Data Intelligence + Human Brilliance = The Future of Innovation

By Satyen Sangani

Published on September 16, 2021

Data Intelligence + Human Brilliance: The Future of Innovation | Alation

Contributed by Satyen Sangani and Talo Thomson

The value of a tool — like an idea — lies in the using of it.

Today, Alation is the leading data catalog. Our product is regarded as the best because our users achieve the most successful outcomes the most quickly. Early on, we focused on three goals:

  • Ease of deployment … so you can launch the catalog in days…

  • Human-centric search … and start using it to find great data instantly…

  • Usage and collaboration … and collaborate to leverage new insights fast.

To summarize, we’ve built a usable tool that propagates useful data in a user-friendly way.

This is no accident! From the beginning, my co-founders and I shared a conviction that the major problem with data consumption and data management today was lack of engagement. We wondered: How do we meaningfully scale people’s ability to engage with data?

Human activity logs reveal powerful, useful patterns

Early on, we learned that one way to encourage people to use data is to learn from those that were already using it. Query logs capture how data is used — how it’s analyzed, leveraged, and built upon. So, we supplemented the catalog by analyzing these query logs, to learn how we might better support the human behavior they reflected.

By tracking query logs, observing, and learning from this behavior, we encountered a world of opportunities, of new ways to better support the humans behind the data. In essence, this is what Alation data intelligence is: A focus on the human experience around data, coupled with a compassionate commitment to improving this experience in every way.

AI & machine learning to learn from & scale brilliance

We leveraged logs just like Google leveraged web links to provide better web search. So, it’s not surprising that our initial use case emphasized data search and discovery. And as we worked closely with our early customers, we saw firsthand that they needed a tool that also learned from how they worked with and searched for data to better support their unique needs.

This insight became our breakthrough for building the catalog. When an application sits atop a layer that describes all human activities within a data catalog, the unique collective wisdom of an enterprise may be captured and leveraged. Eventually, the catalog becomes the platform for realizing data intelligence, because it’s tracking what people are doing and therefore can suggest what they may need.

We built the best data catalog by both leveraging and supporting human brilliance. AI and machine learning play key roles on both sides, both learning from human behavior and automating the most repetitive tasks. Automation frees people from tedious tasks, and grants them the gift of time to pursue fulfilling work, which is creative and innovative.

Data intelligence complements human labor with machine learning

Leveraging human activity alongside machine learning is the key to building out data intelligence solutions. Indeed, this is how we built the market-leading data governance application: by learning from the human signals around the data and automating key processes with AI and machine learning.

Data governance is a massive undertaking that never really ends. Curation, policy management, and glossary approval are just a few of the governance tasks improved and accelerated by automation. Governance leaders need the help of automation to ensure compliance (and remove its massive pressures from the humans responsible).

The catalog is the platform for data intelligence applications

As an emerging software category, data intelligence solves a range of crucial use cases, including:

Data intelligence runs in the background, learning first and optimizing second. The Alation data catalog listens for human cues that signal trustworthy data and makes what’s most valuable the most visible. In this way, Alation forges a people-centric platform for wisdom sharing and collaboration, where people are empowered to use data without fear.

Brilliance is multidimensional

Human brilliance emerges on the catalog in many forms. Subject matter experts share explicit intelligence in wiki-like articles. SQL wizards share their best queries via query log sharing to help all query writers.

Yet human brilliance is subtle, too. It lives in implicit patterns — that which is derived and imputed. The catalog learns from this, also.

Insights dwell in the human signals around data. Who used which asset, when, how, and why? Data intelligence learns from this context constantly. In this way, the more a catalog is used, the better it gets. And the better it gets, the more it’s used.

Because most critically, you just need humans to actually use the software to get any value out of it.

Competitive businesses need both data intelligence software and brilliant humans using that software — and the data it delivers. The most successful businesses leverage both sides of this coin to build a data culture.

These two pieces are essential to success. They’re so important, in fact, that we made them our new tagline: Data Intelligence + Human Brilliance

The Alation data catalog combines these two powerful elements — data intelligence and human brilliance — to unleash the power of your organization’s data and people. Together, they empower your organization to understand challenges more deeply and make better decisions. This means those on our platform can be more innovative, and act faster than was ever before possible.

With this new tagline, we honor the achievements of our customers, whose impact we’re proud to support. With this new tagline, we celebrate the brilliant people who make data intelligence so powerful. With this new tagline, we recognize the impact equation powered by your brilliant people plus the right data intelligence solution. We’re excited to see where it will take us.


Data culture takes all kinds. Indeed, the more diverse our people, the more rich and robust our collective wisdom.This is why Alation is proud to support a diverse family of nonprofit organizations, dedicated to bringing the best minds in data together. Check them out below!

  • Human activity logs reveal powerful, useful patterns
  • AI & machine learning to learn from & scale brilliance
  • Data intelligence complements human labor with machine learning
  • The catalog is the platform for data intelligence applications
  • Brilliance is multidimensional
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