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Data Lineage: The Missing Link to Your Data Strategy

Data lineage is crucial for businesses. It allows for a transparent and extensive look at the origin, movement, and transformation of data. Understanding data lineage leads to increased accuracy and reliability of data. Plus, it positively affects a business's bottom line by promoting data-driven insights and allowing for more efficient decision-making processes. Let’s learn more about data lineage and why it’s the missing link in many data strategies.

Data Lineage: The Missing Link to Your Data Strategy

Everything we see, everything we do, and all our browsing activity online results in massive amounts of data. We rely so much on data that it has become synonymous with modern-day life and business. Without data, marketers would have little strategy and minimal success.  

It’s no easy task to keep track of the sheer volume of data in the modern digital world, especially when it comes to your customers and prospects. So, how do you make sure you pin down the who and where, as well as the when? That's where data lineage comes into play!

What is data lineage?

In the morning, when we have breakfast, we don't think much about the individual ingredients that go into each bite. We just trust all these elements will come together to make something delicious. Even if we’re not thinking about each individual element that went into our breakfast, they all play an important role in making it a tasty meal.

Data lineage is exactly like this. It tracks and documents data flowing through a network from the start of its journey to its end. Data lineage provides a clear and in-depth comprehension of the way data moves through each process and system, as well as each transformation it experiences throughout its journey. It involves tracking different data points at all stages in order to gain insight into the “ingredients” that have gone into making the final outcome.  

Data lineage traces what was collected, where it came from, and who processed it — among other details. From there, you can figure out where data moved and how it changed in its lifecycle. Ultimately, data lineage makes sure you have a full picture of your data so you can make informed decisions about your ideal customer profiles and marketing tactics. Understanding your data lineage also ensures for both traceability and transparency.

What are the elements of data lineage?

There are various components of data lineage, from the source to the storage. Let's examine the six elements of data lineage.

Data Source

The first element of data lineage is the source. Data lineage identifies the original source of the data, which could include APIs, databases, files, or other repositories of data.

Data Movement

This element determines how data moved from its original source to various destinations. The processes included in data’s movement are data extraction, data loading, data replications, and data syncronization.  

Data Transformation

From its original source to its destination, data goes through a handful of transformations. These processes include data aggregation, data cleansing, data enrichment, data filtering, and data formatting.  

Data Consumption

This is how data is utilized by analytics systems and applications, and how data is reported and tracked, giving businesses a better idea of how data is being consumed.  

Data Relationships

Separate data elements can still have relationships and dependencies between each other. Data lineage identifies these connecters, and highlights how a change to one data element can affect another.  

Data Storage

The final aspect of data lineage is storage. This outlines where the data is stored at each part of its journey.  

Why Data Lineage is Important

Data lineage has begun to attract more and more attention as data capabilities continue to expand. It’s common knowledge that data governance needs to be taken seriously, and all operations must comply with regulations, of course. However, there’s a bigger game at play here, and that’s the ability to make more well-informed business practices for a more viable business with less risks and errors along the way.

Data lineage helps you not just to follow the rules but leverage your data to drive your business forward. This means being able to trust in data, and efficiently manage it from where it was collected all the way to where it needs to go.  

While having a clear understanding of data lineage allows for more control and compliance, it also reduces risk and opens doors to better-informed decisions. Here are a few areas in which data lineage becomes especially important:

Business Viability

Quality data keeps a business running. Data collected from demographics, customers’ behavior, and more can give hindsight on where improvements need to be made or where adjustments should be planned for products.  

Data Governance

Addressing compliance needs and risk management through the tracking of data movements puts virtually any business one step ahead.

Quality Data

By understanding data origin and destinations, businesses can ensure quality data flowing through the system at all times — both reducing time to market as well as avoiding potential errors.

The Cloud and Its Effects on Data Lineage

The cloud has made it possible for businesses of any size to use a wide range of services without needing to build their own infrastructure. Whether these are SaaS tools or your own self-built solutions, data lineage is even more important.

When cloud applications become part of the available network, having an understanding of where that data comes from and where it went can be invaluable. And because data comes from so many different sources, which may or may not have a connection or link to each other, it’s critical to have reliable cloud lineage in place.

Data Lineage vs. ERD Diagrams

Just like two sides of a coin have unique characteristics, an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) and data lineage are two distinctly different types of diagrams. A good information architecture should encompass both.  

An ERD shows how tables reference and relate to each other. Think natural language — it’s all about relationships between entities like customer, employee, store, and product — each represented by a box. Lines in between indicate an interaction between certain entities, like a customer placing an order or an employee issuing a product key. These diagrams are useful for designing and documenting databases, as they give us insight into the structure, or schema, of the data.

Data lineage, on the other hand, takes us from those table relationships to what really matters: value! Data lineage tracks specific row-level detail through a process and can be used to identify any transformation of data that occurred. It helps us understand the origin of the data, who owns it, how often is it being accessed, and so on. It gives marketers all the information that is necessary in order to trust the integrity of their business data.

Getting Started with Data Lineage

It's clear that data lineage is an important tool that can turbocharge your business, but what's the best way to start? Here are a few steps to get you going:

Identify Data Elements

Start by talking to your teams and figuring out which data elements they use to make decisions.  

Trace the Origin

Pinpoint each element's origin, starting at individual sources and working up.  

Make Links & Source Movements

Once everything has been identified, start outlining all the links between data points — where they moved and how they changed.  

Build Diagrams

Put all the points together by making a diagram that will give you an extensive lineage of your data.  

Tackle Automation

Bring down manual labor (and costs). Choose the right automation-friendly tool to make this step more efficient than ever before.  

Data Lineage Tools: Visualize Your Data's Journey

When it comes to any data-driven endeavor, the question of “where is my information coming from?” should be constantly on top of mind. Data lineage answers this question.

Not only does data lineage help you understand the paths of your data, but it also lets you trust in the information that goes into making informed decisions. Furthermore, with advancements to automated tools that help define the lineage of data, plus the increased connectivity between cloud services, the future looks brighter.

Do you want pure insight into what's really happening with your data? Then do yourself a favor and check into those data lineage diagrams! If you’re interested in developing your business’s first party data, DrivenIQ can help. Schedule a demo today.