Self-Service Data's New Frontier: The Data Catalog

By Stephanie McReynolds

Published on February 20, 2020

REFLECTIONS FROM THE GARTNER BI & ANALYTICS SUMMIT I hate to admit that the last time I attended the Gartner BI & Analytics Summit, Howard Dresner was still the host. I started my career in BI, but took a few deviations into CRM, middleware, and databases. For me personally, it was an amazing return this year to the now appropriately re-named, Gartner BI & Analytics Summit held in Grapevine, Texas. The energy at the conference was amazing – over 2,000 attendees and 100 vendors gathered to find our inner data heroes. Sunday night kicked off with Cindi Howson’s Second Annual BI Bake-Off.

Cindi Howson Wrangles a BI Bake-Off

What I love about this industry is that many of us have been working together for years and despite our competitive natures, still know how to have fun! And the Great BI Bake-Off is a perfect example:

A group photo at Gartner

Four vendors (selected by their Gartner search popularity) took the stage in a live showdown of data viz expertise. Somewhat like the Magic Quadrant this year, the traditional BI players were nowhere to be found. It was down to Qlik, Microsoft, Microstrategy, and Tableau to represent and discover the complexities of the College Scorecard Data from the U.S. Department of Education. At least one Twitter observer commented that it was hard to tell the difference between the tools this year, highlighting the commoditization of BI and viz capabilities. In perhaps a preview of things to come next year, we decided to test how a Data Catalog might work with Tableau on the same data. You can check out a self service data prep flow from catalog to viz in this recorded version here.

Rita Sallam Introduces the Data Prep Rodeo

Which brings me to memorable moment #2 on Tuesday when Rita Sallam took the stage for her drill-down presentation on Self-Service Data Prep.  The data prep market has exploded over the last year with Rita mentioning that she was tracking 50 vendors in the space. For ease of understanding the differences between all of the them Rita shared this visual, categorizing the vendors:

Types of Self-Service Data Preparation Vendors

So at least for now, it looks like we’re a self-service data prep vendor, which makes sense. Alation helps analysts find, understand and use their data. Everything you need to do to prepare for analysis before data transformation and visualization. Although Rita’s asterix between our name and the call out that these three vendors also are Data Catalog providers makes me suspicious that we might see some further segmentation in the market soon.

Back on the Ranch: Data Literacy Driven by Self-Service

That wasn’t much of a concern to the head of data science from a major US pharmaceutical firm who just happens to be an Alation, Trifacta, Tableau and Teradata customer. His goal is to get more business users analyzing their own data. It’s a process. Tableau has taken off for thousands of his employees. But the firm is proactively promoting the introduction of deeper self-service data prep capabilities to that same audience.  While data scientists may need more extensive self-service data transformation capabilities, the broadest group of users in his mind are most concerned with how to find and understand their data.

Ideation: Where Seldom is Heard a Discouraging Word

Teradata’s Stephen Brobst, who joined a dinner with us early in the week agreed, citing Teradata’s Collaborative Ideation concept in the Sentient Enterprise vision. Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas. Without a rich capability for ideation, it is impossible for your organization to find insights and uncover breakthrough innovations. Doug Laney’s 40 use cases in 40 minutes is a perfect form of ideation. He presented to a packed house of analytics leaders interested in finding inspiration in what others have done. Attending one of his sessions is like visiting the Louvre for analytics. Definitely one of the best presentations of the week!

Tweet of Wayne's World "We're not worth"

To Coming Home, Home on the Range

Of course inspiration for data-driven decisions can come in many forms. If big data ROI is what you find inspiring, Kristie Allen’s presentation on Wednesday did the trick. Kristie is Director of Analytics, Digital & E-Commerce at Albertson’s Safeway. And an Alation user. In 4 days her Customer Loyalty Analytics team proved the value of personalized digital marketing, delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional revenue, and saw a time savings-based ROI of $30 for every $1 spent on Alation. Not bad for something called a Data Catalog. (We’re clearly not talking your Mama’s data catalog here.)

Big Book of Savings advertisement

The conference was well worth the long wait. It makes me think what I’ve missed over the years. So many interesting use cases and opportunities for ideation! I’ve already booked my tickets and our booth for next year. I hope to see you there! With any luck Cindi might even consider the first annual Self-Service Data Prep Bake-off in 2017? See you in Grapevine next year!

  • Cindi Howson Wrangles a BI Bake-Off
  • Rita Sallam Introduces the Data Prep Rodeo
  • Back on the Ranch: Data Literacy Driven by Self-Service
  • Ideation: Where Seldom is Heard a Discouraging Word
  • To Coming Home, Home on the Range
Tagged with