Tech Leadership and Innovation

Cataloguing pioneer Alation seeks to spread data culture

Alation CEO Satyen Sangani helped to popularise data cataloguing but says firms must build a data-driven culture.

Headshot of Satyen Sangani, CEO at Alation

Nine times out of 10 if you ask a technology CEO what they are trying to achieve, the answer will be along the lines of ‘a sustainable company for the long term’. But Satyen Sangani, CEO of Alation, a 10-year-old Silicon Valley company, takes another approach; “The world has got a lot of problems where often people use bias and ideology to guide them [but] science-based analysis has always been the only scalable way to think. At a global level, if you have data driving actions rather than the highest-paid opinions or people who have political power, you can sublimate egos and biases to this thing called data.”

Sangani’s grand vision is of problems being addressed based on logic and evidential argument rather than gut feel, hunch or populism and, as we talked on a day when the UK government appeared to be decomposing into a morass of accusation/counteraccusation, deceit, duplicity and chaos, we might all say ‘amen’ to that.

Alation is a cog in the wheel of what is happening in the mile-wide field of data management today, but an important one. For all the lip service expended on the importance of data and the power of analytics, someone must go about the complex business of cataloguing that data in the first place. Alation is a pioneer here and at the heart of the action as organisations attempt to make sense of the ever-swelling digital repositories at their disposal.

Sangani, a former Oracle executive and Morgan Stanley analyst, sees Alation as a platform for data intelligence and says that a catalogue is “an Amazon for your data”. Certainly, the act of cataloguing is fundamental to value extraction allowing for searching, governance, analytics and AI to be applied.

Deep in data

Sangani says he first recognised the data cataloguing and governance mandate at Oracle where he saw financial services customers spending “three, four, five years” trying to get their data in an appropriate state but being constantly stymied by clashing schemas, pesky customisations and more. Alation, along with Collibra, Informatica and other rivals, wants to accelerate that process by providing a base layer of superior data management. “Ultimately,” he says, “we’re just a catalyst for doing this better.”

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