What exactly is DataOps?
The term has been used a lot more of late, especially in the data analytics industry, as we’ve seen it expand over the past few years to keep pace with new regulations, like the GDPR and CCPA.
This is nothing new, as 74% of respondents indicated that new compliance and regulatory requirements have accelerated the adoption of DataOps (IDC).
In essence, DataOps is a practice that helps organizations manage and govern data more effectively.
However, there is a lot more to know about DataOps, as it has its own definition, principles, benefits, and applications in real-life companies today – which we will cover in this article!
What Is DataOps?
DataOps is a set of technologies, processes, and best practices that combine a process-focused perspective on data and the automation methods of the Agile software development methodology to improve speed and quality and foster a collaborative culture of rapid, continuous improvement in the data analytics field.
DataOps as a term was brought to media attention by Lenny Liebmannin 2014, then popularized by several other thought leaders. Over the past 5 years, there has been a steady increase in interest in DataOps.
Source: Google Trends
DataOps is essentially a mix of these methodologies:
- Lean manufacturing
- Agile development
However, some may confuse it as DevOps for data, but that’s not the case, as there are key differences between DevOps and DataOps.
DataOps, at its core, is about collaboration between data professionals and other IT roles to help increase the speed, quality, and frequency of data analytics deployments.
In order to make DataOps successful in an organization, there needs to be a shift in culture and mindset around how data is managed.
DataOps strategies share these common elements:
- Collaboration among data professionals and business stakeholders
- Easy-to-experiment data development environment
- Rapid iteration and automated deployment processes
- Automated testing to ensure data quality
- Monitoring and reporting of processes
How Does DataOps Provide Value?
There are many inefficiencies that riddle a data pipeline and DataOps aims to deal with that.
Here are 3 ways DataOps provides value:
1. Encourage Team Collaboration
DataOps encourages better collaboration between data professionals and other IT roles.
This is done by breaking down the silos that exist in most organizations, which leads to a more streamlined and efficient process overall.
When everyone is on the same page, it’s much easier to identify issues and solve them quickly.
Teams are better able to conduct research on AI technologies, new analytics tools, and methods and share them in a DataOps environment.
2. Make Processes More Efficient
DataOps makes processes more efficient by automating as much of the data pipeline as possible.
This includes tasks such as data quality checks, deployments, and monitoring. Automating these tasks frees up time for data professionals to focus on more important tasks, like the analysis.
In addition, automated processes are often more accurate and reliable than manual processes, which leads to fewer errors and data that can be trusted
3. Integrate Diverse Technologies
DataOps aims to integrate diverse technologies in order to provide a more comprehensive solution.
This includes everything from data storage and warehousing solutions to artificial intelligence and analytics reporting tools.
By integrating these technologies, organizations can get a complete picture of their data pipeline and identify issues more easily.
Moreover, as the highly fragmented technologies of the data industry are now ever-expanding, having a DataOps mindset and infrastructure helps data teams to build a sustainable way of adopting new technologies as a company grows.
Alation provides robust DataOps solutions that help you foster collaboration, build trusted data solutions, automate testing & monitoring, and visualize data pipelines.
What Are The Principles of DataOps?
As DataOps is a methodology, it can vary depending on its industry and application. However, the DataOps Manifesto has set forth 18 principles of DataOps.
Here are the 18 DataOps Principles (summarized):
1. Continually Satisfy Your Customer
DataOps strives to give customers the highest priority through quick and continuous delivery of data insights.
2. Value working analytics
In DataOps, data analytics performance is primarily measured through insightful analytics, and accurate data, in robust frameworks.
3. Embrace change
One key application of DataOps is customer-centricity. How can the business adapt to evolving customer needs? DataOps offers a competitive advantage by supporting real-time learning about changing customer behaviors. This requires that data engineers embrace learning and integrating new technologies, such as AI tools.
4. It’s a Team Sport
In DataOps, a variety of analytics & data science skills, qualifications, tools, and roles are required for increased innovation and a productive team.
5. Daily Interactions
Stakeholders must work collaboratively daily for the project.
In DataOps, the best analytics products come from teams that can self-organize.
7. Reduce Heroism
DataOps analytics teams should do away with heroism and work towards the sustainability and scalability of their teams.
DataOps teams should do reflections on performance, be it on themselves, customers, or stats about their operations. What went well? Where can we improve? Critical thinking about providing customer value supports improvement over time.
9. Analytics is code
All analytics tools generate code that will configure and process the data to deliver insights. All code should be treated like any other application source code.
Data, tools, environments, and the teams themselves must be well-orchestrated, from the beginning to the end, for analytic success.
11. Make it reproducible
Everything must be versioned so that the code and configurations made are reproducible.
12. Disposable environments
Technical environments and IDEs must be disposable so that experimental costs can be kept to a minimum.
In DataOps, simplicity is essential – an art of maximizing undone work.
14. Analytics is manufacturing
DataOps has analytic pipelines that are similar to that of lean manufacturing lines. A focus has to be placed on process thinking and how to continuously make it more efficient.
15. Quality is paramount
In DataOps, analytic pipelines should incorporate automated abnormality detection (jidoka) and provide continuous feedback to avoid any errors (poka-yoke), which help to achieve quality.
DataOps borrows from principles of lean manufacturing to mistake-proof processes and enables automation supported by humans.
16. Monitor quality and performance
Quality must be monitored continuously to catch unexpected variation cases and produce statistics on its operation. Collaboration between data and IT teams will help to resolve the root cause of any quality issues.
Previous work done should not be repeated, as it reduces efficiency.
18. Improve cycle times
The time taken to solve a customer’s need, develop analytic ideas, release it in a reproducible manner, and refactor, and reuse a product must always be minimized.
Benefits of Adopting DataOps
There are a number of benefits of adopting a DataOps solution:
1. DataOps Helps Improve Data Quality
DataOps improve the quality of data by automating many of the tasks that are traditionally manual and error-prone, such as data cleansing, transformation, and enrichment.
Data quality is especially important in the healthcare industry, where data has to be accurate for clinical decision-making.
In addition, DataOps provides visibility into the entire data lifecycle, which can help identify issues early on and prevent them from becoming bigger problems down the line.
The end result is that organizations can better decisions faster and with more confidence, thanks to higher data quality.
For example, Accenture and Alation provide a pre-engineered DataOps platform that can be implemented in a cost-effective serverless cloud environment that works right away.
It has governance capabilities including automated classification, profiling, data quality, lineage, stewardship, and deep policy integration with leading cloud-native databases like Snowflake.
2. Faster Analytics Deployment
According to IDC’s DataOps survey in 2021, successful DataOps implementation has led to a whopping 49% decreased frequency of late delivery of data analytics products.
Another key purpose of DataOps is to help improve the speed of analytics deployment.
This is done by automating the tasks involved in provisioning, configuring, and deploying data analytics applications.
In addition, DataOps helps reduce or eliminate the need for manual coding by providing pre-built components that can be easily assembled into complete data analytics solutions.
These traditional manual coding solutions are very prone to errors that could have been easily avoided if they were automated.
Moreover, it gives IT professionals, data engineers, data scientists, and data analysts the knowledge of the results of their tests, which allows them to rapidly iterate possible solutions for a product.
As a result, organizations are able to get their data analytics applications up and running much faster than before, which can help them gain a competitive edge.
DataOps is critically dependent on robust governance and cataloging capabilities. This is exactly the role that Alation, the industry leader in both, plays in the Intelligent Data Foundation.
These features give data engineers the ability to explore data, understand its quality, trace lineage for root cause analysis, and enforce policies like encryption & masking.
As such, analysts see a boost in efficiency and accuracy in analytics; this, in turn, increases user confidence in the data supplied which powers better data-driven decision-making.
3. Improved Communication and Collaboration Between Teams
DataOps can help to establish better communication and collaboration between different teams within an organization.
In DataOps, the flow of data is centralized in one place, where individual stakeholders can come to one place to find all the information that they need.
This helps different teams to cross-collaborate with each other, as they work on the same DataOps architecture and the same methodology.
In addition, DataOps can help improve the efficiency of releasing new data analytics developments, as many data-related tasks are automated, leaving teams to perform higher-order tasks, like innovation and meaningful collaboration.
As a result, organizations are able to make better use of their data and analytics resources, which can help to improve their overall performance.
4. More Reliable and Faster Data Pipeline
One of the lesser-known benefits of DataOps is that it helps to create a more robust and faster data pipeline.
This is done by automating the tasks involved in data ingestion, warehousing, and processing.
When these tasks are automated, there is less chance for human error and for poorly written code to cause large problems that break the data pipeline.
In addition, DataOps helps improve the efficiency of data pipelines by providing tools and best practices for managing and monitoring them.
This is so that DataOps engineers can then jump in and rectify the issues when they receive alerts when something is amiss.
This works in a flywheel, where stability in the DataOps infrastructure can lead to speed in the long run, and that can build stability over time.
5. Easier Access to Archived Data
DataOps can help make it easier for organizations to access archived data.
By providing a centralized repository for all data, a data catalog makes it easy for people to access and query data compliantly.
DataOps can also help automate the process of archiving data, which can further improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Organizations that implement DataOps are able to realize these benefits and more.
Cloud-based DataOps services such as an Intelligent Data Foundation (IDF), are integrated into Alation at an API level.
This presents a huge time and energy saver for the analytics teams at large!
In summary, DataOps is a relatively new concept, but one that is quickly gaining traction in the world of data and analytics.
DataOps can help organizations to improve their overall performance by automating tasks, improving communication and collaboration, establishing a more reliable and faster data pipeline, and providing easier access to archived data.
Needless to say, DataOps is not a silver bullet – it will not magically fix all of your organization’s data problems.
However, the right implementation of a DataOps solution can help to improve your organization’s overall performance and maintain its competitive edge against others.
Justin Chia is the founder of Justjooz. He seeks to educate everyday people about crypto, analytics, and home tech.