How to Build Data Products: Strategies for 2024 and Beyond

Updated September 27th, 2023
how to build data products

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In essence, data products are specialized applications or software tools that are designed to generate, process, or provide data as a service.

These products may range from simple dashboards and visualizations to complex machine learning models or analytics data services. Data products can take raw data and transform it into actionable insights, useful information, or valuable services.

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In this article, we will explore:

  1. The 7 steps to building data products
  2. 8 key parts of a data product
  3. Some popular examples

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Table of contents

  1. How to build a great data product: Your 7 steps to success
  2. 8 Critical components of a data product
  3. 7 Popular examples of data products for your next project
  4. Bottom line
  5. Related reads

How to build a great data product: Your 7 steps to success

Creating a data product is an intricate process that involves collaboration across different disciplines. In this article, let’s explore the essential steps required to go from an idea to a fully functional data product:

  • Step 1: Identify business objectives
  • Step 2: Data collection
  • Step 3: Data cleaning and transformation
  • Step 4: Data analysis and modeling
  • Step 5: Prototyping
  • Step 6: Production deployment
  • Step 7: Continuous monitoring and improvement

Let us understand each step in detail:

Step 1: Identify business objectives

  • Talk to stakeholders: Engage with stakeholders to understand the problem you’re solving.
  • Define metrics: Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success.
  • Set goals: Clearly articulate what the data product aims to achieve.
  • Allocate resources: Assess the resources you’ll need, including time, talent, and technology.
  • Create a roadmap: Develop a timeline and set milestones for the project.

Step 2: Data collection

  • Identify data sources: Determine where the data will come from.
  • Ensure data quality: High-quality data is critical, so validate and verify your data sources.
  • Data gathering: Deploy tools or scripts to collect data.
  • Pilot testing: Conduct a small-scale test to ensure the data is fit for purpose.
  • Data backup: Establish backup systems to protect your raw data.

Step 3: Data cleaning and transformation

  • Outliers and noise: Remove or correct data points that are clearly erroneous.
  • Handling missing data: Decide how to deal with gaps in the data.
  • Data standardization: Transform data into a consistent format.
  • Feature engineering: Create new features that could aid in analysis.
  • Data validation: Confirm that the transformed data meets quality standards.

Step 4: Data analysis and modeling

  • Exploratory analysis: Get to know your data; plot it, summarize it.
  • Select algorithms: Choose appropriate machine learning algorithms or statistical methods.
  • Model training: Use your data to train the selected algorithms.
  • Model evaluation: Use metrics like accuracy, precision, and recall to evaluate the model.
  • Iteration: Refine and retune your model based on performance and feedback.

Step 5: Prototyping

  • Feature set: Choose a minimal set of features for your prototype.
  • User testing: Collect user feedback by deploying the prototype to a limited audience.
  • Iterate: Make improvements based on user feedback.
  • Stakeholder review: Present the prototype to stakeholders for review and approval.
  • Cost assessment: Ensure that the prototype can be built into a full product within budget.

Step 6: Production deployment

  • Scalability: Ensure that your model and data pipelines are scalable.
  • Integration: Integrate the data product into the existing tech stack.
  • Launch: Roll out the data product to your user base.
  • Documentation: Complete all technical and user documentation.
  • Training: Train end-users and administrators on how to use the product.

Step 7: Continuous monitoring and improvement

  • Performance metrics: Regularly check if the data product meets the defined KPIs.
  • Feedback loops: Establish mechanisms to collect user feedback for ongoing improvement.
  • Updates and patches: Roll out updates to fix bugs and add new features.
  • Retraining models: Regularly update the model with new data.
  • Review: Conduct periodic reviews to assess if the product still aligns with business objectives.

Creating a great data product is a marathon, not a sprint. Each step is crucial, and attention to detail is key. By carefully navigating these steps, you will substantially increase the likelihood of your data product’s success and its ability to provide value to both users and the organization.

8 Critical components of a data product

A data product is more than just an algorithm or a dashboard; it’s a composite of various elements that work in synergy to solve a specific business problem. Understanding these components is essential for creating a data product that is robust, scalable, and impactful.

The following are the 8 key component of a data product:

  1. Data sources
  2. Data pipelines
  3. Data storage
  4. Data models and algorithms
  5. User interface
  6. APIs and endpoints
  7. Monitoring and logging systems
  8. Documentation

Let’s explore each component in detail.

1. Data sources

Reliability: The data source must be reliable to ensure the integrity of the data product. Unreliable data can lead to incorrect analyses and, ultimately, flawed business decisions.

Accessibility: Data should be easily accessible, either in real-time or in batches, to keep the data product up to date.

Relevance: The source should provide data that is directly related to the business problem being solved.

Volume: Depending on the use-case, the data source should be capable of providing data at the scale required for analysis.

Compliance: Data sourcing should comply with legal and ethical standards, including data protection regulations like GDPR or HIPAA.

2. Data Pipelines

Automation: Pipelines automate the ETL process, making it efficient and less prone to human error.

Scalability: As data grows, pipelines should be designed to scale easily to accommodate larger datasets.

Error handling: Good pipelines have robust error-handling mechanisms to ensure that failures don’t disrupt the entire system.

Data quality checks: Built-in validation steps ensure that only clean and relevant data makes its way into storage or analysis.

Flexibility: The architecture should be modular and flexible to incorporate changes in data sources, formats, or business requirements.

3. Data storage

Performance: Storage solutions should offer fast read/write capabilities for efficient data retrieval and updates.

Scalability: As data needs grow, the storage system should scale horizontally or vertically without significant disruption.

Security: Features like encryption and access controls are crucial for protecting sensitive data.

Data Types: The storage system should be capable of handling various data types, including structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.

Cost-effectiveness: Storage solutions should be economically feasible, offering good performance without excessive costs.

4. Data models and algorithms

Accuracy: Models should provide accurate predictions or insights, validated through techniques like cross-validation.

Interpretability: It’s essential for stakeholders to understand how decisions are made, especially in regulated industries.

Efficiency: Algorithms should be computationally efficient to provide timely results.

Robustness: The model should be robust enough to handle variations in the data.

Maintainability: Over time, algorithms need updates; their architecture should make these updates straightforward.

5. User interface

Usability: The UI should be intuitive, requiring minimal training for end-users.

Visualizations: Good use of charts or graphs can make complex data easily understandable.

Interactivity: Users should be able to interact with the data, perhaps by drilling down into charts or changing parameters.

Responsiveness: The interface should work well on multiple devices and screen sizes.

Feedback mechanisms: Users should have a way to provide feedback or report issues directly through the UI.

6. APIs and endpoints

Security: APIs should use secure authentication and authorization mechanisms.

Rate limiting: To protect resources, you may need to limit the number of API calls from a single user or system.

Documentation: API functions should be well-documented so developers know how to interact with them.

Data formats: APIs should support multiple data formats like JSON, XML for broader compatibility.

Error handling: Good APIs provide meaningful error messages and have solid error-handling capabilities.

7. Monitoring and logging systems

Real-time insights: Systems should offer real-time monitoring capabilities to catch issues as they occur.

Alerts: Automated alert systems notify administrators of performance issues or errors.

Audit trails: Logging systems should keep an audit trail for security and compliance reasons.

Performance metrics: Monitoring should include performance metrics like latency, throughput, and error rates.

Data quality: These systems can also monitor for data quality issues like missing values or outlier detection.

8. Documentation

User manuals: Guides that explain how to use the product effectively.

Technical specs: Detailed technical documentation for internal teams or third-party developers.

API documentation: If the product has an API, its documentation is essential for integration with other services.

Change logs: Updates and changes to the data product should be documented for traceability.

Compliance records: Documentation related to data governance, security protocols, and compliance measures.

Understanding the individual components that make up a data product is the first step towards creating a solution that is not just technologically advanced but also business-centric. Each component plays a pivotal role, and missing any one of them could impair the effectiveness of the entire product.

Data products have become integral to our digital landscape, driving decision-making and enhancing user experiences across various sectors. They span multiple applications, from analytics dashboards to AI-driven tools.

Here are some examples to illustrate the diversity and utility of data products in today’s world.

  1. Business analytics dashboards
  2. Recommendation systems
  3. Chatbots
  4. Health monitoring systems
  5. Fraud detection systems
  6. Supply chain optimization tools
  7. Predictive maintenance solutions

Let’s understand each example in detail.

1. Business analytics dashboards

Utility: Used by businesses to monitor KPIs in real-time.

Features: Interactive graphs, real-time alerts, data segmentation.

Example: Tableau dashboards that provide actionable insights into sales metrics.

Industries: Finance, retail, healthcare, and virtually any other sector.

Impact: Enables real-time decision-making and long-term strategic planning.

2. Recommendation systems

Utility: Personalizes user experiences on platforms like e-commerce websites or streaming services.

Features: User-item filtering, collaborative filtering, machine learning algorithms.

Example: Netflix’s recommendation engine for suggesting movies or TV shows.

Industries: Retail, entertainment, news, and more.

Impact: Increases user engagement and sales.

3. Chatbots

Utility: Provides automated customer support or sales assistance.

Features: Natural Language Processing, decision trees, multi-platform support.

Example: Customer service chatbot on a banking website.

Industries: Customer service, healthcare, education.

Impact: Reduces human workload and increases customer satisfaction.

4. Health monitoring systems

Utility: Tracks health metrics for medical analysis and alerting.

Features: Real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, remote reporting.

Example: Wearable devices that track and report vital signs.

Industries: Healthcare, sports, insurance.

Impact: Facilitates timely medical intervention and promotes healthy lifestyles.

5. Fraud detection systems

Utility: Identifies and prevents fraudulent activities.

Features: Anomaly detection, rule-based systems, real-time alerting.

Example: Credit card fraud detection systems.

Industries: Finance, retail, security.

Impact: Reduces financial losses and enhances trust in systems.

6. Supply chain optimization tools

Utility: Streamlines supply chain processes.

Features: Inventory management, route optimization, demand forecasting.

Example: Tools that optimize delivery routes for logistics companies.

Industries: Manufacturing, logistics, retail.

Impact: Reduces costs and increases operational efficiency.

7. Predictive maintenance solutions

Utility: Forecasts equipment failures before they happen.

Features: Sensor data analytics, machine learning models, alerting mechanisms.

Example: Predictive maintenance for industrial machinery.

Industries: Manufacturing, utilities, transportation.

Impact: Reduces downtime and maintenance costs.

Data products are revolutionizing the way we interact with technology and make decisions. From enhancing customer experiences to optimizing complex systems, the range and impact of data products continue to grow. The examples provided are just a snapshot of the transformative potential that well-crafted data products hold.

Bottom line?

Data products have permeated every industry, becoming indispensable tools for simplifying processes, engaging customers, and driving competitive advantage. However, creating impactful data products necessitates meticulous planning and execution.

Success lies in aligning the product tightly with business objectives, maintaining high data quality, choosing appropriate algorithms, and continuously monitoring performance.

By following structured development processes, leveraging the right mix of technologies, and focusing on long-term improvement, organizations can build data products that create tangible value.

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