28 July 2022

What is a Data Catalog? Definition, Benefits and Use Cases

What is a Data Catalog? Definition, Benefits and Use Cases

Have you ever wondered what a data catalog is or why it’s so important for making smart business decisions? Below, we explain what information a data catalog holds and how it will help your team make faster and more informed decisions.

What is a data catalog?

At the simplest level, a data catalog is an inventory of all the data available to a company. However, it is much more than just a simple list of what data you have. It is a data management tool that collects and organizes metadata. With this tool, users have access to and can quickly retrieve all key information and data used by the company for more informed decision-making. Data catalogs are also particularly critical for building and implementing a data governance approach within organizations.

What is metadata?

Metadata is data…about data! It describes the information used or generated by a company, including:

  • Definitions;
  • Structure;
  • Data sources;
  • Quality;
  • Uses;
  • and procedures to follow.

The more your business grows, the more data you have to process. To have standardized, reliable, and easily actionable data that can bring real business value to your company, you need to organize, map, and index it.

What is in a data catalog?

The four primary features of a classic data catalog:

All catalogs include several standard modules and functions:

1. A metadata dictionary, which allows you to describe each piece of data used or generated by the enterprise and visualize their relationships to each other.
2. Clear labeling, which allows data sets to be grouped by category using labels or keywords.
3. A search engine, which enables you to find information with one click. Just enter a folder name, tag name or keyword and you’re done!
4. The ability to manage permissions and access controls to protect the editing rights of catalog entries. You can filter access according to different criteria (business, hierarchy, etc.) and choose who can modify or view which information.

Additional features

To customize a data catalog to your specific business needs, you must carefully select additional features:

  • Automatic and intelligent metadata import from multiple data sources;
  • Collaboration features (adding comments and information, notification center…);
  • Traceability and Data Lineage, to visualize the origin and transformations of data over time.

Settings and technical details will also make the difference when designing and deploying your catalog.

Main user benefits

A robust data catalog solution is essential to make smarter, data-driven decisions.

It allows you to:

  • Democratize access to data,
  • Ensure the reliability and accuracy of information,
  • Control the quality of data,
  • Collaborate efficiently thanks to a unified view of data in the company,
  • Facilitate decision-making based on contextualized and actionable information.

The true advantage is that you don’t need to be an expert to use data. No technical skills are required, making it easy for all teams throughout the company to benefit from its numerous advantages.

An asset for the entire company

The data catalog is a valuable asset that many different teams in the company should take advantage of. However, there are a few key players that come to mind:

#1 Chief Data Officers

For Chief Data Officers and Data Governance Managers, data catalogs allow them to establish proper data governance. It provides a unified and centralized view of data information and its lifecycle within the enterprise. Thus, all data professionals and experts can leverage data more effectively.

#2 Business Intelligence Managers and Data Scientists

With a Data Catalog, Business Intelligence Managers, Data Analysts, and Data Scientists can manage their various projects more easily.  They can quickly access an optimized history consultation and immediately identify the business experts responsible for the data.
A data catalog is essential for analyzing data, accessing key indicators, and reporting with complete peace of mind.

#3 Business users

The catalog offers all teams a way to access precise data immediately. Business users don’t need to waste any more time identifying the person responsible for the data they want to access. In addition, the data catalogs help prevent errors when business users enter or modify data.

Data catalogs are essential for mapping the company’s data, contextualizing it, and making it accessible, and creating better and more informed decisions. Analyzing companies’ internal data is more difficult without a data catalog, and making informed decisions or establishing solid data governance can prove challenging.

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