How Does a Data Catalog Work? A Simple Business Use Case 

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With all of the buzz around data catalogs, we are receiving many questions from our customers on this topic: What is a data catalog? How does it work? And most importantly, will it solve a specific business challenge an organization is facing today?  

In a nutshell, a data catalog is a place that shows what data assets you have and where they are located. A data asset is any entity (i.e. reports, databases, websites) that contains data.  

But how does a data catalog help you access and use your data to achieve a business outcome? Take a look at the illustration below which shows how an optimal data catalog can solve a business use case: "I want to delight my customer." 

  1. Define the business outcome: I want to delight my customer.

  2. Discover what customer data I have: Do I have data on customer patterns and trends? Do I have prior buying behavior, search term, and/or account history data? 

  3. Find my customer data: What databases, reports, and CRM’s hold my customer data?

  4. Verify my data: Is the data usable or is it millions of rows in a CSV file?  Is it trusted? Is the source validated?

  5. Measure my outcome: Did the data get me to my desired outcome? Can I act on it to delight my customer?  

Data Catalog

Data governance and stewardship: At each of these steps, data definitions must be set up based on rules and standards to find the available data throughout the enterprise, know where it is, and ensure it is trustworthy. Finding your data is one step of the process however connecting it to your business outcome provides the full solution.

Gartner advises that companies should “Avoid data catalogs that do not have the ability to scale out beyond tactical use case requirements and connect to the broader enterprise metadata management and EIM initiatives." [1]

To learn more about how a data catalog works and selecting the right one to meet your needs in layman's terms download our Getting Started with a Data Catalog Guide.

[1] Gartner Research: Data Catalogs Are the New Black in Data Management and Analytics by Ehtisham Zaidi, Guido De Simoni, Roxane Edjlali, Alan D. Duncan, December 13 2017.

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