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Data Lineage is normally visualized as a tree chart which contains the origin and sources of the data (inputs, related objects and APIs), its location in the data system at any given point in time and the transformations the data has undergone until its end use. The best Lineage also reveals the people who accessed and used data and for what purpose this was done such as data cleaning or aggregation. By extension, a fully configurable Data Lineage can connect other elements of a Data Catalog like definitions within the Business Glossary to specific data objects, so that every element of the visualization is contextualized.

There are two main types of Data Lineage: Business and Technical Lineage. Predictably, Business Lineage relates to the data primarily consumed and used by business users with a focus on ensuring data up for use is trustworthy. It is generally far less complex than Technical Lineage, which provides a more granular map of the relationships within a system and data flows and transformations throughout. Technical Lineage represents the highest level of understanding of the intimacies of a specific data architecture.

Why Data Lineage is so in demand: 3 Key Functions

Evolving and Supporting Data Governance and Regulatory Compliance

One of the main aspects of any enterprise data operation today is regulatory compliance. Stringent regulations around the world like the GDPR, CCPA and APRA are driving the internal adoption of Data Lineage as a key pillar of data governance and regulatory reporting in many enterprises. Financial enterprises in particular are subject to the most onerous regulations which require the traceability of customer data. Essentially, all large companies that collect and use data must understand its location, movement and usage.

Data Lineage is perfect for this problem as it provides a simple, clear and accurate visual picture of how data is flowing through an organization. This means that Lineage can be used to easily answer governance FAQs: Who is using the data? Where is the data coming from? Why is the data the way it is? Without automated data lineage, these questions require hours of effort from subject matter experts to answer.

Rapid Impact Analysis and Remediation

With a near instantly viewable map of a specific data asset’s complete flow and transformation history, decisions about architecture and data security come faster. For data security teams, having the ability to track the history of data assets, see what transformations it has undergone and what happened is invaluable. Easily visualizing the data, including upstream and downstream impacts and relationships, grants a more intricate understanding of it. For example, data owners are given more information on their particular data asset and its impact on other data assisting them in assigning it a classification level. 

If a data breach occurs or a system change is required, using Lineage can immediately view the impacted dataset and respond quickly makes remediation faster and change less risky. Data Lineage reveals data management issues such as duplicates, bad sources and incorrect treatment and provides a map for remediation. This kind of analysis and action is essential for ensuring data quality and making trusted data-driven decisions at the business level.

Data and Digital Modernization and Migration

System modernization and migration is complicated and high-risk. Taking legacy systems to a modern cloud or hybrid cloud environment requires intense efforts from subject matter experts in order to execute reliably and securely. Automation is sorely needed when huge amounts of data must be moved or updated because this always requires an understanding of the lifecycle, location and dependencies on critical assets.

Data Lineage powered by a world class automated Data Catalog can massively reduce the time and effort required to execute a migration or modernization operation in a few key ways. Having an automated map of all the relationships between specific data objects and technology systems expedites the planning and process of migration. Automated impact analysis that takes into account relationships, business context, sensitivity, usage, ownership and more allows teams to make informed decisions when conducting these large scale migrations.

How to get the most from Data Lineage

The dynamic nature of business today means that enterprises need a data governance system that is flexible and delivers value and clarity at speed. Data Lineage is now a crucial element of this, because it enables the traceability of key information on data such as origin, transformation, and downstream uses.

Alex Data Lineage is a fully automated, clear visual map of how sensitive data flows through enterprise applications from source to destination. Powered by the Augmented Data Catalog, Alex Data Lineage lets you know every data flow across the entire enterprise including all transformations at the column-level. Simplify and ensure migration and modernization projects with rapid upstream and downstream contingency and impact analysis. Eliminate the manual investigation often involved in data governance with the Lineage that some of the world’s largest companies use directly in their reports to the regulatory authorities.

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