Cracking the Data Lineage Code

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What is Data Lineage? 

Data lineage describes the life-cycle of data, from its origins to how it is manipulated over time until it reaches its present form. The lineage explains the various processes involved in the data flow of an organization and the factors that influence each process. In other words, data lineage provides data about your data. 

Data lineage helps organizations of all sizes handle Big Data, as finding the creation point of the data and its evolution provides valuable insights.

Almost every decision can be helped by data lineage, from a software engineer choosing what changes to make to a micro-service to the choices made by the Data Engineering and Infrastructure team at Netflix. Big banks also rely on data lineage to map out their data as it is a key requirement in fulfilling standard international regulations. 

Data lineage helps organizations categorize data based on its importance, define the way critical data is handled, maintain uniformity across different departments, and has many other benefits. 

Why You Need to Keep Track of Data Lineage

With the ever-growing volume of data, effective data lineage is important for a variety of reasons, and three of the biggest are listed below:  

  • Data governance 

Data governance is a key aspect of data management that ensures employees and partners understand the data that is vital to the company and use it in an effective manner. Data governance strategies involve a combination of processes, policies, and metrics that define who can alter data, under what circumstances, and using which method. 

Effective data governance strategies require a continuous influx of information regarding the existing data, and this is where data lineage comes in. An efficient data lineage ensures employees are given trusted data from secure sources, and the same applies to consumers as well.

  • Compliance 

Technological advancements and massive changes, in both business operations and consumer behavior, have led to ever-evolving regulations that organizations must comply with. Data lineage helps businesses meet the requirements set by governing bodies by presenting a clear picture of the data flow. 

For example, the BASEL committee issued the BCBS 239 - a set of mandatory regulations for banks, which included showing accurate risk data aggregation and reporting - in 2013. This meant banks had to show the data flow that led to their risk reports and thus, data lineage became a vital part of their operations.

  • Data Quality 

Maintaining the quality of data is important for a business to successfully operate on a long-term basis. Every time data is moved or changed, there is potential for errors and thus, checking each step of the data flow is important to get the right results.  

Data lineage also allows users to see where they went wrong when they do not get the needed results. It allows different teams within an organization to use the same data in whichever way is necessary while maintaining the integrity of the data. 

Creating and using data lineage in your business

Let’s take a look at some of the key steps necessary for creating proper data lineage in your organization: 

  • Know the Basics of Your Data 

The first step in setting up a data lineage is to identify how and where your organization is creating and using data. Look through the data involved in your business operations and find out how data flows from its creation, between different teams and finally, to the customer. Focus on where the data is created/stored, how and when it is used and what it means.

  • Understand the Connection

Understand the relationships between the different sets of data within your company. This includes data created and used internally, such as the departments within the business, external influences, such as customers and sellers, and the interaction between them. This will help managers visualize the precise way in which data moves throughout the different processes and products.

  • Automation  

Maintaining the data lineage is nearly impossible to do manually, and it is highly recommended to use tools to carry out the task. There are many AI-driven tools, that can automatically understand the complex relationships between different sets of data and help you manage them with ease.

In conclusion, now that we have learned the importance of data lineage, keep in mind that, if done right, lineage can significantly help any company, both in the organizing their big data and the smooth running of daily operations. 

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