As organizations continue to create and collect mountains of data, many are quick to discover that they have too much -- maybe much too much -- of a good thing. It's a big challenge to identify all of the data in their systems, decide which users should have access to what data, ensure that the data is used properly and figure out how to derive real business value from those data assets. That's why a strong data governance program is critical.
Data governance is the process of creating internal data standards, along with policies that control who can access data and how data is used in business operations and analytics applications. It often incorporates data quality improvement initiatives, as well as master data management (MDM) ones. A successful data governance program ensures that data is consistent, trustworthy and available and that its use complies with data privacy laws and other regulations.
Data governance tools can help organizations automate various aspects of managing a governance program. This kind of software provides functionality that aids in the creation of data catalogs and business glossaries, data mapping and classification, workflow management, collaboration, process documentation and development of data governance policies. Data governance software can also be used in tandem with data quality, MDM and metadata management tools.
Here's a look at 16 prominent data governance tools, listed in alphabetical order with a summary of their key features and capabilities.
1. Alation Data Governance App
Alation was founded in 2012 and initially offered a data catalog platform to help organizations inventory and provide access to their data. Alation Data Catalog remains its flagship product, but the company released a companion data governance tool in September 2021. The Alation Data Governance App software is designed to simplify the process of providing secure access to reliable data in IT systems, including ones in both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud computing environments.
Alation Data Governance App's Policy Center feature can be used to create governance policies and view how they're mapped to specific data assets. The governance tool also includes a data stewardship workbench that provides automated data curation functions and uses AI and machine learning to identify potential data stewards based on their data usage.
In addition, the data governance tool includes the following features:
- Support for creating and configuring data governance workflows without any coding required.
- A dashboard that the leaders of a data governance program can use to track its progress.
- An associated data governance service offering through Alation's professional services unit.
2. Ataccama One
As its name indicates, Ataccama One aims to be a one-stop shop for all of an organization's data management and governance needs by unifying data governance, quality, MDM and other functions in a single platform. The AI-driven software runs in on-premises, cloud and hybrid environments and is designed for use by data professionals, including data governance teams, data stewards, data scientists, other data analysts and data engineers.
Ataccama One enables organizations to combine their data quality and MDM efforts with a data catalog, data integration capabilities, reference data management and data observability features, and a data storytelling module. The tool was built for enterprise-wide deployments and use in highly regulated industries, with features that include a full audit history and role-based security.
It also includes the following features:
- Support for governing data in various big data platforms and data lake environments.
- "Self-driving data management and governance" through automation and embedded intelligence.
- A platform-as-a-service deployment option, with vendor Ataccama managing infrastructure, management and security.
3. Apache Atlas
Apache Atlas is an open source tool that provides a foundational set of metadata management and data governance capabilities for organizations with data-intensive platforms. It's primarily designed for use in Hadoop clusters, but it can also exchange metadata with tools and processes outside the Hadoop ecosystem to enable integration with other systems for analytics applications.
Hortonworks, a big data platform vendor that was acquired by rival Cloudera in 2019, initially developed Atlas with help from several user organizations; the software was handed over to the Apache Software Foundation for further development in 2015. Through the use of Atlas, organizations can catalog, classify and govern data assets and provide collaboration capabilities related to the data for use by data scientists, other analysts and their data governance team.
Atlas also offers the following features:
- A flexible type system for defining and managing the model used for metadata objects.
- Automated support for cataloging data assets and data lineage information.
- Integration with the Apache Ranger data security framework for access control and data masking.
4. Axon Data Governance
Informatica touts Axon Data Governance as a tool that can help organizations deliver trusted data to end users and data stewards at an enterprise scale. The technology, which Informatica acquired when it bought original developer Diaku in 2017, uses AI-driven automation to assist stewards with data discovery, data quality assessment and communication. It also enables governance teams to create curated data marketplaces to help business and analytics users find, access and understand data.
Data governance teams can also use the Axon tool to develop a common data dictionary, define connections between data elements, identify gaps in data sets and link governance policies to the data they affect. In addition, end-to-end business flows can be created to provide visualized views of data lineage.
Other features in Axon Data Governance include the following:
- The ability to generate data quality metrics based on business definitions and then automatically measure and monitor quality levels.
- Data privacy protection capabilities to ensure that users understand potential privacy risks and analyze the compliance impact of data changes.
- Integration with other Informatica products, including its data catalog, data quality and data preparation tools.
5. Collibra Data Governance
It's often said that data scientists spend most of their time finding, cleaning and organizing data. Collibra aims to change that and help organizations deliver trusted data to them and other end users with Collibra Data Governance, which is part of its Data Intelligence Cloud platform. According to Collibra, the data governance tool can be used to operationalize governance workflows and processes, create a shared language about data assets and make it easier to find and understand relevant data.
The tool includes a business glossary for defining and governing business terms, plus a data dictionary for documenting metadata. It also offers reference data management capabilities, a "data helpdesk" function for reporting and resolving data issues, and a Collibra Assessments module for analyzing potential privacy risks from the use of personal data in business processes.
In addition, Collibra Data Governance provides the following features:
- Data stewardship management functions, including the ability to assign roles and responsibilities to data stewards.
- A Policy Manager application that supports centralized management of data policies and standards, plus monitoring of adoption and compliance.
- Integration with Collibra's data catalog, data lineage and data quality tools as part of the Data Intelligence Cloud platform.
6. Precisely Data Integrity Suite (Data Governance Service)
All successful relationships are built on trust, and that's what software vendor Precisely promises the Data Integrity Suite Data Governance service will help foster with data assets. Precisely acquired the data governance tool, along with data quality and analytics products that are also part of the Data360 portfolio, when it bought Infogix in 2021. The Data Governance service is part of Precisely's Data Integrity Suite -- seven interoperable services to deliver accurate data including data integration, observability, governance, quality, enrichment, geo addressing and spatial analytics. It enables organizations to create an enterprise data governance framework that also includes a data catalog and metadata management capabilities.
The tool provides real-time tracking of how data supports various business processes and outcomes to help organizations meet their business goals, with dashboards and reports that can be customized to present personalized insights. It also automates data governance workflows, metadata harvesting and the importing of data quality scores from the companion Data360 DQ+ software and other data quality tools from Precisely or rival vendors.
Other key features built into the Data Governance service include the following:
- Curation of a business glossary and visualization of data flows in an organization.
- A 3D Data Lineage function that also incorporates process diagrams and impact analysis capabilities.
- A flexible metamodel that can be configured to mirror an organization's business model to help ease the data governance process.
7. Erwin Data Intelligence
Fans of the great literary detective Sherlock Holmes know that he has exceptional powers of awareness and observation. Quest Software promises similar capabilities with Erwin Data Intelligence, its enterprise data governance tool. The company claims that the tool "provides data awareness, capability and knowledge to drive data governance and business enablement" in organizations.
Formally known as Erwin Data Intelligence by Quest, the software combines separate Erwin data catalog, data literacy and data quality products in an integrated suite. It's designed to help IT and data governance teams make available data assets more visible to end users and provide guidance on their use, with governance controls to ensure that users follow internal data policies and best practices. Role-based views can be created to add context about relevant data for different groups of users.
Erwin Data Intelligence also includes the following capabilities:
- Automated functions to harvest and catalog metadata, generate data lineage details and do data profiling and data quality assessments.
- Metadata-driven mapping of data flows to aid in data integration and data lineage documentation.
- Data stewardship management features, plus the ability to assign data owners and subject-matter experts to help govern data assets.
8. IBM Cloud Pak for Data
IBM Cloud Pak for Data is a cloud-native platform that supports data governance, quality and privacy initiatives as well as data integration, customer data management and AI governance. Built on data fabric technology, the software includes AI-driven data discovery, profiling and cataloging capabilities. It also provides metadata enrichment, data quality management and data lineage functions, plus tools for managing data policies as part of data protection and regulatory compliance efforts.
In addition, the IBM tool can be used to create rules that automatically deny access to data or mask it from unauthorized users. On the other hand, it includes features designed to streamline access to trusted data sets by authorized users and help them to understand and use the data. For example, data visualizations can be created to show the relationships between different data elements.
Other features offered by IBM Cloud Pak for Data include the following:
- Automated assessments of data privacy risks, with recommendations for mitigating ones that are identified.
- Support for cloud, on-premises and hybrid cloud deployments.
- Planned integration with IBM subsidiary Databand's data observability tools.
9. OneTrust Data Governance
OneTrust Data Governance combines AI-driven data discovery and classification capabilities with an integrated data catalog and a set of data governance policy management functions. It's part of a broad product portfolio offered by OneTrust, which also supports data privacy, risk management and related programs in organizations. Like the company's other products, the data governance tool is powered by an AI, machine learning and robotic process automation engine.
The engine can automatically find applications and data stores and inventory their data assets, then apply AI and machine learning models to categorize, classify, enrich and tag data sets. After that's done, OneTrust Data Governance can be used to populate a data catalog and a detailed data dictionary, link the catalog to a business glossary and automatically apply governance policies and controls based on how data is classified.
The following features are also included in OneTrust Data Governance:
- More than 500 pre-built connectors, plus the ability to use a drag-and-drop workflow builder to create custom connectors.
- Collaborative workflows to establish data ownership and stewardship responsibilities.
- Functions for creating data lineage diagrams and generating regulatory compliance reports.
10. Oracle Enterprise Metadata Management
Oracle Enterprise Metadata Management (OEMM) enables organizations to harvest, catalog and govern metadata from relational databases, data warehouses, Hadoop clusters, BI platforms and other data sources, in both Oracle and non-Oracle systems. The tool also includes interactive search and browser features that can be used to explore the metadata and access model diagrams and a metadata reporting capability. In addition, it provides data lineage tracing and impact analysis functions.
OEMM offers a set of collaborative data governance and stewardship features, including the ability to annotate and tag metadata, add comments about data and create internal data review boards. The software can also import existing metadata standards from Oracle and third-party systems, and it enables governance teams to build business glossaries that support semantic lineage analysis.
Other features that OEMM provides include the following:
- Algorithms that can stitch together metadata from different sources to show the full path that data takes through systems.
- Versioning of metadata models to do comparisons for regulatory compliance and performance optimization.
- Integration with Oracle Enterprise Data Quality to support a comprehensive approach to managing data governance.
11. Rocket Data Intelligence
Rocket Software describes Rocket Data Intelligence as a fix for "data distrust." As the company notes, much of the wealth of data that's created and collected often goes unused because business managers, data scientists and other end users either can't find it or don't understand and trust it. Rocket DI, as the tool is known for short, aims to help organizations address those issues through a set of metadata management, data lineage and data governance capabilities.
The metadata-driven software generates end-to-end views of data as it moves through IT systems and can be used to provide information on the business meaning of data and to apply guardrails on its use. For example, built-in data governance workflows and data stewardship functions enable governance teams to manage data-related issues, approve business glossary entries and handle other tasks. Rocket DI also supports role-based access control for setting user permissions to specific data sets.
Other key features provided by the tool, which Rocket acquired when it bought ASG Technologies in 2021, include the following:
- An enterprise metadata repository, plus automated support for harvesting metadata from more than 260 data sources.
- Automated data lineage documentation, with visualized data flows mapped to business context.
- Tracking of data collection, storage, access and use for complying with data privacy laws.
12. SAP Master Data Governance
In keeping with its name, SAP Master Data Governance is designed specifically to help organizations govern and manage master data as part of MDM initiatives. The tool can be used to consolidate master data from various source systems and govern it centrally, with built-in data quality management capabilities also included. It's part of the SAP Business Technology Platform, a broad set of data management, analytics, AI and associated technologies.
SAP offers two versions of the governance tool -- one that runs on top of its flagship S/4HANA ERP system, and a cloud edition that can support a federated network of master data governance environments using a hub-and-spoke approach. In that kind of setup, a central system governs core master data attributes, while application-specific attributes are managed by separate governance systems in business units and departments.
SAP Master Data Governance also includes the following features:
- Prebuilt data models, business rules, governance workflows and UIs to help streamline deployments.
- Collaborative workflow routing and notification capabilities to help enforce validated data values.
- Integration with the companion SAP Master Data Integration tool to combine integration and governance capabilities.
13. SAS Information Governance
With its SAS Information Governance tool, software vendor SAS Institute aims to help business and analytics users spend less time looking for and evaluating data and more time doing analysis work, while enabling data stewards and data governance teams to ensure that data assets are secured and used properly. The governance software is sold as a separate product and is also bundled into several SAS analytics tools as either a standard component or an optional add-on.
The tool includes a data catalog and can automatically crawl data sources, classify data and identify sensitive information. End users can search the metadata in the catalog to find relevant data, as well as reports and other analytics assets; the search results provide information on data quality, usage metrics and more to help users decide if the identified data is right for their analytics needs.
SAS Information Governance also offers the following features:
- Built-in data quality, integration and lineage tools, with a self-service UI that provides views of required data preparation steps.
- One-click access to SAS Viya analytics applications from data assets in the data catalog.
- A SAS Viya connector to the Egeria open source metadata manager to enable metadata sharing between different tools.
14. Semarchy xDM
Semarchy xDM is the data management and governance component of the Semarchy United Data Platform, which combines it with a companion xDI tool for data integration. The xDM software supports data governance, MDM, reference data management and data quality initiatives in a single environment, with built-in workflows and data enrichment capabilities.
The tool enables organizations to build data models with embedded rules, policies and workflows for specific domains or business use cases. It can also facilitate collaborative governance processes and development of dashboards to visualize data metrics. A metadata repository is included, along with individual data stores for different data models; the latter also capture information on data lineage, and multiple ones can be attached to a single metadata repository.
Other features provided in Semarchy xDM include the following:
- Support for deployment on premises, in the cloud or as a managed service.
- Role-based user permissions, plus functions for regulatory compliance reporting.
- Batch and real-time APIs for bidirectional integration of applications and business processes.
15. Syniti Knowledge Platform
Syniti Knowledge Platform offers a full set of data management functionality, including data governance capabilities that are underpinned by an embedded data catalog. The Syniti software can ingest data from hundreds of source systems and automatically generate metadata, then use additional automation driven by machine learning algorithms to help build semantic models that associate the metadata with an organization's business processes and terms.
The software also enables organizations to apply version controls to data quality and governance rules, track data lineage and audit data sets and their usage for regulatory compliance purposes. Syniti, which changed its name from BackOffice Associates in 2019, also provides a related Data Jumpstart service with pre-built reports and dashboards to accelerate data quality, MDM and data governance initiatives and help build a business case for expanding them.
Syniti Knowledge Platform also includes the following governance-related features:
- Collaboration capabilities, including automated workflows that can be used to crowdsource data insights and best practices.
- A standard set of data intelligence dashboards and support for creating custom ones.
- Automated collection of the details about data migrations to ensure they're aligned with an organization's data governance strategy.
16. Talend Data Fabric
Talend Data Fabric combines data integration, data quality and data governance technologies into a single platform, along with an application and API integration module. The platform's data integrity and governance tool, as Talend refers to it, incorporates automated quality checks and other data quality features to help organizations ensure that data is clean and trustworthy. They then can use the tool to manage governance and data stewardship processes.
The software includes a data catalog that can automatically crawl, organize and enrich metadata. A data inventory feature supports metadata management and can identify data silos; it also offers information on how trustworthy data is through the Talend Trust Score, an underlying platform function that calculates at-a-glance scores on the reliability of data sets. Data stewardship capabilities include a team-based workflow for setting priorities and tracking projects, plus a stewardship monitoring function.
Talend Data Fabric's governance tool also has the following features:
- Self-service data preparation and curation that includes the ability to share prepared and curated data sets with other users.
- Data lineage tracing and compliance tracking to support data privacy and regulatory compliance efforts.
- Role-based access control and workflow-based data curation to help protect data from unauthorized use.
Editor's note: While researching the data governance market extensively, TechTarget editors focused on 16 popular tools that integrate data quality, management and governance capabilities in one tool. Our research included market reports, as well as data and analysis from respected research firms, including Capterra, Forrester Research, Gartner and G2. This list is in alphabetical order. TechTarget editors updated the article in 2024.
David Weldon is a business and technology writer in the Boston area who covers topics related to data management, information security, healthcare technology, educational technology and workforce management.