data analysts in California to pass the work to their peers in the Philippines and vice versa so the project could be worked on 16 hours a day.

Instead of email, we held conversations in Alation so rather than searching through email which is highly imperfect, all the information was right there next to the article and connected to the data. The conversations and articles also become part of the metadata which is searchable so there is no need to reinvent the wheel in the future.”

Big things on the horizon

This announcement comes at an exciting time for Alation. With the launch of our latest product release, 2022.3, we’re further pushing governance into other tools, as Alation Anywhere integrates Alation information into Tableau, so users can check the veracity of dashboards without swiveling away. We’re also building on connectivity with a beta release of Alation Marketplace, which empowers users to pull in data from third-party tools like AWS Data Exchange and Snowflake Data Marketplace.

  • The problem Data Intelligence Platforms solve
  • What goes into a Data Intelligence Platform?
  • “Alation promotes data collaboration like no other tool.”
  • Helping customers collaborate with data with confidence
  • Big things on the horizon
Tagged with