Better decision making with a modern data catalog

Case Solita and Finnair data catalog

Finnair wanted to improve data literacy skills and managing of the airline’s vast data assets. Solita helped Finnair in two ways: through evaluating available modern data catalog tools, and by facilitating the adoption of the Alation data catalog tool within the organization. With a data catalog, Finnair has a better understanding of their data assets, resulting in faster time to insight, more qualified decision making – and a connected data community.

Data is key in creating an excellent customer experience

Dozens of airplanes, millions of travelers, thousands of flights and a lot of people working with data. The amount of data airline operations produce is immense. Finnair is no newbie in the world of data; it has a long history of making the most of it.

The reputation as one of the world’s most reliable airlines and the winning customer experience Finnair has been rewarded for several times, is not a result of just good business instinct. Using data to provide efficient and optimized operations and serving customers is critical. Data and analytics play a key role in daily work, from marketing to customer service and from ground operations to flight operations.

Evolving technologies, new data sources, and people producing, utilizing and working with data, means effective governance of data assets is essential.

Data catalog releases the full potential of Finnair’s data assets

As many other organizations, the need for a data catalog tool arose in Finnair as a result of a new data strategy. Key components were identified – clear visibility of the data inventory as well as a common, collaborative and secure platform for data analytics work.

The data platform Finnair was building enables collaborative data and analytics work, supporting traditional BI as well as machine learning and real-time analytics. As it allows working with data sets that were not brought together before, a deeper understanding was needed to make it possible for a data scientist to truly explore and use data sets they didn’t have access to before. In order to be able to manage data truly as an asset, you need to have company-wide visibility into ther current inventory and how it is utilized for business value.

Renewing the technology for processing and storing data is an excellent place to pause for re-evaluation of documentation and governing policies.

From finding the right tool to facilitated implementation

With the help of Solita, Finnair decided to evaluate different data catalog tools. Two products were chosen for the proof of concept (PoC) phase. This allowed evaluation of two leading software candidates and technical suitability; it also enabled testing of data catalog solutions to ensure the benefits expressed in the business case were achievable.

The technology and business case evaluation proved positive, and Alation turned out to be the best choice for Finnair’s case thanks to its automated documentation features, community supporting tools and intuitiveness – it was easy to take into use without having extensive trainings beforehand.

PoC was immediately followed by a Solita-facilitated implementation phase. In just four months, the way of working and the tool base for building Finnair’s data catalog was established.

Flexibility and agility to meet changing needs

As the implementation phase was planned to be agile, some strategic changes were also made during it. It was discovered that documenting the recognized use cases wasn’t enough; an overview of all Finnair data was needed. Thus, all the existing data sets and sources were listed in the catalog, meaning the catalog now serves also as a tool to communicate the data platform development roadmap.

On top of this, another useful sidetrack was to have data delivery SLAs documented in the data catalog as part of the data set documentation. The Alation tool was also flexible enough to allow these creative ways of using it.

After Solita’s onboarding project, Finnair continues to develop the data catalog tool with appointed analytics ambassadors and an in-house product owner. Connecting Finnair BI tools to the data catalog is also on the horizon.

Data catalog is a tool to drive change

Documenting data is just one part of implementing a data catalog tool. While the Alation tool makes the documentation process flow smoothly, getting the data documented at an optimum level requires motivation and a determination to improve data literacy.

The true value in adopting a data catalog tool is derived from the change it enacts within an organization. Cataloging data assets inevitably changes the way the organization works; it forces to rethink how data assets are cared for and governed. At its best, it forces collaboration, discussion and builds shared principles, processes and roles. It breaks through the business unit silos that so many data utilizing organizations still struggle with. A data catalog makes the data community and their work.