We’re excited to introduce Secoda’s new (and most requested) feature, which brings one step close to getting everyone on the same page about data. Now, teams can easily define their data dictionary in Secoda and get notifications on changes to the resources that are related to data dictionary terms. Secoda allows teams to reference data dictionary terms in their data catalogue directly and define the data dictionary with SQL, text and any additional information. Secoda automatically identifies which resources reference particular data dictionary term, so teams can easily keep track of how they arrive at their core business metrics. We wrote this article as a guide for anyone looking to create a data dictionary on Secoda.
What Is a Data Dictionary?
Simple data discovery starts with good organization. A data dictionary is a list of key terms and metrics with definitions; a business glossary. Although this seems like a simple exercise, it’s very difficult to align business departments with the same definitions. Although teams want to make a data dictionary in word, most companies we've spoke with have been keeping the data dictionary in Google sheets or Confluence document, or not keeping one at all. Now, any team can easily define their metrics and see which tables each metrics references easily in Secoda.
What Are the Benefits?
The benefits of keeping data information in a central tool are more efficient, transparent and self sufficient teams. As teams continue to embrace remote work, data discovery tools become an important tool to help teams get on the same page when they aren’t in the same place. By getting on top of this knowledge capture early and often, teams can avoid the pain of having to spend weeks documenting their data when it's out of control.
A ride-sharing company we wrote about in a previous article shared an example of the difficulties related to data definitions. At this company, it was very difficult to get aligned on the same metrics for “number of rides a week”. Why?
- The data team defines the “number of rides per week” as the total number of rides that were completed between Jan. 1, 2020, 12:00 AM → Jan. 7, 2020, 11:59 PM.
- The marketing team defines the “number of rides per week” as the total number of rides that were started between Jan. 1, 2020, 12:00 AM → Jan. 7, 2020, 11:59 PM.
- The sales team defines “number of rides per week” as the total number of riders that paid for a ride Jan. 1, 2020, 7:00 AM → Jan. 8, 2020, 6:59 AM
Common Problems People Face When Analyzing Data
All data-driven organizations experience this problem as they begin to grow their data and people. And although it sounds like a simple problem, which might require a meeting to solve, aligning the business and data to remove confusion can be an extremely profound problem. That's why a data dictionary can be one of the most valuable tools that a data team can create to deliver results.
The definitions should be understood by anyone in the company, not just the data team. Additionally, the definitions should be adopted by all teams and by leadership. Secoda makes this easier by making the definitions easier to find and understand for every employee.
How To Improve Communication and Documentation
Although the key metrics should be stable, they may need to change over time. Secoda updates teammates on changes to the data dictionary. One instance that might require key metrics to change is when a new revenue stream is introduced or when the pricing of an existing revenue line changes. Changes like these are traditionally difficult to keep track of when all your definitions are defined in google sheets or confluence.
One piece of advice we have is that when there are big changes in the business, treat the changes to the data dictionary as a key part of the product release. Communicate the changes in the dictionary definition to the rest of the teams and make sure all team leads are informed about the new changes. One strategy that we used was to create a Slack channel dedicated to updates to data dictionary terms or data documentation (which you can easily do with Secoda). This way, all business stakeholders can stay informed on the important key business metrics.
About Secoda, a Modern Data Catalog Tool
This is just the beginning of the knowledge capture process for Secoda. Our vision is to provide data teams with an intuitive platform to manage all their data knowledge in one central place. We’re going to be working on bringing employees closer to this information by providing teams with an always-on concierge to answer any question about data based on the knowledge captured in Secoda. There are many other pieces of data knowledge that we’re excited to capture in Secoda in the future and would love to share our vision with any teams that want to use Secoda as the way to capture data knowledge.
Our goal is to create an analytics operations tool that improves how teams work with the data team, the data catalogue was just the first step towards that vision. This is why Secoda integrates with common communication channels like Slack and already allows employees to ask questions about data whenever and wherever it’s needed.