Demystifying a Complex Data Estate and Reducing Effort on Root Cause and Impact Analysis by as much as 95%
At a Glance
- Aliaxis, a global leader in the manufacture and distribution of plumbing and water solutions, sought a modern data catalog to govern, and enhance the value of, their global data platform.
- Choosing Atlan, Aliaxis has launched an organization-wide business glossary catering to the unique needs of both global and regional stakeholders.
- Their team has since used this newfound visibility into their data estate to reduce time spent on root cause and impact analysis by as much as 95%.
With more than 15,000 employees in over 40 countries, Aliaxis is a global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of water management solutions for building, infrastructure, industrial, and agricultural applications. Committed to the highest standards for quality, and mindful of the environmental impact of their products and their application, Aliaxis is an organization for whom data is indispensable.
Responsible for the team and technology behind many of these data-driven insights is Nestor Jarquin, Global Data & Analytics Lead, an 11-year employee of Aliaxis who stewards their global data platform.
“Our role is to manage our global data platform, which is deployed centrally, and used by Aliaxis’ regions to build Data & Analytics projects,” Nestor shared. “We’re here to make sure all of the components of the platform work as they should, but also to define the strategy and roadmap of the platform, like replacing existing components, or introducing new capabilities.”
Enhancing the Data Platform with Atlan
In the two years since the Aliaxis Data Platform was launched, Nestor’s team has grown from two to five, supporting global projects and regional needs. Crucial to their success is close attention to business needs and responsible management of costs.
“We’ve never gone all-in on technology. We take pride in saying we’re cost conscious as a team, so we introduce new capabilities and features when they’re actually needed,” Nestor shared.
At the core of the Aliaxis Data Platform is Snowflake as their data warehouse and data lake, Azure Data Factory as their ingestion and orchestration engine, dbt for transformations, and Power BI for visualization.
True to their philosophy of investing only when necessary, Nestor and his team recognized the need for a modern data catalog early on, but waited until the needs of their colleagues and data consumers justified an evaluation.
“As the breadth and depth of our data platform increased, and our data consumers started adopting it and realizing value, they started asking us questions about what data was available to them, or for explanations about what data meant,” Nestor explained. “That was one of the triggers that motivated us to say ‘It’s time to start looking at data catalogs and metadata management.’”
Conducting a thorough evaluation of the market, Nestor and his team prioritized solutions with strong integrations with their data stack, particularly Snowflake, dbt, and Power BI, and a user-friendly experience to ensure broad adoption.
Our objective was to improve Aliaxis’ maturity around Data Governance, and we wanted to ensure that whatever tool we picked not only fit nicely with our tech stack, but that users didn’t feel intimidated, or felt that it was a huge organizational shift. Atlan’s user-friendliness seemed so simple, and when we presented it to our users they said, ‘This doesn’t look too complicated.’ And for our team, we knew the capabilities of the tool gave us room to grow and mature as an organization without too many restrictions.”Nestor Jarquin, Global Data & Analytics Lead
With a broader spectrum of users capable of navigating their data platform, Nestor and his team could also drive greater understanding of, and value from, their prior investments in Snowflake and dbt.
“I think of Atlan as a bridge. Our data catalog is our data marketplace, so if there’s any question you have about data in Snowflake, go to Atlan. It’s the same with dbt, where people get to understand the process of how data goes from source to the data product they’re consuming,” Nestor shared. “Without Atlan, it would be complicated and time-consuming to be answering questions and explaining all of this.”
Building a Global and Regional Glossary
Choosing Atlan as their modern data catalog, Nestor and his team quickly got to work provisioning access and integrating with their data platform.
“We knew the technical implementation was going to be easy. It was turnkey. We used Atlan’s managed service so it was like, ‘Here’s your instance, here’s your login. It’s yours.’,” Nestor shared.
With Atlan integrated with key technologies like Snowflake and Power BI, and their data assets crawled and visible, Nestor and his team determined which assets they would define and at what depth, began structuring their glossary, and prepared for their first cohort of users.
Across the world, Aliaxis is united by a common purpose, a clear and consistent strategy, and a common set of behaviors that define its culture. This success is built primarily on the strength of its local businesses and their close proximity to, and detailed understanding of, their customers on the ground. Because of this regional autonomy, Nestor and his team have built a data platform to support both the unique needs of their regions and their global organization, rather than a single, universally applicable set of tools and definitions.
Reflecting their support for both global and regional needs, Nestor and his team manage their data in a single Snowflake data warehouse, then separate it into each region, who are responsible for owning their data. Sitting atop these regional owners are Nestor and the data platform team, who support the sharing of data across regions, and maintain visibility into the complete picture of their data estate.
Similar to the manner in which their data warehouse is managed is the Aliaxis data glossary, managed and accessible on Atlan. Documentation and definitions about both global and regional data are stored in a single location, accessible to a myriad of data consumers, while the underlying assets are owned and stewarded by regional subject matter experts.
Driving visibility into this complex landscape is Atlan’s automated lineage. With all regional data sources feeding into Snowflake, Nestor and his team use Atlan to determine which data assets are regional or global, at a glance, revealing discrepancies between definitions and terms across regions, and driving discussions with term owners about standardization, where appropriate.
We have to acknowledge that terms and definitions are not always going to be the same at the global and regional level. What Atlan has provided is a single glossary to maintain definitions, whether global or local, visibility into where discrepancies exist between definitions, and visibility into what the regions are doing just by looking at the data products they have. It’s allowed for sharing of ideas and projects.”Nestor Jarquin, Global Data & Analytics Lead
Automating and Accelerating Impact and Root Cause Analysis
Furthering their use of automated lineage, Nestor and his team have transformed time-consuming, manual processes for impact and root cause analysis into near-instantaneous visibility into downstream and upstream dependencies.
Prior to the introduction of Atlan, determining the downstream impact of table or column changes meant careful analysis of code, or painstakingly reading static Word or Excel documents. Now, with automated column-level lineage, Nestor’s team and their regional stakeholders quickly understand dependencies and potential breakages, before they occur.
“Atlan has been a great help. We no longer have to rely on these documents, and we’re able to do impact assessments at the click of a button,” Nestor shared.
Recalling an example of this time-consuming effort, Nestor highlighted a data product owner in Aliaxis’ New Zealand region who documented their assets in a spreadsheet, including transformations in source-to-target sheets.
Identifying the source of a column was difficult in these spreadsheets, especially as the underlying data underwent several transformations throughout their data pipelines. Data Product Owners were also responsible for maintaining this documentation, a difficult task when unexpected changes were made to their data assets.
When I first showed Atlan to this person, his first reaction was ‘When can I get it? I need this ASAP.’ Having lineage and column-level documentation meant the need for these spreadsheets just went away. He doesn’t need to update them, and he definitely doesn’t rely on them, so it’s a huge time-saver.”Nestor Jarquin, Global Data & Analytics Lead
Beyond the time and effort saved from maintaining static documentation, using Atlan to determine column-level lineage represented an hour or more of savings for each data owner, sometimes several times per week, as analyses were needed.
“The owner told me it used to take at least an hour to find the source of a column or a problem, then find a fix for it, each time there was a change. With Atlan, it’s a matter of minutes. They can go there and quickly get a report,” Nestor explained.
And for developers at Aliaxis, automated lineage means at-a-glance understanding of data sources and transformations, eliminating a process that once meant digging through hundreds of stored procedures.
Finally, greater awareness of the potential impact of changes, both for Data Product Owners and Developers, means that the Aliaxis team has moved from a reactive process, fixing problems as they arise, to a proactive process, preventing breaking changes from the start.
“We’ve gotten a lot better at testing and managing issues. Atlan has been a big help, and we’re able to catch all these potential issues before they even occur,” Nestor explained.
A Technical and Cultural Transformation
Reflecting on the data platform team’s journey with Atlan, Nestor neatly summarizes the organization-wide benefit: Focus.
“What’s important is this allows people to focus on the right things. Developers are focusing on delivering value with data, rather than having to troubleshoot and spend time digging through code finding where pipelines broke,” Nestor shared. “When data is properly documented and data products are easy to find, our business partners can answer questions without jumping through hoops trying to find the right owner, then waiting for busy people to respond. In terms of time savings, this is significant.”
Moving forward, Nestor and his team consider their data platform as a “living organism”, constantly evolving to meet the unique needs of both Aliaxis’ regional and global data teams and consumers. Of particular interest are upcoming enhancements to Atlan supporting Data Mesh, a concept that aligns well with their federated model of regional data products meeting their global data platform and diverse end user personas.
And beyond the value Nestor and his team are creating with Atlan, the Aliaxis Data Platform, in a short period of time, has already affected not just a technological, but cultural shift, bridging the gap between producers and consumers, and laying the foundations for a world-class data capability.
With the evolution of the data platform, we’ve matured and we’re ready for the future. Are we 100% there? You never are, but we want Atlan to continue to evolve in the right direction to support us in that journey so that day, we can be world-class.”Nestor Jarquin, Global Data & Analytics Lead