Three Keys for Driving Data Catalog Adoption

by | Jun 10, 2021 | 2021, Data catalogs, Data-driven cultures, Product

There are a few certainties in life: Death, taxes, the futility of the New York Jets, and companies saying they want to be data-driven but struggling mightily to get there.

A NewVantage Partners survey revealed that 99% of Fortune 1000 companies are investing in big data and AI initiatives this year. However, in that same survey, only 24% of respondents believe their companies are actually data-driven. That’s down 14% from 2020!

We hear consistently from customers that their data catalogs help accelerate key data initiatives. That’s because a catalog can act as a dependable, accessible resource for both data and analytics. It’s also a powerful solution for data governance that, when implemented effectively, can gain broad adoption in the enterprise and help drive data literacy.

But not all catalogs are created equal and many cater to one end of the access/control spectrum or the other. Here are a few questions to ponder as you consider how to drive data catalog adoption in your organization:

  1. Is your data catalog intuitive, usable, and flexible?
  2. Is there a clear path to business value for data consumers?
  3. Does it improve collaboration between data producers and consumers?

Adoption is core to our ethos because we believe data-driven companies can’t physically exist if people struggle to find, understand, and use data. In fact, user adoption is so important to data.world that every employee’s bonus is directly tied to it.  

Let’s dive into each of the questions raised above in a bit more detail:

 

Is your data catalog intuitive, usable, and flexible?

The data landscape is littered with expensive tools that never get used. In fact, Gartner estimates about 25% of IT software is shelfware. 

If you’re in the market for a data catalog, think about who you want to be the early adopters and how you’ll roll it out to more people over time. Does the solution make sense right away or require intense onboarding and training? Is it powerful enough to handle the use cases you need to solve today, and flexible enough to handle data challenges down the line with similar ease?

For example, an initial use case for data catalogs might be having your data engineering team setup a data glossary complete with associated metadata. That early glossary could then be used by the team that is focused on mapping and connecting to various data resources throughout the organization including CRM, ERP, data warehouse, and BI tools. This is a precursor to a use case for data analysts who want to search the catalog for all tables containing the word, “customer,” and then start to run queries and build reports. 

A key takeaway here is that use cases should not run in silos but rather build on each other and create a collective body of knowledge that improves the catalog over time and enriches data cultures. Core to that are a familiar intuitive interface that’s simple to use and a flexible metadata model that makes data easier to share, collaborate on, and reuse. Request a demo to check out our unique UX that has been battle-tested by more than one-million users. 

 

Is there a clear path to business value for data consumers? 

Great data cultures are built around people discovering, understanding, using, reusing, and ultimately extracting value from data. That value can take many forms from unique insights, to new revenue streams, or reduced risk. To make believers out of data skeptics, you need a solution that helps you get results quickly and creates network effects around the organization that lead to improved data literacy and governance and broad adoption over time. 

Don’t force your data people to work with proprietary tools and languages or restrict cross-platform queries. That limits their ability to explore the actual data in the catalog and instead turns the platform into something resembling a metadata museum with dusty documentation and little value. Instead, give them the freedom to use the tools they’re comfortable with and the ability to federate queries to ensure they stay happy and drive business value. 

Beyond that, it’s important to clearly define that “business value.” Is it about creating efficiencies in your data work? Are you focused on reducing risk? Maybe you’re building the next great data product. Whatever the case, make sure you have a clear understanding of what success looks like. 

Our client success team works alongside each of our customers to understand their use cases and help them think through the right approach to address them. This complementary partnership approach ensures clients don’t get stuck or lose sight of their goals on their journey to being the data-driven companies they aspire to be. 

Today, we have customers with tens of thousands of catalog users because they understand the value that data access, understanding, and reuse delivers for the organization. 

 

Does it improve collaboration between data producers and consumers?

It’s a beautiful thing when data producers and consumers work together towards a common goal. But communication between these groups is not always easy or straightforward, which is why we often advocate for a data product manager. One of the big challenges is that conversations about data rarely happen where the data lives. Instead, critical knowledge exchanges occur in Slack threads, emails, and ad-hoc conversations.

With no consistent way to document these discussions, important context around data quality, transformations, and use is lost. Look for a data catalog that encourages collaboration and connects it back to the workspace that data producers and consumers occupy. The tighter the feedback loop between data engineers and the analysts downstream, the better and faster the reporting and the quicker return on your data investment. Stronger data teams and workflows are also core tenants of DataOps and Agile Data Governance.

Ultimately your data catalog should be a core component of your company’s data strategy. It should be the go-to location for discovering your canonical business data and all its relevant context. And it should be the place that data work gets done. The best catalogs are not the domain of a single governance team or organization. They’re for everyone.