Why Data Catalogs Are More Important Than Ever

by | Apr 6, 2020 | Data catalogs

At some point in the past 30-days, nearly every company in the U.S. went from a few primary locations to potentially tens of thousands of remote workstations. In this new work-from-home world, it’s natural to lean even more on tools like Slack, Zoom, JIRA, and Trello to stay productive. 

But great as they are, these applications were not designed for effective remote data work. When every facet of your business is changing by the second, the ability to make smart decisions based on data is existential. So, for people to trust and use data, they need the following (at a minimum):

  • Visibility: What data do I have? What data can I get?  Where do I find it?
  • Understanding: How was this dataset derived? What does this column represent? Can I trust this source?
  • Access: How can I answer these time-sensitive questions fast, without waiting for IT to prepare data? Who can I go to with questions?

How can a data catalog help remote workers?

A data catalog makes it easy for people to find, understand, access, and analyze data and associated metadata across disparate silos. Data catalog tools unify data living within corporate data centers, public clouds, databases, data warehouses, and remote desktops, into a collective body of knowledge for everyone. 

To maintain business as usual—or as close to it as possible during these unusual times— and prepare to accelerate when it’s over, companies should consider how data catalogs can improve:

  • Productivity: Data catalog software can enhance the accuracy and speed of analysis that can be used to make important business decisions. They can also boost the productivity of analysts and data scientists by providing faster and easier access to interesting datasets and prior analysis. 
  • Operational efficiency: For analysts, catalogs can automate away the manual and slow-moving task of searching for data, waiting on IT to prep datasets, and trying -often in vain- to understand the business context. For stewards and engineers, an enterprise data catalog can automate a variety of activities including tagging and classification.
  • Risk reduction: Data catalogs help companies reduce their risk profile by managing data sprawl and inventorying data and analysis. Acting as a single source-of-truth for data, metadata, and analysis, catalogs can help your company balance the flexibility needs of the business with the oversight requirements of governance and compliance.

Learn how companies are applying data catalogs to a variety of use cases.

The business value of a data catalog

To understand the business value of a data catalog, consider how much your company spends annually on data products (data lakes, warehouses, data security, cloud infrastructure, etc..) and people (data scientists, engineers, analysts, stewards, etc..). It’s likely a significant portion of your company’s overall IT budget. 

Given the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, you may expect the ROI from your data initiatives to be lower than in years past. But according to Gartner, companies that offer a “curated catalog of internal and external data to diverse users will realize twice the business value from their data and analytics investments.” In fact, data catalogs can provide outsized impact in times where data is increasingly important. 

We are seeing all kinds of businesses – from banks to restaurants to tech companies – make abrupt and, in some cases, multi-million-dollar changes to their operations. For companies trying to forecast sales two-quarters out or assess the stability of their supply chain, data catalogs are an incredibly effective tool for ensuring the data and metadata that support the analysis and decisionmaking process is up-to-date, accessible, and understandable. 

Try one out yourself at data.world/free-trial.