Glossary term

Data Lineage

What is Data Lineage?

Data lineage is like a map.  

It tells you where the data’s been, where it’s going, and how it’s processed, transformed, and communicated. If you’re trying to figure out how data gets from point A to point B within your organization, you’ll rely on data lineage. 

Data lineage includes continuously updating records with the data’s status, including who has access to it, where it’s currently stored, and how it flows through the company. Data lineage is key for uncovering granular details that can help with implementing process changes and detecting potential errors. 

Why Is Data Lineage Important? 

Other than the fact that not knowing where your data is at all times can have devastating consequences (concerning, to say the least!), most businesses currently rely on the cloud to manage and track their data. Having a data lineage process in place means information about the end-to-end data lifecycle is more readily available, so users can easily access and decipher all the data points they need. This means product improvements and customer satisfaction are that much easier to achieve!  

When system updates become inevitable, the information supplied by data lineage alone can help with issue resolution, process adjustments, and reducing the time and resources required for system migrations.  

Transparency into the data lifecycle is also a game-changer—being aware of who made a change, how something was updated, and which processes were followed helps users better understand the data and derive actionable takeaways from it. Moreover, when users have trust in the source of their data, they’ll be able to make better decisions based on the data analysis, which usually result in a huge boost to the company’s bottom line. 

Benefits of Data Lineage 

Need more convincing? Here are a few pros of data lineage your company could be benefitting from right now: 

Improved Data Analytics  

Do you know exactly how your datasets are being used? The visibility afforded by data lineage means that all modifications are tracked, making identifying and correcting errors super easy. Once those errors are detected, it’s simple to address problems in existing applications faster and build new applications more quickly. 

Enhance Business Efficiency  

A company’s survival depends on the quality of its data. Marketing, production, management, and sales are all dependent on data. Data lineage empowers enterprises to make better decisions with the knowledge that their foundational data is accurate, reliable, and valid. 

Regulatory Compliance  

All businesses need to stay on top of compliance issues. Data lineage and data governance go hand-in-hand—knowing how data flows throughout the organization makes it easier to find information and ensure that no one is accessing precious data that shouldn’t be doing so. 

Keep Track of Changing Data 

Data is always changing—whether it’s being amended, updated, or completely rewritten. To optimize business decisions (and therefore, revenue) organizations need to know what data has changed and how. While it might sound extremely daunting, this task can be made easy with data lineage.  

Data Lineage Best Practices 

So, how should you go about establishing data lineage processes? Read on to find out! 

Determine Important Business Drivers 

Discuss the benefits of implementing data lineage and how having clear-cut processes in place could help your organization achieve its core objectives. Tightening security, migrating data to a new location, implementing a new technology, and embarking on a digital transformation journey are common reasons why organizations get focused on data lineage. 

Set A Definite Scope 

While determining the scope of data lineage is an entire discussion on its own, it’s important to at least consider critical elements you want your data lineage to keep track of, what the average ‘length’ of your data lineage will be (think: journey to destination), and how ‘deep’ it should be (different levels of each stage you’re tracking). 

Automate The Process 

Data lineage needs to happen constantly, as data is always changing. To be competitive, it’s essential to automate the process and go beyond manual methods like spreadsheets. You’ll also want to continuously validate your data lineage to ensure it starts and remains accurate. 

Popular Use Cases of Data Lineage 

Here are some common ways enterprises take advantage of data lineage in their everyday operations. 

Error Resolution 

When sales figures don’t line up with the accounting department’s records, it’s difficult to figure out where things went wrong. In these cases, data lineage can help managers keep track of any changes made to the data throughout processing and confidently explain the issue. More importantly, end-user data can be standardized across teams if there’s an error that’s resolved. 

Cloud Migration 

When moving to a cloud or a hybrid environment, having complete data lineage available allows businesses to understand where their data lives, who has access to it, and how it’s been utilized. This is essential because, in order to transfer data to the cloud, you must first understand which data is actually relevant and ensure that it’s fully compliant. 

Impact Analysis 

What if you could see exactly how a process change impacted your business before you executed it? With data lineage, you can! 

Using data lineage, you can understand how your employees interact with involved data and how a change to a particular dataset would influence their day-to-day work. You can then choose if you should move forward with the process change you’re considering. 

Understand, Visualize, and Record Data Effectively with Data Lineage 

If you start driving around aimlessly without a map, chances are you’re going to get lost. 

The same could be said for data lineage—how can you develop an impactful data strategy if you don’t understand how your data moves throughout your organization? 

With data lineage, your enterprise can gain visibility into end-to-end data flows, govern data, and identify and remedy critical errors quickly, all while making better decisions for your business. 

Ready to get started with your data lineage process? Request an enterprise demo today to see how RapidMiner can help you use data science to transform your business. 

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