What is the differnce? Distinguishing Data Dictionaries, Business Glossaries, and Data Catalogs.

5 Apr, 2022 •

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The evolving landscape of technology and new data solutions leaves some confusion about the definition and usability of different data solutions. It is important to consider the subtle and evident differences between different catalog solutions. Dive into the differences between data dictionaries, business glossaries, and data catalogs.  

I’m sure that at one point or another, all of us have had some confusion associated with different terms associated with data quality, governance, and management. To ensure maximum utility, relevance, and economies for a given use case, it is extremely important to be well versed and knowledgeable about the concerned solution. Increasing popularity among data catalogs in companies leaves many non-technical stakeholders with questions like – what are these data catalogs? Are they the same as data dictionaries and business glossaries? Well, look no further – Here’s a layman’s guide to help you out!  

What is a Data Catalog?   

A data catalog is an organized inventory of data assets in the organization. A catalog performs the following functions for your data assets:   

  1. Centralizes your data sources and Business Intelligence(BI) Reports    
  2. It can store additional information about the data – its profile, characteristics, and lineage   
  3. It allows for the enrichment and curation of data – by classifying, linking, and tagging data   
  4. It allows for a common platform for analytics, business SMEs, Data Engineering, IT to collaborate on data   

What is a Data Dictionary?   

The IBM Dictionary of Computing refers to a data dictionary as a “centralized repository of information about data such as meaning, relationships to other data, origin, usage, and format.” Simply speaking it explains your data terms. It’s commonly used by IT professionals, data analysts, scientists, and engineers. Let’s take a look at some of the use cases:  

  1. A data dictionary helps provide clear and structured views about your database  
  2. It helps make data assets consistent across the database  
  3. Data dictionaries aid in database management  
  4. Improves trust and integrity  

What is a Business Glossary?  

A business glossary is a collection of data terminology clearly defined in a business context. This is best understood with the help of an example:  

Let’s say the words “Shipment cost” are being used as a field in a company database. This could mean finished good outbound cost or raw material inbound cost. A business glossary would be useful here to define the context to prevent confusion. What are the benefits of a business glossary?   

  1. Provide consistency across the organization  
  2. Improves communication across IT and business  
  3. Increases efficiency and training  

Now that we’ve understood what data catalogs, data dictionaries, and business glossaries are, let’s shed some light on the differences between each one of them:  

Data Catalog Data dictionary Business Glossary 
Definition Organized inventory of data assets in your organization Repository of information about data assets Clearly defined terms related to data for the business context 
Used by All Stakeholders IT, data scientists, engineers & analysts Business users 
Scope Organization-wide Per data source Organization-wide 
Use case Data discovery, governance, quality management, profiling, lineage etc. Documentation, modeling, governance etc. Documentation, collaboration, efficiency etc. 
Difference between Data dictionaries, Business glossaries & Data catalogs

 Here’s a visual relationship to tie in the entire concept: 

dvsum anim data intelligence ml data catalog tools

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