Enterprises invest heavily on building data assets, but if they are not used by the business users, the whole purpose is defeated. When business analysts need data, most of the times, they have no clue regarding whom to ask and where to get the data from.
The purpose of a data catalog is to help business users to search for the data that they need, help them understand the data sets, help them to decide whether they can use it for their need and finally provide access to the data. It also helps in understanding the value of the data assets within the firm, by monitoring the usage patterns of business users.
A successful implementation of a data catalog needs many underlying activities to be done, like building a strong data quality framework, building a strong metadata management framework, building strong data integrity framework etc. If these frameworks are not built, just implementing a data catalog is of less help.
Searching the data
The capability to search enterprise data is one of the most important need that a data catalog serves. It reduces the redundancy of efforts for creating data sets or reports. If someone has already taken the efforts to build a data set, there is no need to put the efforts to reproduce it again. Business definitions and context is necessary to enable efficient searching of enterprise data.
Understanding the data
For business users to use an existing dataset, they should be able to understand it. They should know when was this data set created, when was it refreshed, what data does it contain, how good is the data, who owns the data set, where does the data come from, who else is using the data set etc. The data catalog provides this information to business users, thereby enabling them to quickly decide whether the data set is a good fit for their purpose.
Trusting the data
The data catalog provides a quick preview of key features about the data that help users to assess the quality of data within the data set. It also provides the results of various data quality rules that are applied on the dataset. It also enables business users to apply more data quality rules on the data set. It provides information about who else within the organization are using this data set, and what is their feedback. All these features help business users build the trust in the data provided within the data set, before they decide to use it.
Accessing the data
Data cataloging tools also provide the facility to initiate access to the data, and a way to actually acquire the data, once the access is granted. Data owners and stewards are defined within the catalog, so that business users know exactly whom to contact to request access and to report any issue related to data quality etc.