How to Implement Data Lineage? Steps, Tools & Benefits

Last Updated on: April 19th, 2023, Published on: April 19th, 2023

header image

Share this article

Data lineage provides critical context about where data originated and how it has been aggregated, transformed, or otherwise modified since its generation.

As Mandy Chessell says you can’t “understand the true meaning of data served up in a report or used in an analytical calculation when its origin and the transformation it has undertaken is not clear?

That’s why implementing a data lineage system is a crucial step in managing and understanding your data ecosystem.

So, in this blog, we will understand:

  • The steps you need to take to implement an accurate data lineage system.
  • The data processing systems to connect your data lineage tools with and their benefits.
  • The process you need to monitor, iterate, and improve the data lineage system.

Table of content

  1. 10 Steps to implement a data lineage system
  2. What data processing systems should you connect to your data lineage tool?
  3. How to monitor, iterate, and improve your data lineage system?
  4. Summing it all up
  5. Data lineage: Related reads

Let us begin with the basic steps:

10 Steps to implement a data lineage system

  1. Define the scope
  2. Assess current state
  3. Set goals and objectives
  4. Identify metadata requirements
  5. Choose tools and technologies
  6. Deploy a data catalog
  7. Implement data lineage tracking
  8. Establish data governance processes
  9. Train and educate stakeholders
  10. Monitor, iterate, and improve

Now, let us understand them one by one.

  1. Define the scope Identify: The key components and stakeholders in your data platform. Determine which data artifacts, repositories, applications, and tools are crucial for your business operations and prioritize them for lineage tracking.
  2. Assess current state: Then, evaluate the existing documentation, metadata, and data management practices. Identify gaps and areas that need improvement.
  3. Set goals and objectives: Next up, define your objectives for the data lineage system. Some common goals include:
    • Improving data quality
    • Facilitating regulatory compliance
    • Enabling impact analysis and faster root cause analysis
    • Enhancing collaboration among teams
  4. Identify metadata requirements: Then, find the types of metadata that need to be captured for each data artifact. This may include:
    • Technical metadata (e.g., schema, data types, data formats)
    • Operational metadata (e.g., data processing timestamps, lineage information, data quality metrics)
    • Business metadata (e.g., data ownership, business definitions, data classification)
  5. Choose tools and technologies: The next step is to choose appropriate data lineage tools and technologies that suit your organization’s needs. Here’re five popular open-source data lineage tools you could consider.
  6. Deploy a data catalog: You’d also need to deploy a centralized data catalog that includes all the relevant metadata for your organization. This will serve as the foundation for your data lineage system.
  7. Implement data lineage tracking: While implementing a data lineage tool, make sure you’re able to automatically capture data lineage information as data flows through your platform. This might involve integrating your data lineage tools with your data processing systems (e.g., ETL/ELT, Kafka, ML frameworks).

We will explain this in greater detail in the next section.

  1. Establish data governance processes: You also need to create policies and procedures for data management, including data lineage maintenance, data quality checks, and data access controls.
  2. Train and educate stakeholders: Don’t forget to help stakeholders understand the importance of data lineage, how to use the tools, and their roles in maintaining the system.
  3. Monitor, iterate, and improve: It isn’t enough to implement a data lineage system. You’ll also need to continuously monitor its performance, gather feedback from stakeholders, and make improvements as necessary.

Implementing a data lineage system is an ongoing process, and you can make improvements iteratively over time. So, start small by prioritizing the most critical data flows. Then, as you understand your data ecosystem better, you can expand your coverage.

Now that we’ve understood how to implement a data lineage system, let us figure out which data processing tools to connect it with.

What data processing systems should you connect to your data lineage tool?

Implementing data lineage tracking is a crucial aspect of building a complete and accurate data lineage system. To get better visibility into your data ecosystem, you need to connect your data lineage tools with various data processing systems such as:

  1. Data ingestion and integration tools
  2. Data storage systems
  3. Data processing frameworks
  4. Streaming platforms
  5. Data analysis and reporting tools
  6. Machine learning and experimentation frameworks

Let’s explore each of them individually.

  1. Data ingestion and integration tools: Connect your data lineage tools with data ingestion and integration tools such as ETL/ELT processes (e.g., Apache NiFi, Talend, Informatica, Fivetran). By doing so, you can track the flow of data from source systems to your data storage and processing platforms, enabling you to understand the transformations applied to the data and how they impact downstream processes.
  2. Data storage systems: Integrate with various data storage systems, including databases (e.g., PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle), data lakes (e.g., AWS S3, Azure Data Lake Storage), and data warehouses (e.g., Snowflake, Google BigQuery, Amazon Redshift). This will help you track how data is stored, partitioned, and maintained over time, providing insights into data access patterns and storage optimization opportunities.
  3. Data processing frameworks: Connecting your data lineage tools with data processing frameworks such as Apache Spark, Flink, or Hadoop, will help you capture lineage information when data is processed in batch or real-time modes. This will also help you understand the dependencies between datasets and the impact of changes on downstream processes.
  4. Streaming platforms: Integrate your data lineage tools with streaming platforms like Apache Kafka or Amazon Kinesis to track the flow of real-time data and the transformations applied to it as it moves through your data pipelines.
  5. Data analysis and reporting tools: Connect your data lineage tools with BI tools (e.g., Tableau, Power BI, Looker), data visualization tools, and SQL clients. This will allow you to trace the origins of data displayed in reports and dashboards, helping you to ensure data accuracy and reliability.
  6. Machine learning and experimentation frameworks: Integrate your data lineage tools with ML frameworks (e.g., TensorFlow, PyTorch, Scikit-learn) and experimentation platforms (e.g., MLflow, Kubeflow) to track the flow of data through your ML models and experiments. This will help you understand the impact of data changes on your models and the traceability of results.

5 Key benefits of connecting your data lineage tool with data processing systems

To begin with, there are five benefits:

  1. End-to-end view of data flow
  2. Data transformation transparency
  3. Impact analysis
  4. Data provenance
  5. Data quality and consistency

By integrating your data lineage tools with these data processing systems, you gain the following visibility:

  1. End-to-end view of data flow: You can visualize the flow of data from its origin to its final destination. It provides you with a clear understanding of dependencies and relationships between datasets.
  2. Data transformation transparency: You can trace the transformations applied to data at each stage, helping you to validate the accuracy and consistency of the data.
  3. Impact analysis: You can assess the impact of changes in data, schema, or processing logic on downstream systems. It enables you to perform faster root cause analysis and reduce the risk of errors.
  4. Data provenance: You can establish trust in your data by verifying its origin, ownership, and lineage, ensuring that it meets regulatory and compliance requirements.
  5. Data quality and consistency: You can track data quality metrics throughout your data ecosystem, identifying potential issues and improving the overall quality of your data.

The key to successful data lineage tracking is choosing the right tools and technologies, ensuring proper integration with your data processing systems, and maintaining accurate metadata.

In the first section of this blog (10th step), we spoke about the need to monitor, iterate, and improve your data lineage system. Let us understand how to do that.

How to monitor, iterate, and improve your data lineage system?

Monitoring, iterating, and improving your data lineage system is essential to ensuring its ongoing effectiveness and matching your organization’s growing needs.

Here’s how you can set up this process:

  1. Define key performance indicators (KPIs)
  2. Implement monitoring and logging
  3. Regularly review KPIs
  4. Gather stakeholder feedback
  5. Prioritize improvements
  6. Implement improvements iteratively
  7. Validate and measure the impact
  8. Maintain documentation
  9. Train and educate users
  10. Foster a culture of continuous improvement

Now, let us examine each of these steps in detail.

  1. Define key performance indicators (KPIs): Establish KPIs that measure the success and effectiveness of your data lineage system. Possible KPIs include: Data quality metrics, data traceability, user adoption, the time required for impact analysis or root cause identification
  2. Implement monitoring and logging: Set up monitoring and logging for your data lineage system to track the performance of various components, such as data ingestion, transformation, storage, and processing. For this, you’ll need to collect metrics related to data quality, processing times, and system usage. Tools like Prometheus, Grafana, and ELK Stack can be helpful for monitoring and visualization.
  3. Regularly review KPIs: Evaluate your KPIs periodically to assess the performance of your data lineage system. Analyze the collected metrics to identify trends, bottlenecks, or potential issues that may require attention.
  4. Gather stakeholder feedback: Collect feedback from users and stakeholders about their experience with the data lineage system, including pain points, areas for improvement, and any additional features they would like to see.
  5. Prioritize improvements: Based on the insights from KPIs and stakeholder feedback, prioritize improvements that will have the most significant impact on your data lineage system’s effectiveness. Create a roadmap for implementing these improvements and communicate it to your team and stakeholders.
  6. Implement improvements iteratively: Make improvements to your data lineage system in an agile and iterative manner. Small, incremental changes are often easier to manage and allow you to quickly adapt to new requirements or changing business needs.
  7. Validate and measure the impact: After implementing improvements, validate their effectiveness by measuring their impact on your KPIs. This will help you understand whether the changes have resulted in the desired outcome and guide your future iterations.
  8. Maintain documentation: Update your data lineage system documentation to reflect any changes made during the improvement process. Ensure that all stakeholders have access to the updated documents to foster understanding and collaboration.
  9. Train and educate users: As you make improvements to your data lineage system, ensure that users are trained and educated on the changes, their benefits, and any new features or functionalities introduced.
  10. Foster a culture of continuous improvement: Encourage your team and stakeholders to continuously look for ways to improve the data lineage system. Make it a part of your organization’s culture to constantly seek opportunities for optimization and growth.

By following these steps, you can establish a robust data lineage system over time. Moreover, this will help you maintain an effective system that adapts to your organization’s evolving needs and fosters trust in your data.

Summing it all up

A well-oiled data lineage system ensures greater transparency and understanding of your data ecosystem. Thus, let us recap what we have understood so far:

  1. Importance of data lineage: Implementing a data lineage system is essential for understanding and managing your data ecosystem, improving data quality, facilitating regulatory compliance, enabling impact analysis, and enhancing collaboration among teams.
  2. An ongoing process that needs prioritizing critical data: Implementing a data lineage system is crucial for effective data management as it provides context on where data originated and how it has been modified. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, feedback gathering, and improvement. Prioritizing the most critical data flows is an excellent way to start, and expanding coverage over time is recommended.
  3. Implementing data lineage tracking: The next stage is to integrate your data lineage tools with various data processing systems such as data ingestion and integration tools, data storage systems, data processing frameworks, streaming platforms, data analysis and reporting tools, and machine learning frameworks. This provides end-to-end visibility of data flow, data transformation transparency, impact analysis capabilities, data provenance, and data quality insights.
  4. Monitoring, iterating, and improving: Finally, set up a process that starts with defining KPIs, implementing monitoring and logging, gathering stakeholder feedback, prioritizing and implementing improvements iteratively, validating and measuring the impact of changes, documenting your progress, training users, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

By following these guidelines, you can build a comprehensive and effective data lineage system that supports your organization’s data management needs and provides valuable insights into your data ecosystem.

Are you evaluating automated data lineage solutions for your organization? Learn more about Atlan and how it helps automate data lineage and deploy best-in-class data governance without compromising on data democratization.

Share this article

[Website env: production]