In the last decade, most of the innovations in the data ecosystem were focused on producing more data. We’ve now mastered the art of producing data…a little too well.
From duplicate tables to broken dashboards, data and business teams are spending too much time trying to navigate, understand, and clean up the chaos.
Data is initially collected with the purpose of informing business decisions. However, it often ends up unused or misunderstood by those by those for whom it was collected for in the first place – business teams.
While the tools of the modern data stack are designed with data teams in mind and positioned as "the home for data teams," this approach misses the mark. Data should be accessible and usable by everyone in the company.
If data is not used by business people, it might as well not exist.
If data is not used by business people, we cannot improve business decisions.
If data is not used by business people, we fail as a data ecosystem.
Data investments should be focused on powering the business function and driving value. Yet, it often occurs that data remains concentrated within the data team, unintentionally distanced from the overarching business objectives. The goal, therefore, is to create a bridge between the data and the business practices, to fully leverage its potential.
Having been born as "Castor", our initial mission was clear and we have been wholly focused on improving the Data Experience. But as we observed the evolving landscape and listened to the needs of our clients, we realised our purpose was even greater. Today, as we embrace our new identity as CastorDoc, we reaffirm our commitment: to make data more valuable by empowering everyone in the organization to make better decisions.
After two years of existence, we've decided to double down on this belief and refocus our efforts to make it a reality.
Unlike traditional data catalogs, which often add unnecessary complexity, we are taking a different approach. We're committed to simplifying data access and making it as intuitive as possible.
Our vision has not changed, but our focus has evolved. We're excited to share how our refined approach will drive even greater value for our partners.
In this manifesto, we cover:
I - Our principles in action: How our values shape our product.
II - Discover the new CastorDoc: Who are we to you?
III- The future of CastorDoc: Prioritizing Autonomy & Confidence.
Buckle your seatbelt.
I - How Our Guiding Values Shape Our Product
We are deeply committed to turning data democratization into a tangible reality within organizations, rather than letting it remain a distant aspiration. We build CastorDoc daily with this vision as our north star. There are 5 key pillars allowing us to make this vision reality:
- Providing a simple, intuitive, and familiar user interface.
- Using AI-powered data insights to bridge the gap between data teams and business users.
- Fostering collective intelligence by increasing transparency and collaboration.
- Making documentation accessible and accessed by propagating it in other tools.
- Enabling metrics alignment through a visual exploration of knowledge.
We’ll cover each of these pillars in this section.
Providing the right User Interface
We have been talking about the Data Experience for a while already. And we are convinced that it starts with the right interface.
We have built software that is designed to be used by everyone in the company. We have kept the product extremely straightforward so that business users can confidently find their way through it regardless of skill level. And we will keep it that way. We will not be chasing the next shiny feature if it does not serve our core purpose. As we continue to grow, expect CastorDoc to stay straightforward, intuitive, and slick.
We have designed CastorDoc to already feel familiar to business users, with the same UI and intuitive exploration as business tools. It thus feels extremely smooth for business folks to switch from their native tool to Castor or even consume Castor’s value when it’s synced back to their native tools. Today, this intuitive UI explains in a large part why CastorDoc has tackled the adoption problem that data catalogs have struggled with for years.
Putting AI at the Service of Business Users
At CastorDoc, we believe in harnessing the power of AI to serve business users. We understand that many business users may struggle with interpreting their data, often due to limited knowledge of SQL. This not only limits their ability to truly understand their data but also slows down momentum.
To address this issue, we have developed CastorDoc AI’s query explainer. This tool demystifies SQL for business users by breaking down complex queries into simple and easy-to-understand language, helping to bridge the skill gap and empowering users to make better data-driven decisions.
Our query explainer is only the beginning of how we plan to leverage AI to empower business users with data. With the potential to bridge skill gaps and automate documentation, AI offers a significant opportunity to establish true data democracy. We are committed to incorporating AI into our product in a way that fuels our vision of putting data in the hands of business users.
Leveraging Collective Intelligence
Documentation suffers from a maintenance problem. The only way we can fight this issue is through leveraging collective intelligence.
As data teams scale, the amount of data often becomes too overwhelming for documentation to be maintained in a traditional way, where one person or one team is responsible for the documentation.
Additionally, documenting the data is a rather painful task and stakeholders prefer to stay away from it. This is understandable.
In our opinion, documenting should never rest on the shoulders of one person, or one team. Documentation should be crowdsourced, like Wikipedia.
Reimagining documentation as a crowdsourced endeavor unlocks a lot of possibilities for data teams:
- It unleashes the power of collective intelligence, surfacing invaluable insights from domain experts that might otherwise go unnoticed.
- It fosters a collaborative environment where stakeholders can build upon one another's contributions, allowing knowledge to compound and expand. Data is a social ecosystem that should include human interactions.
- It enables individuals to stand on the shoulders of giants when embarking on new projects, with these giants being the past co-workers who have graciously shared their knowledge before moving on.
At CastorDoc, we envision ourselves as the platform that will facilitate a Wikipedia for documentation.
We achieve this by assigning ownership of data assets, where a specific person or team is responsible for maintaining the documentation for a given set of tables.
This is just distributing responsibility for maintaining the documentation. When everyone contributes their part, the final result can be something great, just like how individual bricks come together to form a cathedral. Ownership works wonders, because when people feel like their input matters, they are more likely to stay involved in the effort.
The following example demonstrates collective intelligence in action. It shows that the metric “Active Users” has an owner. The owner is accountable for maintaining the documentation around this metric and is considered expert in this idea.
Making Documentation Accessible
Documentation suffers from an accessibility issue. In most organizations, documentation is either spread across tools and spreadsheets, or rotting in a static data catalog that is not used or maintained.
We believe in the concept of "glocal" documentation. This philosophy mandates creating documentation globally through leveraging collective knowledge, but making sure it can be consumed locally. While it’s important to have a centralized place for documentation, it's also crucial for documentation to be easily accessible in tools that stakeholders use daily.
If stakeholders don’t want to leave their tools to access the information they need, they shouldn't have to. Documentation should be available locally, within their reach.
This is why CastorDoc is not just a catalog that centralizes documentation. We also make this documentation local by syncing back the information within CastorDoc to other tools.
For instance, consider a scenario where a sales operations team is creating a dashboard in Looker and needs a quick explanation for a table field. With CastorDoc, the team is able to easily access the documentation within Looker, without having to leave the platform to browse the catalog. Syncing back documentation unifies the workflow of all users who need documentation, both technical and non-technical.
Enabling metrics alignment through a visual exploration of knowledge
Most companies lack a common set of definitions and vocabulary that everyone shares. It is still very common for different departments of the SAME company to use different definitions of metrics such as “revenue” in their day-to-day operations. And when people have different definitions, their reports say different things and it leads to disagreement.
At CastorDoc, we have always had the goal to create company-wide metrics alignment, and our partners could do that by curating knowledge pages organized through folders.
But we find that navigating metrics in a folder-like manner is not the most intuitive option. Just like data, metrics are alive, interconnected and interdependent.
This is why we have introduced the Knowledge Map. It’s basically like data lineage, but for metrics and KPIs. It provides a completely different way of exploring metrics.
The Knowledge map provides a high-level view of key knowledge pages. Instead of having to sift through folders, the Knowledge Map presents information in a relational diagram that provides a 10,000 ft view of company knowledge: it clearly shows how each knowledge page is related, along with description, owner, tags, and related data assets.
The Knowledge Map enables users to grasp the relationships between crucial knowledge pages and also facilitates data exploration from a familiar perspective: metrics.
Metrics serve as an entry point to the data world and are an excellent starting point for users to dive into data. Business people are familiar with metrics and have always been.
Through the knowledge map, people can dive in specific metrics and understand how they have been built: which queries have been used, which tables have been joined to compute this metric? This is a more intuitive way to explore data than browsing the data warehouse and facing thousands of tables that can appear meaningless.
Want to know what a knowledge map looks like? We’ve made a template that you can find below.
II - Discover the New CastorDoc: Who We Are to You?
If you’re currently using CastorDoc, or if you are planning to use CastorDoc in the future, you are probably wondering: what does this new identity mean for me? This is what we’ll cover in this part.
CastorDoc is the data home for everyone. We help reduce the number of requests for data teams, allowing them to focus on higher-value activities. We partner with data governance leaders to make data democratization a reality. We want to help business people solve business problems.
If you are part of a data team, you should see CastorDoc as your partner for building self-service data discovery for the whole organization.
As a data person, you’re probably answering a ton of data requests, which leaves little time to focus on higher-value analysis.
CastorDoc bridges the gap between data teams and business teams, creating the self-service framework needed to make business teams independent. For you, CastorDoc means less time managing data requests and increased productivity.
More about how CastorDoc caters to data teams here.
If you are on a governance team CastorDoc is committed to being your partner in designing and implementing a process you trust to manage, monitor & secure data as your organization grows.
We understand the constant struggle of managing data across fragmented tools.
CastorDoc provides you with a comprehensive view of your entire data stack from a single source of truth. You can effortlessly keep track of data freshness and quality, control access to assets based on roles, and monitor performance and efficiency at scale.
Our goal is to help you cultivate data that is accurate, up-to-date, and compliant with industry standards. Additionally, we strive to provide data that is actionable and valuable to your business teams.
More about how CastorDoc caters to Governance teams here.
At CastorDoc, we believe that every business team should have access to the right data when they need it most.
CastorDoc provides insights from a single source of truth that every team can rely on to make data-driven decisions. We think finding the right data should not be a milestone but a stepping stone.
No more searching through fragmented data sources with little insight into what the data means or who to ask for clarification.
With CastorDoc, all organizational data is served up in one central location, with data owners and context provided, enabling teams to build a collective language around their data. This means business teams can make every decision data-driven and collaborate effectively across teams to build company knowledge.
More about how CastorDoc caters to business teams here.
III - The Future of CastorDoc: Prioritizing Autonomy and Confidence
This is just the beginning for CastorDoc, and our product team will continue to ship incredible features. A data catalog can evolve in a lot of different ways, and this section is about which way we are planning to go in the future. This will influence our product roadmap in the coming years, and help us prioritize the right features.
Our product will evolve in a way that brings about our vision to help business users become data users. For this to happen, we need to increase business user autonomy with the data, and confidence in the data.
Autonomy is about being able to find, understand and use the data without needing to ask someone else for help. An example of a feature that promotes autonomy is our AI query explainer because it allows business users to understand the data by themselves.
Confidence is about trusting the data. People trust the data when they know that it passes certain quality thresholds, that it has been refreshed, and that other people in the company are using it. An example of feature that promotes trust and confidence in the data is the ability to surface data quality in CastorDoc.
In the future, CastorDoc will prioritize features that improve autonomy with data, or confidence and trust.
You’ve now met the New CastorDoc. After two years of existence, we’ve now sharpened our focus and are fully dedicated to making data accessible to everyone in organizations, regardless of their technical backgrounds.
So, how do we plan to turn this vision into a reality? Through the five key pillars that are shaping our product:
- An Intuitive User Experience
- AI-powered Data Insights
- Knowledge built leveraging collective intelligence
- Documentation synced back to every part of your stack
- Revolutionary visual knowledge exploration
As we continue developing our product, we will relentlessly prioritize features that enhance data autonomy and build confidence.
If you like the new CastorDoc, get in touch!
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Fantastic tool for data discovery and documentation
“[I like] The easy to use interface and the speed of finding the relevant assets that you're looking for in your database. I also really enjoy the score given to each table, [which] lets you prioritize the results of your queries by how often certain data is used.”
Michal, Head of Data, Printify