How to get immediate value from your data catalog

By Gianthomas Volpe

Published on January 24, 2023

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Most organisations are seeking to be data-driven because they believe in the value of data to inform key decisions at all levels, making data management absolutely critical. However, in the annual NewVantage Partners executive survey, only 24% of firms said they have created a data-driven organisation, indicating we still have a long way to go before businesses across the world are truly data-driven.

Business leaders already know about the importance of building a data culture in their organisation, and many have long since embarked on that journey. The next step to ensuring that data turns into the most valuable business asset second only to people comes in the form of a data catalog—a fully organised inventory of all data assets within your organisation.

A data catalog helps data professionals—analysts, CIOs, chief data officers, and other colleagues—in collecting, organising, and accessing business-critical data. The aim is to harness the power of that data to deliver cost savings, enhanced efficiencies, an optimised customer experience, and more.

What do you need to consider before implementing a data catalog to ensure you can hit the ground running and get immediate value from Day 1? How can you ensure that your new data catalog becomes part of the business fabric, one of the team?

Focus on your planned outcomes and user skills

The first step in ensuring you get immediate value from a data catalog is asking yourself two key questions: “What are we trying to achieve with a data catalog?” and “Who will be using it?”. The answers will inform your implementation decisions.

Set your desired outcomes at the earliest stage, with clear metrics to track their progress and delivery. Put resources in place to allow for training, both technical and ethical, on how to use the data catalog as well as how to govern and analyse the information within. The catalog will become more than just a tool if you convince your employees that it’s their new best friend that will make their work not just easier, but more efficient and backed by data.

Next, tailor your data catalog to your users’ technical ability and skill level. An early understanding of these will help you direct resources for all individuals that will access and interact with data. Every user must be able to understand the structure of the data catalog well enough to rapidly access the data and accurately relay it to teams and colleagues. Data is ultimately of no use if it can’t be easily accessed and interpreted. Therefore, the earlier you train employees to use the data catalog, the sooner you’ll be able to harness value from it and embed it into your business like a new team member.

Consider culture, industry, and regional needs

In addition to the vital element of ensuring that your employees are fully adept at using the data catalog, consider these three important factors for embedding the catalog into your organisation: culture, industry, and region.

1. Culture

Culture addresses the question of an organisation’s view of data and how they want to work with it. For example, a company that used Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for data storage and management wants to adopt an approach based on big data. It’s no surprise that tech companies have been among the earliest to realise and harness the potential of data in developing their businesses. Whatever your company culture looks like, you need to establish your data culture first, before considering your approach to data management.

2. Industry

Industries that handle a lot of customer data traditionally focus on privacy, regulatory reporting, and managing compliance with GDPR and other regulations. This is true of highly regulated industries such as finserv and healthcare. In less regulated sectors such as retail, the focus is primarily enablement around data. Few industries are culturally “big” when it comes to data governance. Best practices must be universal across industry sectors.

3. Region

Companies operating in Europe must be aware of their responsibilities around GDPR, and as many others expand their reach internationally, they too require a more complex approach to cataloging and governance. This can entail attention to international compliance demands such as sovereignty and cross-border movement. The Alation data catalog can also help you satisfy the Cloud Data Management Capabilities (CDMC) framework and its key controls for protecting sensitive data as you pursue a cloud implementation.

Embrace scalability and expansion

Every data catalog will evolve over time to meet changing business needs and priorities around data, so scalability is a key attribute.

Challenges around GDPR are often the catalyst for a data catalog implementation, with the role of the catalog expanding once the customer sees what it can deliver for them. Daimler AG, who originally opted for Alation to support a GDPR strategy, quickly saw the deployment become more business focused as it evolved and adapted their data catalog accordingly over time.

Similarly, Riot Games, best known for their online game “League of Legends”, realised their need for a data catalog as their data storage capacity was running out and data became difficult to find. Since implementing Alation’s data catalog, Riot Games analysts can now use keyword searches to discover the data they need. They can then use Alation to explore data in depth—down to the schema, table, and column level—or trace lineage to ensure usability for their purpose. Riot Games plans to integrate data-use policies directly into the catalog to give people just-in-time guidance on how to use data compliantly.

Enjoy immediate value from your data catalog

Whatever your data catalog evolves to look like, it’s imperative that it support essential capabilities such as search and discovery, extraction of metadata from other local sources, and curation of metadata. And if your employees are confident and technically apt to use the data catalog from Day 1, you’ll get value from it right away.

Data governance is the differentiator for Alation’s data catalog. Our platform grew out of tools built to serve data analysts, so we can help you see immediate business value. Alation offers intuitive configuration, with a go-live timeframe of 10–12 weeks thanks to the Alation Professional Services Right Start Model.

Learn more and sign up for a free demonstration of Alation technology.

  • Focus on your planned outcomes and user skills
  • Consider culture, industry, and regional needs
  • Enjoy immediate value from your data catalog
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