How an Enterprise Data Catalog Fast Tracks Domain-Driven Data Governance

by | Mar 30, 2022 | 2022, Agile Data Governance, data architecture, Data catalogs, data mesh, Data-driven cultures

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of a domain-driven approach to data governance… and I reminisced about the glory days of the early ‘00s.

Putting low-rise jeans and boy bands aside for just a minute, this follow-up post focuses on how adopting an enterprise data catalog puts you on the fast track to establishing a domain-driven data governance methodology and enjoying the advantages that come with it.

Domain-driven design and domain experts

data.world summit bannerUntil recently, larger organizations have gravitated toward a centralized, top-down approach to data governance, in an attempt to streamline operations and get things “under control.” But now that they’ve seen the error of perpetuating silos, slowing innovation to a crawl, and encouraging workaround shadow IT practices, they’re turning to data mesh and prompting a massive resurgence in the adoption of domain-driven design.

One of the major reasons for the return to domain-driven design is that no single team — or person — can be tasked with understanding all of an organization’s raw data. And cleaning it. And transforming it. And building data products from it. And so on. 

For enterprise businesses generating incredible amounts of data, this approach — expecting a single centralized team to become expert in all of it — is completely unrealistic, leads to data bottlenecks, and prevents the full extraction of data value. To combat these failures, just as your organization is divided into business units focused on their own functional areas — marketing, product, finance, etc. — you need to establish similar functional areas or business units, aka domains, for your data. 

In data-governance speak, a domain is a high-level category created for the purpose of assigning accountability and responsibility for a functional area’s data. Often these domains are already known to you! They may be the way you already organize your business — by department, by function, by industry, by product, by process, etc.

Just as you wouldn’t expect one person at your business to be expert in every department, function, product, and process, you shouldn’t expect one person to be expert in all the data,either. 

Instead, you should place ownership of a data domain in the hands of the people who work with that data most and understand it best, people with a strong foundation in the specific field and the systems where the data was generated, people who can ask questions that lead to valuable and actionable answers — your domain experts.

How an enterprise data catalog helps establish domain-driven data governance

So, why does a catalog become important here? 

  1. Get organized. Organizing your data in a data catalog helps you identify domain experts within your organization, experts who already know what data assets you possess and work with them on a daily basis. These experts become your “domain owners,” and they’re responsible for preparing, sharing, and treating their data as a reliable product for use by your organization at large. 
  2. Model and relate. These discoveries also allow you to model and represent your organization and the people within it, and consequently define domains based on functional areas of expertise and accountability. Domain definition facilitates the association and interconnection of those data domains, products and resources. And this interconnectedness is the hallmark of domain-driven design.
  3. Discover and understand. Cataloging your data helps you discover any information assets you already possess. It also enables data lineage, which empowers your teams to see where their raw data is coming from, where their cleaned data is going, and how their data is connected to the larger business.
  4. Scale people and process. An org-wide data catalog facilitates the ultimate goal of domain-driven design: federated data governance, a system in which domain owners and the central IT organization share responsibility for governance while domains maintain the autonomy they need to remain nimble and effective. Compared to centralized governance, federated data governance is a more-scalable model for managing large quantities of disparate data and putting your data to use generating business value.
  5. Create your data product marketplace. A catalog serves as your enterprise data marketplace, where data domains and data products are published, managed, and accessed. Much like a real marketplace, products are expected to meet certain contracts and standards, they have “vendors” behind them — aka accountable people  and evolve over time based on the needs of the market — supply and demand, opportunities and constraints.

So there you have it: For the reasons listed above, adopting an enterprise data catalog is the first step toward domain-driven data governance, and the first step toward turning your business into a data-driven organization.

To learn more about how our data catalog can enable domain-driven data governance, read about our cloud-native SaaS platform for the modern data stack, or schedule a demo with our team.