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Key Terms in Data Observability

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New to data observability?

If your job involves working with IT and operations teams to answer questions about your company’s data, then you’ve likely come across a glossary of terms like “data quality,” “data monitoring,” and “data governance.”

To the DevOps neophyte, these important data management practices may seem like one giant Venn diagram. And a lot of them do.

Read: Data Observability for Operations

But for operations personnel and C-suite leaders, diving into the world of data technology can often turn up more questions than answers. So we’ve made this helpful guide to data health terminology, just for you.

Data Governance

High level management of the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data employed in an organization.

Key roles: Chief Data Officer, Data Governance Manager, Compliance Officer, Risk Management Officer

Challenges: As the complexity of data systems used by an enterprise increases (often through natural growth, mergers, or acquisitions), balancing data security and access often becomes the first roadblock to discovering insights.

Data Lineage

Tracking the origin and movement of data throughout its lifecycle. Data lineage helps in understanding where data comes from, how it’s transformed, and where it’s used.

Key roles: Data Governance Team, IT/Engineering Team, Business Analysts

Challenges: Tracking down a data issue, like a corrupted data field or missing information, requires a high degree of coordination and collaboration between different teams and technologies.

Data Profiling

The process of examining and analyzing data to gather information about its quality and structure. Structure discovery performs mathematical checks on the data to ensure phone numbers have the correct number of digits, content discovery looks into specific data fields in a spreadsheet to discover if a phone number has an area code or not, and relationship discovery identifies references between cells or tables in a spreadsheet, like connecting a cell and home phone number to a specific customer.

Key Roles: Data Governance Team, IT/Engineering Team, Business Analysts, Compliance Managers

Challenges: Proper data profiling makes an immense impact on downstream processes; however, operations teams are often too removed from the process to provide critical input into how data should be formatted, structured, and interrelated.

Data Cataloging

Creating a comprehensive inventory of all available data assets within an organization, including meta data like data types, sources, and relationships. Proficient data cataloging supports data-driven decision making by enriching information with important technical and business data, while providing a central repository for all data information.

Key Roles: Data Management Team, Chief Data Officer, Business Analysts

Challenges: Organizations typically face hurdles in finding all of their data and driving adoption of the catalog, which can slow down analytics and insight discovery.

Data Remediation

This refers to the process of identifying and resolving issues related to data quality, consistency, or integrity.

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Internal Auditor, Marketing Analyst, Quality Assurance Team, Compliance Managers

Challenges: Weak data governance, limited resources, and unclear responsibilities often lead to the inability to quickly and correctly remediate data issues when they’re found.

Data Security

The practice of implementing processes and technologies to protect data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.

Key Roles: Chief Security Officer, Compliance Managers, Risk Management Teams

Challenges: Enterprises must protect their data from myriad attack vectors, from physical breaches to phishing and ransomware attacks, while still providing business teams with access to that information. Often, one goal supersedes the other, either creating vulnerabilities or preventing insight discovery.  

Data Monitoring

The real-time monitoring of data pipelines, or “data flows,” to detect and address issues such as latency, bottlenecks, or failures. Once created by a person or process, data tables travel through pipelines into warehouses, where they’re stored for access by business intelligence applications and AI tools. Only then does data become ready for consumers like analysts and auditors. Effective data monitoring tracks this entire journey and delivers data health “vitals” to quality assurance teams.

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Data Quality Manager, IT, Quality Assurance Teams

Challenges: This approach to data quality management requires significant investment in both technology and talent. It also merits a cultural shift at the organization, where the fidelity of the information feeding business growth takes higher priority.

Data Anonymization & Masking

The act of removing or modifying personally identifiable information from datasets to protect the privacy of individuals. To comply with regulations, user agreements, and SLAs, organizations must anonymize data being used for analytical purposes or machine learning models. Similar to data anonymization, data masking involves replacing sensitive information with fictitious but realistic data to protect confidentiality.

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Data Controller, Compliance Officer

Challenges: Anonymizing or masking data is intensely manual. Plus, without proper data cataloguing, Orgs typically have low confidence that they were able to capture all personally identifiable information.

Data Archiving

The process of transferring data that is no longer actively used to a separate storage location for long-term retention, often for compliance or historical purposes.

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Risk Manager, IT

Challenges: Data archival requires sizable storage space which can increase cost of ownership. It can also be difficult to retrieve old data with modern systems as technology evolves.

Data Stewardship

The responsibility of overseeing the use of data assets within an organization, including ensuring compliance with regulations and policies.

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, Data Consumers

Challenges: Because data touches so many different people and systems, data stewardship becomes a common effort across the entire organization.

Data Transformation

Converting data from one format or structure to another, often as part of the data integration or ETL (extract, transform, load) process. Transformation helps data in different files and systems speak to each other. Common transformations include a “split,” where an address held in a single cell gets separated into individual cells for street, state, city, zip. Or, entire columns can be mapped between spreadsheets despite different naming conventions or structures.

Key Roles: Data Analyst, Quality Assurance Teams

Challenges: Often, transformation requires deep technical knowledge or specialized software to accomplish, making it difficult to scale.

BaseCap data standardization

Data Mining

The process of discovering patterns, correlations, or other useful insights from large datasets using techniques from statistics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Key Roles: Data Analyst, Data Mining Specialist

Challenges: Data quality and complexity can vary greatly in vast data lakes, making the insight gained from mined data dubious.

Data Retention

This involves defining policies and procedures for determining how long different types of data should be retained and when it should be deleted or archived.

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Risk Manager, Compliance Teams

Challenges: Typically businesses retain too much information, increasing cost of ownership as well as exposure to audits and litigation. Thoughtful data retention strategies coupled with strong archiving capabilities can help reduce these risks.

Data Privacy

Practices and regulations governing the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information, aimed at protecting individuals’ privacy rights.

Key Roles: Chief Executive Officer, Chief Data Officer

Challenges: Like data security, data privacy requires robust cataloguing, monitoring, and anonymization capabilities.

Data Telemetry

Remotely measuring and transmitting data from one location to another, often over a network. Telemetry has many applications, from the internet of things, where smarthouses transmit temperature readings to the cloud, or in data monitoring tools, where information about data quality is sent to and visualized on a dashboard.

Key Roles: IT, Quality Assurance Teams

Challenges: A standard way to remit information, telemetry does present security flaws if unencrypted and can be difficult to scale as data volume and complexity grow.

Data Observability

The collection of actionable information about data quality combined with the ability to track down and remediate issues. Whereas data monitoring can tell an organization about their data health, observability typically implies maximum coverage as well as remediation tools.  

Key Roles: Chief Data Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, IT, Quality Assurance Teams

Challenges: A standard way to remit information, telemetry does present security flaws if unencrypted and can be difficult to scale as data volume and complexity grow.

Data Health

A fun marketing term used to describe the combined quality, accessibility, security, and observability of a company’s data.


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About BaseCap

BaseCap is the intelligent data health platform that lets business users prevent and correct bad data. Top US banks use BaseCap for quality control, process automation, and compliance management.

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