Industry insights

A basic guide to data lineage

by Casey Schmidt  |  May 1, 2021

3 min. read
A group of red dotted lines.

Understanding the origin and evolution of your data has quantifiable benefits. Even the most basic of data lineage helps establish better working practices. Here we look at what lineage is and how it improves business operations.

What is data lineage?

Data lineage presents the genesis of a dataset, and how it adapts and evolves on its journey. Tracking how data progresses as it interacts with other sets creates a lifecycle of information. This helps implement effective changes to business operations. How datasets formulate and evolve is better understood when you’re able to interpret data lineage.

A data flow process.

Data lineage also plays a central role in how a business effectively governs information and optimizes metadata management. Knowing all this, let’s now take a look at some of the concrete reasons why your data lineage efforts need constant improvement.

Why it’s important to improve your data lineage

Identifying the source of transferred data throughout its lifecycle creates transparency. It also empowers businesses to lay digital pipelines that improve policies. Consider good lineage to be like a thorough medical record – all vital pieces of information are recorded and available upon request.

Another consideration is the positive impact improved lineage has on downstream analysis. Data moves as it changes and if interrupted it can become broken. Thankfully some market-leading tools are available to help monitor, manipulate and automate processes to assist with the healthy flow of data.

A data expansion.

Reasons to better know your data lineage:

  • Helps businesses adhere to legislation
  • Assists with impact analysis and improves software systems
  • Increases the quality of data flow and process

Additionally, understanding lineage helps with your current analytics and the application of data. Knowledge of how it is accumulated, combined and analyzed positively impacts revenue when mapped for teams to clearly evaluate.

Let’s dive into the potential control over data you gain by taking control of data lineage processes.

Better data governance

Being able to govern your data improves analytics, and helps identify what is and isn’t available. Being aware of how it is being used also helps ensure organizations are adhering to data protection rules and regulations.

Perks of established governance:

  • Improved data lineage quality
  • Better established practices
  • Less error and debug issues

A data tree.

Work to establish a team of employees who can monitor and analyze your data flow. The results will be enormous. This ties into the next topic of metadata management.

Metadata management

Metadata management is an additional plus gained from an enhanced understanding of data lineage. In short, metadata describes and offers information about other sets of data. It also makes information searchable and reachable while recording movements.

A tree of data with white background.

Data lineage plays a vital role in the progression and transparency of evolving metadata. If governed correctly metadata improves efficiency and maintains accurate information across an entire organization. Understanding where data comes from and how it progresses also assists with growth and forecasts performance goals.

Closing thoughts

In the era of big data, opportunities to grow your organization arise from an ability to implement change through a better understanding of your data lineage. And remember, data is logged at every stage of a process.

Being able to monitor and analyze this information helps build reports that empower your team to make sounder business decisions, and execute even stronger strategies as a result of improved accuracy.

Keep all this in mind going forward as you track data lineage throughout each project.