Data Documentation 101: Why? How? For Whom? | by Marie Lefevre | Jun, 2023

It is a set of relevant information about a company’s data assets. It encompasses a range of elements such as metrics definitions, descriptions of data sources, data schemas, explanations about data models, a mapping of access rights to data tools, etc.

There is no universal template to create data documentation. What matters most is that data documentation serves your organization. Think of it as a comprehensive manual that empowers stakeholders to navigate the data landscape with confidence and clarity.

As for any type of documentation data documentation gives your company a kind of memory about past events. A written documentation does not only tell the current state of things. It also allows any member to grasp the history of data management, no matter how long they have been with the organization. By writing down the set of definitions, rules and processes that were put in place over time, you bring clarity and context to anyone interested in using data at your organization.

As for the present, establishing and maintaining data documentation up-to-date allows to set in stone what has been decided at a conceptual level and what has been implemented on the technical side. Gathering all these elements at a central documentation place definitely brings stakeholders together: after they agreed on something about data management, writing it down adds value to its reliability.

As we will see later on, the format of your data documentation may vary depending on your target audience. At first don’t focus on the form your documentation will take but rather on its intent. You will then derive your documentation’s content — and its form — from the intention behind building data documentation.

You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my audience? What is their technical background?
  • What do they expect from data documentation?
  • What do I want my audience to know about data?
  • What are the fundamentals my audience should know before diving into further details?
  • When going into more details, how far should I go into the details so that my audience gets a good understanding without getting lost?

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