Tracking Down Data Sources For Analytics

CEO, Portable

If you work in analytics, you NEED to find the data sources available across your company.

But HOW do you find them?

There are a few tricks to gather the list quickly.

1. Databases - Ask your engineers

A significant trove of proprietary data lives within databases.

Engineers manage your databases, and DevOps (or infrastructure) teams are typically in charge of keeping them up and running.

You can ask them to pull a comprehensive list quickly.

But they’re engineers… there is a good chance they don’t want to talk to you.

Find a people manager in the engineering org, and ask them if they can reach out on your behalf.

To get started, all you need is a list that includes 1) the name of the database, 2) the database type (Postgres, MySQL, etc.), and 3) whether a read replica is set up.

Over time, you’ll need a way to access the data, but for now, you just need a list.

2. Business Applications - Ask your IT team

Most people go to the marketing team to figure out what marketing tools exist. It’s not a bad idea.

But IT is faster.

With single sign on tools, procurement processes, and device management platforms, IT teams have access to a very comprehensive list of what applications are in use across the organization.

Once you get the list, you can go to the business units to confirm, but always start with IT.

If you’re at a startup, and you use Google Workspace, an admin can pull a list of every application that users have logged into with their work Gmail.

Great place to start.

IT teams also might use an iPaaS tool for automating workflows.

If so, talk to whoever is in charge of automating workflows and see what tools they have connected to.

Data that’s useful for automation is typically useful for analytics.

3. Event Data Sources - Ask your product and marketing teams

Does your company have a website? Yes.

Do you have a web product, or a mobile app? Probably.

If so, your marketing and product teams are likely collecting event data for analytics.

There are a couple ways to figure out what data is being collected from these properties.

Option 1: Ask your marketing and product teams.

Option 2: Use a tool like Ghostery to identify which trackers are in place on your site.

I’d probably recommend both options, they don’t take that long.

4. 3rd Party Data - Ask your finance team

Is your team buying data for lead generation?

Are they buying data to power your product?

If so, there is a contract (so you could also ask legal), but there is definitely an invoice / line item on your P&L.

Ask your finance team if the company licenses data.

If so, it could be a great data source for analytics.

5. 2nd Party Data - Ask your legal team

Data partnerships don’t necessarily exchange money, so finance probably can’t help.

In this case, ask your legal team if the company has any data partnerships in place where you might be able to use the data for analytics.

A few years ago the answer was likely no.

In today’s world, this is more and more common. Especially in the CPG / retail ecosystem.

The contracts would be unique, so lawyers would remember them.