Engage your business in your data journey with a data catalog

Nov 07, 2022
  • IT
  • data

To become data-driven, organizations need to establish a rock-solid data culture where everyone recognizes the value of data and takes ownership. One of the keys to supporting and enabling this dynamic in the long run is data governance: clear agreements about the way data is organized and managed throughout the organization, where to find the data for reporting and analytics, and who is responsible. In recent times, data governance tools, like the business glossary & data catalog, (a.k.a. ‘metadata management tool’, ‘data governance tool’, or, more commonly, ‘data catalog’) have proven indispensable parts of a data culture. Here’s why.

“All too often, individual teams within an organization are aware of the presence and value of data, but don’t really consider it their responsibility,” says Edel Boone, data management specialist at delaware. “To prevent this, the rules and agreements concerning the ownership, definitions, production and usage of data need to be formalized. Even more importantly, they have to be made easily findable and accessible to everyone. And that’s exactly what a data & business glossary is for: it helps you assign meaning to data by adding and managing metadata.”

What is metadata?

Metadata is ‘data about data’: information about the data that exists in your organization. This includes data such as technical information, including data types, source systems, and their weight, but more importantly key business information such as the calculations behind certain KPIs and reports, their source data, other places and reports where the same KPI can be found, and who – or which department – owns it. The goal of metadata is to make tracking and working with data easier and make the data more accessible. 

Rules of engagement… with data

A data catalog allows you to document data, make it searchable, and indicate factors such as who is responsible for which piece of data, or what the current agreements are for inputting data. 

“Imagine when someone needs to add new master data or make changes to existing master data in the ERP system,“ says Anton Wéry, data & AI consultant at delaware. “This needs to happen according to predetermined rules concerning classification, definition, etc. All of these can be found instantly in the data & business glossary. In short, it tells users where they can find data, who is responsible for it, how they should work with it, which KPIs are available for analysis, and more.”

Rise of the data catalogs

Edel and Anton have experienced a surge in demand for data & business glossaries. And there’s a perfectly logical reason for that. “More than ever, modern business leaders understand that getting valuable insights from raw data and making these insights available for everyone who can benefit from them is key to long-term survival,” says Edel. “But the barrage of data and data sources makes it impossible for the IT department to handle everything by themselves. These tools effectively bridge the gap between business and IT by allowing non-technical business users to work with data.”

“Say, for example, if a sales manager needs to report on turnover to the CEO. Not only will the data catalog tell them exactly where to find this figure and its derivates, it will also give them information such as the exact definition of the term, how the KPI is calculated and what the sources are, who this metric is relevant for and why. This will clear up a lot of misunderstandings and faulty assumptions.”

In the same way, data catalogs also help with onboarding. “New hires can easily find all the relevant business definitions, data, dashboards and reports they need through the glossary,” says Anton. “Moreover, since every piece of data will have an owner or steward, they’ll know exactly who to call in case of questions.”     

The benefits of a data & business glossary

Data catalogs provide thorough documentation of the origin, history, context and meaning of data in your organization. But there’s more:

  • they reduce the time wasted on searching for data;
  • by providing context, they increase data trust;
  • by identifying redundant data and processes, they help improve operational efficiency;
  • they improve understanding between business users and IT;
  • by centralizing information, they help reduce training costs;
  • this centralization of relevant information also lowers the impact of staff turnover;
  • they provide thorough documentation of the origin, history, context and meaning of data in your organization

A long-term vision for data governance

“To truly benefit from a data & business glossary, it needs to be supported by IT and owned by the business,” Anton warns. “If it’s only regarded as an IT tool, business users will not touch it. If it’s strictly business, IT will have little incentive to support it. It needs to be a joint project, in which both parties take active part. You’ll also need a ‘data governance team’: a permanent fixture in the organization responsible for all the supporting tools, including the business glossary & data catalog. They manage and complete data objects within the tool, set up new flows, and document reports and KPIs. The ideal candidates for this are people who were already working with data before.”

our goal is the long-term anchoring of data governance in your organization
Edel Boone, data management specialist

“At delaware, we take a people-focused, holistic approach to data governance and the technical and functional implementation of data governance tools,” says Edel. “This is reflected clearly in our data governance framework: we start from your organization’s long-term strategy and goals and pay close attention to key enablers, including policies, processes, specific tools and users, all of which are the keys to success. In addition, we offer advice on how to set up your data governance structure and team and its workings. After implementation, we provide continuous support by helping you spread the word throughout your organization, track adoption rates, and measure success. Our goal is the long-term anchoring of data governance in your organization.”

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