In an enterprise, data assets can number in the hundreds of thousands – or more. For this pile of assets to truly be an asset (and not a liability), the enterprise must have a central location from which these assets can be discovered, previewed, discussed and managed. This is the purpose of an enterprise data catalog.
What is an enterprise data catalog?
An enterprise data catalog organizes all the data assets in an enterprise’s information landscape on the basis of the data’s metadata (i.e. the data about the data). It gives any data asset an intelligent context from which to understand and use it.
Each data asset’s entry in the enterprise data catalog includes definitions, descriptions, ratings, data owner and steward, and more, making it simple to search for, identify and evaluate the data you need for any given purpose. Entries may also be an access point for a suite of enterprise data catalog tools, including data lineage, collaboration and communication, and active, AI-based metadata management tools.
The benefits of a data catalog for the enterprise include:
- Clearly defined data assets, eliminating confusion, wrong assumptions and misinterpretation of analytics or reports
- A single source of truth, leading directly to more accurate data, higher trust in the data and better decision-making
- Easily accessible information about data usage and accuracy, providing users with valuable guidance when choosing data assets to use for a specific purpose
- Preserved and concentrated tribal knowledge, decreasing the time it takes to get answers to questions about the data asset. In some cases, like if the original subject matter expert is no longer with the enterprise (not an uncommon situation with the turnover prevalent in some sectors), it may be the only way to get an answer.
Common enterprise data catalog use cases:
Finding the best data assets for analytics and reporting uses
With tens or hundreds of thousands of assets, it’s not unusual to have a few dozen that look similar. How do you know which is the most appropriate, highest-quality one for your use case? With an enterprise data catalog, you can see both usage statistics and user ratings, both valuable indicators of whether you’ve hit upon a choice asset. In addition, a data catalog should let you preview the asset, eliminating a lengthy trial-and-error process.
Eliminating or preventing redundant data assets
Investing time and effort creating a dataset or a report, only to find out that it existed already somewhere in your data environment, is a frustrating waste of resources. With one search in a comprehensive enterprise data catalog, you’ll know whether the asset you want exists, in which case you can happily use it and save time – or you’ll know with relative certainty that it doesn’t exist, in which case you can (almost as happily) invest the time and effort creating it.
Asking questions (and getting answers!) about data assets
Without a data catalog, if you have a question about a data asset, it can take forever to track down the data owner, steward or subject matter expert. With a data catalog, the information is right at your fingertips – and if the catalog provides collaboration and communication capabilities, then getting an answer is as easy as posting a message right there in the entry.