Find out how to Establish Your Enterprise-Essential Information | by Mikkel Dengsøe | Jun, 2023

Sensible steps to figuring out business-critical knowledge fashions and dashboards and drive confidence in your knowledge


This text has been co-written with Lindsay Murphy

Not all knowledge is created equal. If you happen to work in a knowledge workforce you already know that if a sure dashboard breaks you drop all the pieces and bounce on it, whereas different points can wait till the tip of the week. There’s a great motive for this. The primary might imply that your whole firm is lacking knowledge whereas the previous might don’t have any vital impression.

Nevertheless, retaining observe of all of your business-critical knowledge as you scale your workforce and develop the variety of knowledge fashions and dashboards could be tough. That is why conditions resembling these ones occur

“I had no thought finance was counting on this dashboard for his or her month-to-month audit report”


“What the heck, did our CEO bookmark this dashboard that I made in a rush as a one-off request six months in the past”

On this article we’ll look into

  • Why you need to establish your crucial knowledge belongings
  • Find out how to establish crucial dashboards and knowledge fashions
  • Making a tradition of uptime for crucial knowledge

When you’ve mapped out your business-critical belongings you’ll be able to have an end-end overview throughout your stack that reveals which knowledge fashions or dashboards are business-critical, the place they’re used, and what their newest standing is.

This may be actually helpful, in numerous alternative ways:

  • It could actually grow to be an vital piece of documentation that helps drive alignment throughout the enterprise on a very powerful knowledge belongings
  • It breeds confidence within the knowledge workforce to make adjustments and updates to current fashions or options, with out worry of breaking one thing crucial downstream
  • It permits higher determination making, velocity, and prioritisation when points come up
  • It offers your workforce permission to focus extra of your vitality on the highly-critical belongings, and let some much less vital issues slide
Instance of seeing vital impacted knowledge fashions and dashboards for an incident. Supply:

On this article we’ll have a look at tips on how to establish your business-critical knowledge fashions and dashboards. You possibly can apply many of the similar ideas to different kinds of knowledge belongings which may be crucial to your online business.

Information used for decision-making is vital and if knowledge is inaccurate it could result in fallacious selections and over time a lack of belief in knowledge. However data-forward companies have knowledge that’s actually business-critical. If this knowledge is fallacious or stale you’ve a hair-on-fire second and there may be an instantaneous enterprise impression for those who don’t repair it resembling…

  • Tens of 1000’s of consumers might get the fallacious e-mail because the reverse ETL device is studying from a stale knowledge mannequin
  • You’re reporting incorrect knowledge to regulators and your C-suite could be held personally liable
  • Your forecasting mannequin shouldn’t be operating and a whole bunch of workers in buyer help can’t get their subsequent shift schedules earlier than the vacations

Mapping out these use circumstances requires you to have a deep understanding of how your organization works, what’s most vital to your stakeholders and what potential implications of points are.

Looker exposes metadata about content material utilization in pre-built Explores that you could enrich with your individual knowledge to make it extra helpful. Within the following examples, we’ll be utilizing Looker, however most fashionable BI instruments allow usage-based reporting in some type (Lightdash additionally has in-built Usage Analytics, Tableau Cloud gives Admin Insights, and Mode’s Discovery Database gives entry to utilization knowledge, simply to call just a few).

While you converse with your online business leaders you’ll be able to ask questions resembling:

  • What are your prime priorities for the subsequent three months?
  • How do you measure success on your space?
  • What are essentially the most crucial points you’ve had up to now yr?

Your enterprise leaders might not know that the explanation why common buyer help response occasions jumped from two hours to 24 hours over Christmas was resulting from a forecasting error from stale upstream knowledge, however they’ll describe the painful expertise to you. If you happen to can map out essentially the most crucial operations and workflows and perceive how knowledge is used you’ll begin uncovering the actually business-critical knowledge.

The obvious vital dashboards are ones that everybody within the firm makes use of. Most of those chances are you’ll already pay attention to resembling “Firm extensive KPIs”, “Product utilization dashboards”, or “Customer support metrics”. However you’ll typically be shocked to find that dozens of persons are counting on dashboards you had no thought existed.


Usually you need to filter for current utilization to not embody dashboards that had plenty of customers six months in the past however no utilization within the final month. There are exceptions to this resembling a quarterly OKR dashboard that’s solely used each three months.

Prefer it or not, in case your CEO makes use of a dashboard recurrently it’s vital, even when there’s solely a handful of different customers. Within the worst case state of affairs you realise {that a} member of the C-suite has been utilizing a dashboard for months with incorrect knowledge with out you having any thought this dashboard existed.

“We found that our CEO was religiously taking a look at a each day e-mail delivered with a report on income, nevertheless it was incorrectly filtered to incorporate a particular phase, so it didn’t match the centralised firm KPI dashboard.” — Canadian healthcare startup

In case you have an worker system of document, you could possibly simply get identifiers for peoples’ titles and enrich your utilization knowledge with this. If not, you’ll be able to keep a handbook mapping of those and replace them when the manager workforce adjustments.


Whereas utilization by seniority is extremely correlated with significance, your first precedence ought to be mapping out the business-critical use circumstances. For instance, a bigger fintech firm has a dashboard utilized by the Head of Regulatory Reporting to share crucial data with regulators. The accuracy of this knowledge could be of upper significance to your CEO than the dashboard they have a look at every single day.

With many dbt initiatives exceeding a whole bunch or 1000’s of knowledge fashions, it’s vital to know which of them are business-critical so you already know when you need to prioritise a run or check failure, or construct additional sturdy exams.

You probably have a set of knowledge fashions the place in the event that they break all the pieces else is delayed or impacted. These are sometimes fashions that all the pieces else is dependent upon resembling customers, orders or transactions.

You could already know which of them these are. If not, you may as well use the manifest.json file that dbt produces as a part of the artifacts at every invocation and the depends_on property for every node to loop by means of all of your fashions and rely the overall variety of fashions that rely on them.

Usually you’ll discover a handful of fashions with disproportionately many dependencies. These ought to be marked as crucial.

Information fashions are not often crucial on their very own, however most frequently due to the significance of their downstream dependency, resembling an vital dashboard or a machine studying mannequin used to serve suggestions to customers in your web site

All knowledge fashions upstream of a business-critical dashboard are on the crucial path. Supply:

When you’ve gone by means of the onerous work of figuring out your business-critical downstream dependencies and use circumstances you should use exposures in dbt to manually map these or use a device that mechanically connects your lineage throughout instruments.

Something upstream of a crucial asset ought to be marked as crucial or as on the crucial path.

Automate as a lot as potential round tagging your crucial knowledge fashions. For instance:

  • Use check-model-tags from the pre-commit dbt bundle to implement that every knowledge mannequin has a criticality tag
  • Construct a script, or use a tool, that mechanically provides a critical-path tag to all fashions which can be upstream of a business-critical asset

There’s nobody proper reply to tips on how to outline criticality however you need to ask your self two questions

  1. What are your plans for a way you deal with crucial knowledge belongings otherwise
  2. How do you keep a constant definition throughout what’s crucial so that everybody is on the identical web page

Most firms use a tiered strategy (e.g. bronze, silver, gold) or a binary strategy (e.g. crucial, non-critical). Each choices can work and the very best answer is dependent upon your state of affairs.


You have to be constant in the way you outline criticality and write these up as a part of your onboarding for new-joiners and keep away from suspending this. For instance, the definition of tiering might be

  • Tier 1: Information mannequin utilized by a machine studying system to find out which customers are allowed to enroll in your product
  • Tier 2: Dashboard utilized by the CMO for the weekly advertising and marketing evaluate
  • Tier 3: Dashboard utilized by your product supervisor to trace month-to-month product engagement

If you happen to’re not constantly updating and tagging your belongings it results in a scarcity of belief and an assumption that you could’t depend on the definition.

There’s nobody proper place to outline criticality nevertheless it’s mostly completed both within the device the place you create the info asset, or in a knowledge catalog, resembling Secoda.

In dbt you’ll be able to maintain your criticality definitions in your .yml file alongside your knowledge mannequin definition. This has a number of benefits resembling having the ability to implement criticality when merging a PR or simply carrying over this data throughout instruments resembling a knowledge catalogue or observability device

- title: fct_orders
description: All orders
criticality: excessive

Instance of defining criticality in a .yml file

In BI instruments, one choice that makes it clear to everyone seems to be to label the title of a dashboard with e.g. “Tier 1” to point that it’s crucial. This knowledge can sometimes be extracted and utilized in different instruments.


In a knowledge catalog you’ll be able to simply entry all of your firm knowledge and discover solutions to frequent questions by looking out throughout your stack, which makes it simpler to align on metrics and fashions

Tagging crucial knowledge. Supply:

Mapping your business-critical belongings will solely repay for those who act otherwise due to it. Listed below are some processes to construct in high quality by design.


  • Tier 1 dashboards want a code reviewer earlier than being pushed to manufacturing
  • Tier 1 dashboards ought to adhere to particular efficiency metrics round load time and have a constant visible structure
  • Utilization of Tier 1 dashboards ought to be monitored month-to-month by the proprietor

Information fashions:

  • Check or run failures on crucial knowledge fashions ought to be acted on inside the similar day
  • Points on crucial knowledge fashions ought to be ship to PagerDuty (an on-call workforce member) to allow them to be shortly actioned
  • Essential knowledge fashions ought to have at the very least distinctive and never null exams in addition to an proprietor outlined

You possibly can learn extra about tips on how to act on knowledge points in our information Designing severity levels for data issues

If you happen to establish and map out your business-critical knowledge belongings you’ll be able to act quicker on points which can be vital and be intentional about the place you construct prime quality knowledge belongings.

  • To establish dashboards which can be enterprise crucial, begin by taking a look at your online business use circumstances. Then take into account utilization knowledge resembling variety of customers or if anybody from the C-suite are utilizing a dashboard
  • Information fashions which can be business-critical usually have many downstream dependencies and/or crucial downstream dependencies
  • Outline criticality, both straight within the instruments the place you create the info belongings, or use a knowledge catalog
  • Be specific about the way you act on points inside business-critical belongings and put in procedures for constructing high quality by design

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