Making the case for version control, testing environments and continuous integration when it comes to software development these days is a no brainer. But when it comes to the data behind your important applications, life-cycle management and data flow automation are still new ideas struggling to find their place in the market.

That doesn’t mean, however, that managing your data is an impossible task, devoid of vendors and best practices. But it does mean that most enterprises may not yet fully comprehend what exactly data automation entails.

It can refer to a number of different things, or to all of them together in a single workflow. These include things like data scrubbing to remove sensitive data before use in testing environments. It can also refer to the flow of data from production systems, back to data warehouses, then forward again into analytics data stores. Data automation can even refer to the actual change management of data as it comes into the system and evolves over time.

With such a broad space to cover, the term data automation has a lot of heavy lifting to do when it comes to being advocated for inside your organization. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible struggle, thanks to numerous companies and tools that make managing that data life cycle much easier.

Seb Taveau, senior business leader and technical evangelist at MasterCard for its Open APIs, said that the management of data in the software development life cycle is extremely important for a heavily regulated organization like his.

(Related: Scaling agile in databases)

MasterCard has a particularly interesting set of problems when it comes to the data life cycle. As a credit card company, financial regulations weigh heavily on what types of data MasterCard can collect, let alone share. And yet, the company still has been able to build up a developer network of APIs and services based on their data. This data includes information like purchases made at specific locations, as well as the time stamps associated with them. As a result, using MasterCard APIs, developers can determine which restaurants in their town are the most popular among locals, or when certain businesses are open.

“MasterCard’s been working on taking some of its private APIs and making them public for the past four years,” said Taveau. “The developer program is not new inside MasterCard. This became a key project for MasterCard about a year ago. They wanted to make sure MasterCard was a tech companion, not just a payment network.”