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Interactive data lineage diagram: preview, edit, add, comment etc. from within the diagram
Our data landscape today and why it is a problem for an Information Architect
Many companies – especially in Financial Services, Healthcare, and others – have a hugely scattered application landscape. From front to back office systems, over several data warehouses, organizations have many local and global single points of the truth and a vast diversity of business information reporting tools ranging from plain good-old MS Excel to the more popular BI tools like Qlik and Tableau.
An Information Architect – who is known by many many job titles such as Data -, Application -, Solution -, Process – , Software -, … Architect, but for the sake of clarity let’s just call him or her an Information Architect – is responsible for bringing clarity to this gigantic spider web of data sources, systems, files, interfaces, processes, data warehouses, regulatory reports, internal management report, public shareholders disclosures, and dashboards, as well as the more diverse big data lakes and systems.
Very often, none of these systems are adequately documented, and even if there is documentation, it is often outdated. Sounds familiar, right?
The trend with cloud data warehouses, software-as-a-service, big data, the internet of things is certainly not going in the direction of a consolidation and centralization of multiple data sources into one single data location. Instead, it is quite likely that our current spider web will just become a massive BIG spider web and therefore the problems IAs face today will only become BIGGER tomorrow.
How does an IA tackle this problem today, and why this is not working
So how does a regular Information Architect tackle this challenge to create a nice, easy-to-navigate, easy-to-understand, easy-to-maintain, easy-to-document, and more importantly, easy-to-consume architectural picture of this application and data chaos? And how do they do so when faced with time pressure to comply with demanding regulations like GDPR, BCBS 239, CMS, and others?
Well, probably one step at a time and one data flow at the time. But what’s the starting point? Do you start at the end with the reports? But which reports first? For financial institutions, it makes sense to start with your compliance report models (ex. the European Data Point Model): where do the numbers in my report come from? Healthcare institutions might start with the systems that provide an adequate picture of patient history. For other industries, it will be other starting points for sure. A popular approach is to use a Critical Data Elements methodology.
So first our IA will spend numerous days, weeks, and months investigating and talking to the different SMEs of all those different systems and business processes. He will capture all of this information and write it down (in another file somewhere on the network).
Source: Using Microsoft Visio to Reverse Engineer a Database
As a next step, our IA will pick one stream and he will design an elaborate architectural picture of different systems and applications interacting with each other, including how the data flows from these systems to the different data warehouses and how the data warehouses feed the different reporting tools and how those tools produce hundreds of reports. Hopefully he will use supporting classical data lineage tools as there are many on the market to automate some of that work.
Next, our IA will publish these architectural beauties and will distribute them in a read-only PDF format to the different business users and analysts within different departments and ultimately he will find out that nobody uses them. Why? Because everybody has a different background and a different vocabulary (business versus technical language), a different need for granularity of information (management wants a high level picture, a mortgage loan specialist is looking for a more detailed picture, auditor wants to see it all and be able to go into the nitty gritty details). Even the DBA needs to understand the context for data.
As an end result a lot of time, effort and money is spent on designing good looking architectural pictures, which – understandably – do not accommodate everybody’s needs, quickly become outdated, and never hold the level of detailed information and documentation that is required.
And even when the architectural pictures are good enough, the consumers are faced with the traditional governance challenges:
How many of those architectural pictures are just consuming disc space? Or worse, how many are kept up-to-date at a cost nobody wants to have on his budget? Clearly the current approach isn’t working.
It’s time to rethink the paradigm
Collibra has the solution for all IAs, CIOs, and CDOs who need to sponsor and are, in the end, accountable for a properly managed, documented, and controlled IT landscape.
Our goal is to inject a completely different way of working into your IA’s DNA. We aim at providing state-of-the-art and intelligent data ingestion, profiling, and data lineage embedded in our market leading data governance platform. With our tooling and platform, we want to automate what can be automated, but complement the automation with easy, collaborative and flexible ways of crowdsourcing the data lineage and governance. As an IA you are not alone, you can rely on the data citizens to effectively work with you and bring clarity in the BIG spider web of systems, applications, and reports.
Edit a definition of a Business Term from within the diagram
Carefully aligned metadata and data lineage focused capabilities
Our next generation visualization, combined with our new Collibra Catalog product, seamlessly integrates with our Data Governance Center platform, allowing IAs to:
Data lineage diagrams: an IAs best friend
While it will be extremely hard or impossible to enforce a company-wide single point of truth for the data flowing through your IT landscape, Collibra will help you to govern, design, document, quality stamp, keep up-to-date, certify, and distribute your data in no time and in a way that it is easy to maintain.
If you would like to participate in usability tests, beta tests, or feature brainstorms, then please subscribe to our User Participation Program.
Tom is Director Product Management at Collibra since 2016. He has 15+ years of experience in building enterprise software for the Financial Services business, specialised in compliance and regulatory reporting. His constant aim is “building the right product, in the right way, managed right”.
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