The People’s Data Catalog: Alation Featured as Top Choice in Eckerson’s Latest Report

By Mitesh Shah

Published on July 15, 2021

Many data catalog initiatives fail. How can prospective buyers ensure they partner with the right catalog to drive success?

According to the latest report from Eckerson Group, Deep Dive on Data Catalogs, shoppers must match the goals of their organizations to the capabilities of their chosen catalog.

A data catalog’s approach is key. Does it match the goals and approach of the organization? “To succeed in both selecting and adopting a data catalog, companies must identify their ‘why’ and make sure it matches the catalog’s approach,” the report recommends.

Eckerson recommends Alation for companies focused on supporting a wide range of users with a collaborative, social platform:

Alation takes a people-oriented approach to the data catalog, seeking to foster collaboration and conversation about data. With a strong emphasis on human-generated metadata and logfile-derived insights, it powers search and discovery for data analysts along with access-oriented data governance. An approachable user interface makes the catalog accessible to non-technical business users and IT professionals alike.

In this blog, I’ll unpack a few key insights from this Deep Dive report, demonstrating how Alation’s people-centric approach better serves the humans behind the data.

Finding a trustworthy asset in a sea of data can take analysts months. Instead of hunting and stressing, they wind up recreating that asset from scratch, leading to an overproliferation of asset — only perpetuating the volume problem. This is why data search & discovery is a core feature to Alation. Eckerson writes:

The centerpiece of the Alation experience is its search function. A large, customizable branded search bar greets users on their homepage. From there, users can select a data domain and enter a search term… Alation’s search bar is text aware and will suggest searches and catch errors as the user types in natural language.

Where do those suggestions come from? The Behavioral Analysis Engine (BAE) observes how people use data to better serve them. It leverages Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI and ML) to integrate insights around usage into the platform to further improve search and automate tedious and time-consuming tasks.

The result? Analysts and knowledge workers alike have more time to spend on analysis and the kinds of challenging tasks they find rewarding and meaningful. By supporting real people with AI and ML, Alation increases the productivity — and job satisfaction — of data folks at all levels.

Screenshot image of Alation's Data Catalog

Data Governance: Access with Compliance Guidance

The data governance challenge can be summarized as follows. Analysts need access to great data. Leaders need assurance that their people are using data compliantly — and not running the risk of incurring a multimillion dollar fine by way of the GDPR. Walking this fine line has been a core challenge for data catalogs.

Eckerson notes that Alation supports access with compliance-guidance in-workflow, spotlighting key features like:

  • A robust stewardship dashboard

  • Intelligent business glossaries

  • A governance policy center

  • Administrator tools for the bulk application of masking and access controls.

What makes a glossary “intelligent”? In Alation, glossary functionality is largely automated by AI and ML. Historically, glossaries would become mired in approval processes and human bottlenecks. Not so with Alation, which supports rapid glossary buildout:

Users can also create and curate business glossaries in Alation. In addition to user added terms, the ML engine will suggest terms automatically. The catalog will link these proposed terms to their related objects and provide potential abbreviations and overall popularity scores, allowing users to simply approve terms to rapidly build out glossaries.

The BAE, here too, does much of the work of tagging and automating, removing the burden of glossary management from people and streamlining approvals. By empowering users with both data dictionaries and business glossaries, Alation helps a wide range of data people, from analysts to scientists, to connect and communicate. Those who have been historically alienated from one another can now align around shared terms — and craft shared business goals.

Screenshot image of Figure 5. Suggest Glossary Terms

In Conclusion

We’re thrilled to be a part of the Deep Dive on data catalog published by Eckerson Group. It’s clear the data catalog is here to stay, as more companies seek to capitalize on their data as an opportunity to drive data culture and data-driven decision making. In fact, in June of 2021, Snowflake recognized Alation officially for excellence in data governance, naming us their Data Governance Partner of the Year. This accolade arrived at an exciting time, as just last month our founders announced we’d raised $110M in Series D funding.

Alation is proud to have garnered recognition for its product by industry-leading analyst reports, including:

It’s been a big year, and there are even more exciting developments just over the horizon!

  • People-centric Search
  • Data Governance: Access with Compliance Guidance
  • In Conclusion
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