Glossary Alternatives: Collibra & Intralign

Mark Atkins, Intraversed

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 6 MINUTES

If you’re searching for an alternative to Collibra’s glossary tool, it can seem like the only choices you have are those offered by the other big players in data management software.

But that’s not the case. There are other options. And choosing the right option can be daunting, especially when high priced software comes with fancy sales presentations and persuasive sales people.

So it’s time to take a solid look at the facts and weigh up whether this Collibra competitor may be what your organisation needs.

A viable Collibra alternative for your business glossary

Starting with data or starting with information

Collibra is a world leading data management software company. Their product is a powerful tool that can do some amazing things in the data management space. If your business already owns a Collibra product, it may seem like an obvious choice to use their glossary feature. After all, you might like their technical metadata capability and it seems logical to link it to your data.

In contrast, The Intralign Encyclopaedia is a platform that offers a glossary as the central component to a broader information management environment designed to underpin your business information governance.

Core System

Collibra Intralign
Scope: Software & platform education Software, platform and soft-skill education, full ecosystem support.
Focus: Data management and governance, business glossary, and workflow Business term definition, definition standard and governance, and key information artefact governance
Primary audience: Technical staff / data stewards All staff / business stakeholders, senior management
Purpose of glossary: To support data management. Seeks to match business terms to existing data elements To support business functions. Seeks to define business information needs and improve communication, then provides organisational capability for information resource management.
Glossary’s role in the tool: A feature supporting the central Data Management tools/components The central component of the platform that functions as the basis for the information management & governance components

Summary

Because Collibra begins from a data management perspective, its glossary management presents a learning barrier for the business community due to its complexity (an unavoidable reality with data management). Alternatively, because Intralign approaches the glossary from an information management perspective, such complexity doesn’t exist within the platform, but rather is accounted for through the management of artefacts that describe the often complicated relationships between terms and data.

If it’s your DM activity that has led you to seek a glossary, using a DM tool’s glossary to link data directly to business terms can seem logical and easy. And perhaps that’s all you need. But there are several reasons why we believe this thinking is flawed, most pressingly that this approach misses the true value a glossary can provide for a business, when created and maintained in the right way. We’ve covered this and other reasons why your DM tool’s glossary isn’t always a good decision in a recent blog – read it here.

We believe a glossary is primarily for business use, offering a single source of truth, where the business staff have defined their terms, can access and manage those terms, and which allows the business to drive and manage the associated governance (ownership & accountability) for the real-world processes and metrics represented by the business terms.

Functionality

Collibra Intralign
Options for populating the glossary: Imports definitions from existing glossaries No direct imports from existing glossaries. Imports can transfer inadequate definitions into the new glossary, undermining usefulness.
Definition approval: Basic collaborative approval workflows included. Configurable via Activiti 3rd party software. Collaborative approval workflows included. Term definitions are written to the Intralign structure, allowing easy identification of inadequate phrases & faster improvement.
Multiple definitions for same term: Yes, via inclusion of multiple glossaries. As terms can have differing meanings across the organisation, Collibra allow these meanings to co-exist within their glossary, leaving data managers and IT staff to ensure the correct meaning is understood in communication. No. A single glossary eliminates duplicates & conflicting definitions enforcing a single, organisation-wide meaning for each term. A set of ‘libraries’ align accountability to functional areas, allowing responsibility to be assigned easily. Methods for qualifying similar terms included.
Bulk imports & document term search: Yes, from existing glossaries and other sources (lexicons, thesauri, metadata repositories). Also has functionality to read unstructured data and pull business terms from it. No. Existing glossaries are being superseded. Definitions must be aligned across the organisation & written to the Intralign standard. Implementation workshops with consultants review existing definitions for key terms as a starting point for new definition writing.
Assists in writing definitions: No Built in definition writing standard to ensure clear & succinct, quality definitions. Links to specific dictionary definitions to clarify generic words with multiple potential meanings.

Summary

While Collibra’s glossary brings some solid functionality with it, it too easily allows the importation of poorly written definitions, duplicates, entries with conflicting definitions and may other quality issues, undermining the usability and reliability of your glossary. It also fails to assist staff in writing better definitions, which is essential to ensuring effective usability.

A glossary can deliver ROI and solid business assurance (we’ve written about that here) but only when the definitions are high quality. In contrast to Collibra, Intralign provides a best-practice definition structure that ensures quality and clarity, improving the glossary’s ability to deliver all of its potential to the business.

Governance

Collibra Intralign
Governance Structures Roles and permissions are customisable with tool setup. Preconfigured privilege levels that carry permissions and allow roles to be assigned, following best-practice standards.
Customisation Customisation requires extra cost and time. Consultants work with clients to establish real-world governance hierarchies to fulfil best practice structures within the platform.
Governance assistance Professional services can provide assistance with a focus of tool configuration. Intralign provides governance frameworks and education for governance of terms, issues management, cultural needs and governance teams. Some included in subscription, some at extra fixed cost.
Notification of tasks and responsibilities Uses client email system. In-platform notifications. Regular governance reports, outlining progress and outstanding tasks, included as standard.

Summary

While both options have given due consideration to the implementation and requirements of governance over business terms and glossaries, the approach remains very different. Collibra has built a data management tool and overlayed governance onto it, with high configurability. This tailoring may be what is needed by some clients, but it will add complexity and cost, and may result in poorer quality governance overall. Intralign was designed with governance as its starting layer, so best practice approaches are native and enforced. This may require clients to adjust real-world governance structures, but ensures regulatory requirements are met and governance is not overly complex.

Cost and ROI

Collibra Intralign
Glossary cost included in core component cost? Yes. Additional licences needed for external system database access. Yes – Intralign’s central component is its glossary, and other components are accessible at various levels.
Pay per user or site Per user licence for editing and collaboration, with read-only access for other site users. Site (unlimited) access for collaboration. APIs provide simplified read-only access, e.g. for an intranet page or BI Tool integration.
Support included Technical Support included, implementation support additional. Technical support at all levels is included. Also, soft-skill (ecosystem) support and reporting is included for definition writing and governance management.
Usage and governance reporting to ensure quality Built-in configurable dashboard. Simple built in dashboard with API support for external visualisation tools. In addition, Intralign is designed as an information governance hub, providing regular customisable reports to governance teams for visibility over glossary development, definition quality, resource usage, and community engagement.

Summary

Because Intralign was designed with information governance from the ground up, it’s built to allow wide-spread usage across your organisation. It offers governance teams a central hub to support information management throughout the organisation and senior teams can stay informed about information quality, reliability and issues resolution. While Collibra’s glossary is seen simply as a support tool for DM activity, Intralign promotes the potential for ROI within seven months of implementation, making it a business support platform that can justify investment.

Final Words

While Collibra is undoubtedly an unparalleled player in the data management field and has many advocates who vouch for its power and success in that space, the glossary lacks the focus and functionality needed by business users to truly deliver the quality and reliability of information assets.

You can find out more about Collibra here: www.collibra.com

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Mark Atkins, Intraversed

Mark Atkins

Mark is a co-founder & Chief Development Officer at Intraversed, helping organisations establish the Intralign Ecosystem, an award winning information management & governance methodology, to achieve reliable information, stable tech spend & greater IT project success.

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