How to evaluate a data catalog

With the right data catalog, companies can better understand and manage their data. However, it can be daunting to choose from the myriad of options available when you’ve decided to implement a data catalog in your stack. That’s why we’ve created this simple step-by-step guide that will help you assess your data catalog needs and select the right one for you
Last updated
February 20, 2024
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Data catalogs play an important role in the modern company’s data stack. With the right data catalog, companies can better understand and manage their data. However, it can be daunting to choose from the myriad of options available when you’ve decided to implement a data catalog in your stack. That’s why we’ve created this simple step-by-step guide that will help you assess your data catalog needs and select the right one for your business. Read on to get started!

Understanding the Role of Data Catalogs

Before diving into the considerations, let’s briefly talk about what data catalogs are and why they’re needed. In short, a data catalog serves as a centralized repository for metadata that describes a company’s data assets. This not only helps organizations keep their data assets organized, but it also makes data assets more searchable and usable. When the metadata for your data assets is readily accessible, team members can also get a more in-depth understanding of the data you’ve collected and generated as a company.

Typically, you would expect your data catalog to include metadata such as the format, source, description and related attributes of data assets. Modern solutions should also provide a range of tools for searching, discovering and managing data, such as data profiling, tagging and sharing features.

In the next section, we will discuss the process of evaluating data catalogs and selecting the right one for your organization.

Step-by-Step Guide To Evaluating a Data Catalog

When choosing a data catalog, it’s best to have a plan in place. Evaluating the different options and comparing them is always a good idea, but make sure you outline your specific goals and needs for a data catalog, as they may differ from others. With that being said, let’s start with the first step.

1. Define Your Evaluation Criteria and Goals

Make sure you clearly outline and define your evaluation criteria and goals for your data catalog. Ask the right questions and talk with stakeholders about what they want out of a data catalog.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a rubric and then score each metric for the tools you evaluate. The data catalogs that have the highest total score can then be tested or demoed to see how they would integrate with the rest of your data stack before you make a final decision.

Here's a checklist to start from.

2. Gather Information About Data Catalogs

Now you have your data catalog evaluation criteria and goals laid out. Now it’s time to start researching the options available to you. There are a lot of data catalogs on the market, so this may be a time-intensive step. Still, it’s well worth taking the time now so you don’t have to deal with a tool that doesn’t work for your organization later.

There are plenty of resources online to help you find data catalogs, but it’s also a good idea to speak to peers in your industry to see if they have any recommendations or experiences with data catalog tools.

Now is also a good time to start narrowing down the field. For something, if a tool is way out of budget, don’t include it in your evaluation. While it’s good to have a diverse set of options to choose from, you don’t want to make the choice too overwhelming.

3. Assess Key Criteria & Capabilities of Each

Now that you have a list of potential data catalogs, it's time to assess their key criteria and capabilities. This step is crucial to ensure that the data catalog you choose can meet your organization's needs. A good place to start is to go through each of your data catalog options and make a list of the features they offer. Some tools inevitably will be more robust than others.

It’s also a good idea to see if data catalog options offer more features than just a data catalog. The more robust the tool is, the more potential it may have for improving your data management and data discovery capabilities. Remember to keep your specific goals in mind when assessing these features. Which features and capabilities will help you reach those goals? This will help you eliminate quite a few of the options from contention.

4. Keep Your Organization's Needs Top of Mind

As you evaluate data catalogs, it's always important to keep your organization's needs and priorities in mind.

Keep those evaluation criteria in hand, but also make sure to list out your data challenges and pain points. This will help you look at each tool and see if they’re capable of addressing those challenges.

Also, consider the use cases of a data catalog across departments in your organization. Different teams may have different data needs, so remember to evaluate your tools from a variety of perspectives. This is a great time to involve stakeholders in the process, as they can give input into what they want and expect out of a data catalog.

5. Make an Informed Decision

Finally, it’s time to make an informed decision and choose the data catalog that is best for your company.

When making the final decision, take a last look at all of your evaluation criteria and weigh them carefully. Make sure you don’t rush the decision-making process, as it will set you back more if you have to switch to a different tool later down the line.

If possible, conduct hands-on evaluations through demos and free trials of your top choices. This will help you get a better understanding of how the data catalog will integrate with your daily processes and if it’s a good fit for your organization.

Once you have made your decision, make an implementation plan. Integrate your new tool into your data stack, train the necessary stakeholders and monitor performance on an ongoing basis.

Tips For Structuring Your Evaluation Process

We’ve talked about the importance of having evaluation criteria in place when choosing a data catalog. If you’re just getting started, it can help to have an initial checklist. We’ve outlined some top criteria to keep in mind when evaluating your data tools. Use this initial checklist as your guide, and then add in organization-specific criteria as necessary to better customize it to your needs. It also helps to score each section on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how important it is. This will help you choose the top tools.

Use these features and capabilities on your initial checklist to get started:

  • Automation — While it’s possible to conduct data catalog processes manually, there are automated solutions that can make these processes much more efficient. If you want to implement automation in your data catalog to improve accuracy and remove tedious data tasks, you will want to investigate the automation capabilities of each tool.
  • Ease of Use — Of course, no one wants to use a tool that isn’t intuitive. Some tools are built for more technical users, while others are built to be more intuitive for all team members. If you want a data catalog tool that makes data more accessible for data discovery, look for user-friendly tools.
  • System Maintenance and Innovation — Keep in mind that you will want your data catalog to evolve and scale with your business. Modern solutions can do this through updates, but system maintenance will partially fall on your team. This is where you need to consider whether you want an open-source solution. While open-source solutions can be cost-effective, they require organizations to dedicate more time and resources to maintenance and upgrade tasks.
  • Data Governance & Security — Determine how important integrated data governance and security features are for your data catalog. Keep in mind while data catalogs enhance the accessibility and searchability of data, this also means that you need to make sure there are access controls in place to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Customizability — You likely already have a robust data stack in place if you’re researching a data catalog. If you have numerous tools and applications you already use, you may consider customizability an important factor. Customizability will make it easier to integrate your data catalog tool into your current workflows and processes.
  • Price — Finally, remember to consider your budget. Set your maximum budget so you don’t go over when deciding between your data catalog options.

Best Practices To Follow

Before wrapping up, let’s touch on some best practices that will help you make the most out of your data catalog:

  • Involve your team — Remember to involve stakeholders across different teams and departments. Data catalog tools are important for data enablement, and involving stakeholders early on will increase employee buy-in and ensure they know how to leverage your data catalog tool to its maximum potential.
  • Start small — The evaluation process for data catalogs can get overwhelming sometimes. You can start small by outlining a few specific use cases and seeing how a certain data catalog would help in these scenarios. This can help break up your evaluation with real-world applications that show you how a tool would work in your organization.
  • Consider Scalability — When evaluating data catalogs, it's important to be mindful of scalability. Ensure that the solution can handle the future needs of your company as it continues to grow and evolve.
  • Choose the Right Vendor — Choose a vendor that understands your needs. Your vendor should offer comprehensive support and have a track record of success. Don't be afraid to evaluate each vendor based on their reputation in the market.
  • Monitor success — Once your data catalog is fully implemented, make sure to monitor its performance and evaluate its efficacy regularly.<p>

Why Companies Choose Secoda’s Modern Data Catalog Tool

If you’re trying to narrow down your data catalog options, consider Secoda. At Secoda, we’ve created a data catalog that is more than just a repository for your data assets. Our data catalog was built with data enablement in mind, making data more searchable and usable than ever before. With Secoda, team members can automate data discovery, documentation and governance tasks with ease. Secoda even makes data discovery easy for nontechnical users with ChatGPT-powered search. 

As for integration, Secoda offers out-of-the-box connections and flexible APIs to fit your workflow. In short, companies choose our modern data catalog tool because it checks all the boxes for a data catalog and more.

Try Secoda for Free

If you’re ready to see how Secoda’s data catalog fits in your business, schedule your demo today. You can also try Secoda for free to get hands-on experience with our data catalog features, along with the other robust features on the Secoda platform.

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