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What is a Data Catalog and Why You (Definitely) Need it?

Authors Photo Precisely Editor | September 8, 2022

Turning enterprise data into a competitive advantage requires business users to quickly locate, understand, and adequately utilize data. If key decision-makers across departments can’t trust the data, if they can’t understand it, and if they can’t find it, then they can’t leverage data to optimize their business, and the company’s approach to data management is all wrong.  What is needed is a data catalog.

Data is only valuable to organizations if their data management approach empowers all data users to find and understand it in order to transform it into information, into meaningful business insights and improved outcomes. However, more often than not, IT is the only line of business equipped to manage and prepare data for large scale analysis. As a result, business users are left perplexed by IT’s technical languages and tools.

IT typically doesn’t understand data from a business standpoint because they are focused on solving technical problems. IT may also be responsible for implementing the quality assurance and regulatory compliance strategies of the company or monitoring the technical hops a piece of data takes through a data supply chain.

On the other hand, business users often lack the technical expertise to translate IT jargon into a business benefit. Instead, organizations need to better understand their data and how it connects to the organization’s business goals, objectives, and strategies. To help businesses support finding, understanding, and maintaining data, businesses need a catalog that organizes metadata into defined, relevant, and searchable business assets for both business users and IT. 

What is a data catalog?


A catalog is imperative to business users and can be thought of as a catalog of information and knowledge about an organization’s data and processes. Processes that are used not only to produce the data, but also to manage and consume it. It synthesizes all the technical details around an organization’s data assets across multiple data dictionaries and arranges the information into a simple, easy to understand format.

A catalog helps data users identify and understand data sets available to them. It provides transparency into metadata, including data definitions, synonyms, key business attributes, and how and where it can be used. For the catalog to enable users to understand and utilize their data as an asset, it must deliver business-ready data. Catalogs also enable cross-departmental collaboration by identifying data owners, stewards, and subject matter experts, so business users know where to go when they have pressing data questions.

A catalog also documents data lineage , enabling business users to understand their data’s origins and where it travels over time without needing or having to understand the underlying technical complexity. From origination and throughout the entire data supply chain, business lineage provides business users with a clear understanding of the flow and dependencies of their data. It also identifies crucial business process relationships, provides data quality scores and metrics, communicates data access methods, and discloses usage restrictions.

With a business-ready data catalog, business users can easily communicate and ensure they are using the right data, for the right use at the right time for maximum results.

Data catalogs are the result of an enterprise-wide data governance program and must be maintained as organizations ingest and produce more data.

Read our eBook

Looking for a Data Catalog?

Learn more about the basics of what a data catalog is, how it works and what business challenges it can help solve.

Building a data catalog

Creating a data catalog requires an enterprise-wide agreement on standard data definitions and models based on individual perspectives. Achieving agreement on data models and definitions across diverging departments, with widely different views, is a daunting task but one that can be accomplished through a streamlined data governance effort.

A catalog is just one component of an enterprise data governance framework within an organization. By utilizing data governance to build a catalog, organizations can add data quality components to provide a measure of trust and they can add data lineage to link data definitions to business lingo from different departments.

By incorporating data quality within a data governance program, business users can also measure the impact data quality efforts have against the expectations of the business. By also having access to workflow capabilities and detailing data owners, stewards, and consumers, businesses encourage collaboration and increase accountability by providing transparency into data ownership.

In addition, organizations must capture and monitor any changes to data in the catalog. An automated solution with discovery capabilities helps businesses identify and then investigate changes to deliver useful insights. With an integrated data governance program, enterprises successfully create and maintain a comprehensive catalog, providing a wide variety of benefits.


Data is a valuable asset, but only if business users can convert it into useful business intelligence. With a comprehensive business-ready catalog built through data quality powered data governance, business users are no longer dependent upon IT for the data they need. Instead, they can simply search their catalog to locate the now high-quality and trustworthy information they demand. IT is free to tackle their traditional roles and responsibilities and there is harmony between IT and business users. If there is any confusion within the catalog regarding data understanding, trust, or data quality, business users know exactly which data owner to contact for a resolution.

Ultimately, a business-ready data catalog provides business users with easily accessible, high-quality data to develop meaningful business insights, improve decision-making, derive value, and gain a competitive edge.  See how Precisely can help you build a successful data catalog to accelerate leveraging your data as an asset.

Learn more about the basics of what a catalog is, how it works and what business challenges it can help solve, read our eBook Looking for a Data Catalog?