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Alation: Data Intelligence + Human Brilliance

A data platform that adds people to the equation.

The 42nd edition of the IT Press Tour had the opportunity to meet with Satyen Sangani, Co-founder and CEO, Steve Neat, General Manager EMEA, Ashley Womack, Director of Corporate Marketing at Alation.


Alation's vision is to empower a curious and rational world. People have been searching for the solution for a while looking at metadata management, data governance, and data catalogs.

Their mission is to make the catalog the platform for data intelligence with data search and discovery to find and understand, data literacy to enable proper interpretation and analysis, and data governance to take responsibility and authority.

Data Intelligence

Alation believes the solution is data intelligence. They define data intelligence as the organization's ability to deliver the right data to the right person at the right time for the right purpose in the right medium/context.

The data catalog is a key component of data intelligence and is the foundation for data search and discovery, data literacy, and data governance. The data catalog contains all of an organization's data assets including information about the data (metadata) and the business context in which it resides

A data intelligence system learns and manages the who, what, where, when, and how of data. It continues to be important since the amount of data created, captured, and replicated continues to grow as does the number of data consumers. According to IDC, 33% of some organizations plan on retaining data forever.

There has been a 650% increase in data science jobs since 2012 according to LinkedIn. There's projected to be a 20% increase in data analyst jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Data intelligence is at the tipping point due to: 1) cloud transformation and migration with more businesses built on data assets; 2) artificial intelligence and business intelligence fueling reports with trustworthy, reliable data; 3) a changing workforce in which companies need to capture tribal knowledge and enable collaboration; and, 4) evolving data privacy laws which must be complied with or risk receiving grievous financial penalties and harming your corporate reputation.

According to Stewart Bond at IDC, "Data catalogs have become a cornerstone of data intelligence, providing data workers with the knowledge required for data enablement."

The data catalog market is $3.5 billion, the data intelligence market is $25 billion, and the data and analytics platform market is $146 billion.

Over the last six years, Alation has gone from 5 customers in the Bay Area, and one use case, Search & Discovery, to more than 300 customers in 24 countries and four continents, in 22 vertical industries, and multiple use cases including Search & Discovery, Data Governance, Digital Transformation, and Cloud Enablement.

Key Features of a Data Intelligence Platform

Search & Discovery -- a place to find data for Travelers insurance -- "Amazon-like experience for data within Travelers" according to their SVP, Chief Data & Analytics Officer.

Data Literacy -- making data comprehensible with auto-flags which warn if usage drops, and endorses is "key" people use it; automatically suggests data domains; metadata change approval process integration with ServiceNow, JIRA, Slack, etc.; auto-tag & classify sensitive data, PII, similar objects natively and via partner integrations; and, auto-suggest glossary and policy associations.

Data Governance -- making data useful by governing at scale and providing rich profiles and gamification.

Product Investment Themes

Data Catalog -- empower every employee in the organization to search, discover, trust, and use data effectively. Investment areas include semantics, context, personalization, and data exploration.

Cloud -- ensure enterprise scale and performance via Alation Cloud or in customer-managed environments. Investment areas include cloud-native architecture, flexible deployment models, security & access controls, and leading service and support.

Data Governance -- enable a people-first, autonomous approach to governance that scales across the enterprise. Investment areas include comprehensive workflows, steward empowerment, intelligence, and measurability and audibility.

Platform -- deliver the most open, extensible platform seamlessly catalogs and integrates with the data ecosystem. Investment areas include comprehensive connectivity, lineage & knowledge graph, APIs & ecosystem integrations, and active metadata.

Case Study

Steve Pimblett, Chief Data Officer of The Very Group, a multi-brand online retailer and financial services provider in the United Kingdom and Ireland, shared their experience with Alation as they strive to "delight customers, empower colleagues, with trusted data products & services" by turning data and insights into actions that delight customers.

The data heritage at The Very Group is complicated with 11 business domains with hundreds of systems and hundreds of thousands of assets going back decades.

The Alation data catalog solution at Very is an organized inventory of data assets in the organization that uses metadata to help organizations manage their data. It also helps data professionals collect, organize, access, and enrich metadata to support data discovery and governance. It's like having Google and Spotify over the data.

The benefits to the organization include:

  • Catalog assets to stay continuously compliant with regulations like GDPR.

  • Reduction in time to find and use trusted data by more than 50%.

  • Accelerate onboarding for data analysts and engineers from months to weeks.

  • Reduce cost, time, and storage for cloud migration.

  • Enable a Google-like user interface and automation through AI/ML to drive stewardship and collaboration.

The firm measures success on five factors: use, curation, risk, trust, and value.


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