As data continues to grow and evolve, organizations seek better tools and technologies to employ data faster and more efficiently. Finding and managing data remains a perennial challenge for most organizations, and is exacerbated by increasing volumes of data and an expanding array of data formats. At the same time, organizations must comply with a growing list of national and regional rules and regulations, such as General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act. While these regulations protect consumers, they increase complexity for governing and providing access to data.
Good data governance is critical for organizations. It accelerates business intelligence projects and ensures compliance with data privacy and security regulations. Traditional manual data governance technologies can be slow, lacking advanced functionalities that make data governance and management easier. More recent entrants in the data governance sector, such as Alation, utilize automation and machine learning to facilitate good data governance and accelerate data access.
Alation is a provider of data intelligence that uses a data catalog to address data governance and self-service analytics. A data catalog provides a central resource that enables organizations to collect, organize and access business-critical data. Alation offers its data catalog as a platform for data search and discovery, data governance, data stewardship, analytics and digital transformation. With its underlying Behavioral Analysis Engine, built-in collaboration capabilities and open interfaces, Alation provides a platform to support a broad range of data intelligence solutions by combining machine learning with human insight for data management. The company announced in September 2022 that it had achieved $100 million in annual recurring revenue for the first time. Alation is privately funded and recently raised a $123 million series E round, bringing its total valuation to more than $1.7 billion. The company plans to use this funding to expand its platform and support business growth and product innovation.
Alation’s data catalog enables organizations to improve the productivity of analysts and business users. It helps them increase the accuracy of analytics, guide data-driven decisions and democratize data to enable everyone in the organization to find, understand and govern data. I assert that through 2026, almost all organizations using data catalog products will increase business user access, facilitating self-service data discovery and accelerating data democratization initiatives.
Alation’s Behavioral Analysis Engine uses machine learning-driven pattern recognition to surface insights on how data is being used, including popularity rankings, user breakdowns and usage recommendations. It also offers natural language search capabilities to allow users to easily navigate the data. Data catalogs have become the standard for metadata management in the age of big data and self-service analytics. They are also indispensable for good data governance. A core feature of any data catalog is metadata collection and identification, providing the foundation for the catalog to act as an inventory of available data. Given the volumes of data involved, data catalogs also make use of artificial intelligence and ML for metadata collection, semantic inference and tagging to reduce manual effort and time delays.
Alation’s intelligent SQL editor enables users to query data from any data source. Its inline suggestions guide users to the most relevant data, filters, joins and queries. With Alation, DataOps stakeholders are kept informed about changes to data quality and are alerted when new data emerges. This delivers the advantage of having all AI/ML models and data products trained with the latest data.
Alation Connected Sheets, an additional product offering that resulted from the company’s acquisition of Kloud.io, was announced in late 2022. Alation Connected Sheets enables workers to use the data catalog to ingest trusted and governed data into spreadsheets, including Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel. Alation Connected Sheets is designed to increase business user productivity by enabling them to use existing skills and tools to find, filter, import and refresh data. Ventana Research’s Analytics and Data Benchmark Research highlights the importance of this offering: Three-quarters (75%) of organizations are using spreadsheets to integrate and prepare data for analysis. Additionally, more than two-thirds (70%) of participants in our Data Governance Benchmark Research say the use of spreadsheets is a data governance issue.
Improving trust in data was also a factor in Alation’s launch of the Alation Open Data Quality Initiative. The program is designed to provide customers with freedom of choice and flexibility when selecting data quality and data observability vendors. Some of the data quality and data observability providers joining Alation in the initiative are Acceldata, Anomalo, Bigeye, Experian, FirstEigen, Lightup, Soda, Capgemini and Fivetran.
Alation is progressing well and expanding its footprint in the data intelligence market. The company should continue to innovate its products and add more connected capabilities. Business users can use Alation to facilitate data discovery and automate data management. I recommend that organizations evaluate Alation and its data intelligence platform based on its combination of storing business data and metadata, along with integration and collaboration capabilities, data search and discovery, data governance, data stewardship and analytics. Its enterprise data catalog can enable users to remove the barriers to data collaboration, encouraging broad community participation and adoption across all departments.