Data Catalog Adoption: What Limits It and How to Drive It Effectively

Last Updated on: July 06th, 2023, Published on: May 27th, 2023
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As organizations delve deeper into the world of data analytics, the need for efficient data cataloging becomes apparent. However, successfully driving the adoption of a data catalog across your organization can be a challenging task.

In this article, we present a roadmap to streamline data catalog adoption and drive data literacy.

Let’s dive in!

Table of contents #

  1. Data catalog adoption: Benefits and challenges
  2. Risk factors in data catalog adoption
  3. How to drive data catalog adoption: 6 best practices
  4. Summing up
  5. Data catalog adoption: Related reads

Data catalog adoption: Benefits and challenges #

Data catalog adoption brings a number of clear benefits, such as:

  • Enhanced data search and discoverability
  • Real-time data currency
  • Effective data governance
  • Data quality consistency
  • Regulatory compliance

Despite these advantages, companies often face numerous hurdles in adopting data catalogs. The top reasons are:

  • Poor user experience
  • The prevalence of “Shadow IT”
  • A lack of follow-through

Let’s explore each challenge further.

Poor user experience #

A major challenge is the user experience and having to switch across multiple applications to find the data you need.

Here’s how Prukalpa Sankar highlights this issue of not getting context using your app of choice, whenever you need it:

When you’re in a BI tool like Looker, you inevitably think, “Do I trust this dashboard?” or “What does this metric mean?” The last thing anyone wants to do is open up another tool (aka the traditional data catalog), search for the dashboard, and browse through metadata to answer that question.

The prevalence of “Shadow IT” #

One issue that hampers data catalog adoption is the prevalence of “Shadow IT.”

This occurs when individuals or groups within an organization use non-standard IT solutions, instead of following the company-wide standards. This can lead to process fragmentation and potential security issues.

A lack of follow-through #

Lastly, lack of follow-through post-deployment can curtail the benefits of data catalogs.

Installation is just the beginning of the journey. You must follow through with your employees, invest in your data literacy efforts, and help them learn how to simplify their daily workflows with a data catalog.

Continuous monitoring for potential issues and proactive onboarding of new teams significantly boost the chances of successful data catalog adoption.

Risk factors in data catalog adoption #

Beyond these immediate challenges, more deep-seated fundamental reasons may obstruct the adoption of data catalogs. A few of these include:

  • Little to no leadership support: Successful adoption of new technology requires full support from top management. Without this, emerging tech projects can fail due to a loss of momentum.
  • Lack of governance and results communication: A well-defined implementation plan and frequent communication of progress, even minor successes, are crucial for gaining internal support and instilling confidence.
  • Lack of processes and procedures: Clear goals, procedures, and tasks must be established. The adoption of data catalogs could fail without these.
  • Resistance culture: People often resist change and prefer traditional ways of working. Employees may feel threatened by their lack of knowledge of the new technology and the perceived need to leave their comfort zone.
  • Unrealistic adoption speed expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day - and neither is a data catalog. Success takes time and continued effort.
  • Limited transparency and obscurity through complexity. If people don’t understand the new technology, they’re not going to use it. Likewise, if the reasoning behind adopting it is opaque, people won’t be motivated to abandon what they know to try something new.

How to drive data catalog adoption: 6 best practices #

Here are six best practices to help you drive data catalog adoption in your organization:

  • Select the ideal data catalog
  • Explain the benefits clearly
  • Construct a bottom-up data governance framework
  • Create adequate documentation and training
  • Perform active onboarding
  • Encourage knowledge sharing

Let’s explore each data catalog adoption best practice further.

Select the ideal data catalog #

In the journey towards successful data catalog adoption, your first milestone is choosing the right data catalog. Your selection needs to not only match your organization’s requirements but also facilitate ease of use and foster an inclusive environment for your data needs.

Here are some key features/capabilities to keep in mind when evaluating solutions:

  • Activates metadata, turning it into an active resource that is available whenever and wherever required
  • Consolidates all data assets into a single, accessible repository so that the data catalog becomes your organization’s single source of truth
  • Harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to further streamline data management by automating routine processes and generating insights from metadata
  • Enables embedded collaboration, allowing teams to communicate and coordinate within the data catalog itself, saving time and reducing the risk of miscommunication
  • Facilitates granular governance and access control, granting users precise access based on their roles and requirements, thereby ensuring data security, compliance, and responsible data usage
  • Is built on open API architecture as this design encourages integration with a wide range of data sources, tools, and platforms

So, how do you find the right data catalog? There are several steps for evaluating a data catalog.

First, identify your organization’s needs and budget, where the challenges and necessary functionalities of the data catalog are determined.

Then, create evaluation criteria based on the priorities for core functionality. With these in place, work to understand the different types of data catalog providers in the market.

Finally, shortlist and demonstrate prospective solutions to assess their suitability, before finally executing proofs of concept to test the functionality of the chosen solution.

Explain the benefits clearly #

To drive adoption, it’s crucial to articulate the benefits of a data catalog clearly, showcasing how it directly solves current issues and enhances organizational processes.

Revealing these features along with specific use cases can pique interest and foster understanding. The goal is to make employees excited about the data catalog by highlighting its tangible benefits, efficiencies, and the ways it can make tasks easier and quicker.

Leverage a technology enthusiast on your team to demonstrate the new features and benefits. Encourage them to highlight improvements on specific projects, which would resonate more than generic examples.

As the saying goes, "seeing is believing”. This is true for driving data catalog adoption - or any new major technology change - in your organization.

Construct a bottom-up data governance framework #

One of the compelling benefits of a data catalog is the support for comprehensive data governance. However, it’s critical that the approach to data governance be bottom-up, promoting data democratization instead of imposing a top-down, restrictive set of standards.

Such a structure empowers teams at all levels, fostering a data-driven culture.

Developing this data governance framework involves several steps, some of which include:

  1. Reevaluate your understanding of data governance
  2. Identify and define data domains
  3. Assign domain data owners and consumers
  4. Validate and document all data details
  5. Conduct regular data security and risk assessments

These steps form the basis for a decentralized, community-led data governance framework. Emphasizing a bottom-up approach empowers individuals at all levels and promotes a data-driven culture.

Create adequate documentation and training #

Comprehensive documentation and robust, hands-on training programs are the cornerstones of successful data catalog adoption. Data catalog training educates stakeholders about the basics of a data catalog and its relevance to their job roles.

The training program should be specific to the organization, reflecting both existing processes and the details of the data stack. It should cover core concepts of the data catalog, catalog usage, data lineage, tagging and classification, reporting, collaboration features, and security and compliance regulations.

Perform active onboarding #

Active onboarding plays a crucial role in ensuring the successful adoption of a data catalog. Identify teams for onboarding, create a structured training plan, and provide the necessary assistance.

Consider onboarding strategies such as assigning new hires a small independent project to help them understand how the data catalog operates. Encourage them to shadow different departments to gain an understanding of the organization’s big data picture.

Other techniques involve:

  • Inviting newcomers to data catalog investment meetings and sales calls
  • Clarifying their value to the business
  • Assigning a mentor
  • Fostering a culture of questions
  • Creating an environment of mutual help

Encourage knowledge sharing #

Knowledge sharing across an organization, transferring both tacit and explicit information between individuals, is a critical component for increasing productivity and empowering employees. To facilitate this, it’s crucial to embed a culture of knowledge sharing in your organization.

Techniques to achieve knowledge transfer include:

  • Leading by example from the top
  • Employing intrinsic motivation and autonomy
  • Creating a safe space for learning and failure
  • Making knowledge sharing part of your company values

Summing up #

Driving the adoption of a data catalog in an organization may seem daunting. But with the right approach, it can be done - and done well. Address the challenges head-on and they invariably become more manageable.

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