Governance Using Business Glossaries and Data Catalogs

Back in October 2012, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from a helium balloon floating high above Earth in an attempt to be the first human to break the speed of sound in free fall. As he perched at the edge of the capsule about to jump, he would have based his go/no-go decision on all of the decisions that got him to this point.  He had to have trust in the data and faith in his colleagues’ calculations (his mission control operation involved 300 people, including more than 70 engineers, scientists and physicians) to literally put his life in their hands. It can’t be denied that there is always an element of gut instinct in our decision making but we want to increase the degree of confidence in our decision making and reduce the element of gut-instinct.

After leaping from the capsule, he was immortalized in the record books for:

  • Highest manned balloon flight: 39,045m
  • Highest skydive: 39,045m
  • Longest free fall: 36,529m
  • Fastest free fall: 833.9 mph, or Mach 1.24

But what does it mean to trust your data?

Data trust means having confidence that the data that you are using is fit for purpose and ready to be used. By ensuring there is trust in it’s data, an enterprise provides it’s teams the ability to design exceptional experiences, improve operations, ensure compliance, and drive innovation. But data trust must be garnered and maintained. It can’t be taken on blind faith.

To develop trust, it is necessary to start at the beginning of the journey of your data, I know it sounds obvious but it’s true. It starts with defining your metadata and it’s attributes and then applying governance to the metadata and the data.

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Good governance starts with defining exactly what the data of interest is. This is where the business semantic definition is of great value. It defines the data of interest expressed in the vocabulary of nouns and objects that the business is familiar with. These definitions are captured as business terms and provide a consolidated and single definition of data across the organization. The business semantic definition is mapped to the metadata definition that provides the technical details; definition, format, ownership, classification etc. of the data. All of this content is captured in Business Glossaries and Data Catalogs and this enables the assets to be governed appropriately.


So, what is the value of having a governed business glossary and data catalog?

A governed set of assets enables access to trusted and compliant data across the whole enterprise. It provides comprehensive visibility into all data across the data ecosystem with full context being provided by the business glossary of terms. A governed data catalog supports data classification, applies data standards, promotes data quality, and applies data policy management resulting in better understanding and trust in data, while preventing data from being misused.

However, implementing effective data governance requires overcoming many challenges, and these come from a variety of sources:

  • Recognizing the need / pain caused by lack of data governance
  • Lack of data leadership, support, sponsorship, ownership, and understanding from senior management
  • Lack of universally agreed and accepted data definitions
  • Defining what governance processes to follow
  • Lack of suitable data governance tools, or tools that do not scale well.

To achieve data trust in enterprises overflowing with vast amounts of data enterprises must implement and automate processes for auditing, assessing, and cleaning their data. But data trust can’t be accomplished with technology alone. Complete data trust solutions require data infrastructure that includes people, processes, and automation. Its necessary to create a data-centric culture that works in concert with data quality automation.

Sandhill’s COMPASS Data Governance Management System solution can be used to manage the complexities of implementing data governance. It provides you with the expertise, best practices, and knowledge from practitioners that have followed this path before to accelerate your implementation of a data governance practice. Implementing data governance is complex but being assisted by COMPASS makes it easier, less costly, and quicker to deliver tangible results and benefits.

Watch our COMPASS Webinar to see what COMPASS is all about and how it can help you here.

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Figure 1 – Russ.W. 2019.Red Bull’s $30 Million Marketing Stunt Almost Didn’t Happen. [Online] [Accessed 22 October 2021]. Available from: