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David Loshin

Welcome to my BeyeNETWORK Blog. This is going to be the place for us to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions on all aspects of the information quality and data integration world. I intend this to be a forum for discussing changes in the industry, as well as how external forces influence the way we treat our information asset. The value of the blog will be greatly enhanced by your participation! I intend to introduce controversial topics here, and I fully expect that reader input will "spice it up." Here we will share ideas, vendor and client updates, problems, questions and, most importantly, your reactions. So keep coming back each week to see what is new on our Blog!

About the author >

David is the President of Knowledge Integrity, Inc., a consulting and development company focusing on customized information management solutions including information quality solutions consulting, information quality training and business rules solutions. Loshin is the author of The Practitioner's Guide to Data Quality Improvement, Master Data Management, Enterprise Knowledge Management: The Data Quality Approachand Business Intelligence: The Savvy Manager's Guide. He is a frequent speaker on maximizing the value of information. David can be reached at loshin@knowledge-integrity.com or at (301) 754-6350.

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So far I have seen a number of environments that have paid lip service to metadata as the be-all and end-all to solving all enterprise data issues and solidifying all enterprise data management needs. The reality seems to be that there is a lot of value for metadata in a number of instances although the value proposition for the investment in a full-scale implementation still seems to be lacking somewhat.

Some basic implementations cover data entity definitions, structures, and corresponding data element definitions and structure as well. Yet often the metadata repository is largely uni-directional, acting as a sink for data definitions etc., but having no "active" componentry that feeds back to the consuming applications.

The upshot is there is a need for a continuous investment in maintenance. However, those situations showing the criticality of metadata are those where the systems are changing - modernizations, migrations to ERP, MDM implementations. In essence, these are the places where the current system is being trashed and the data needs to move to a new system.

This is a true conundrum - there is a need to maintain the metadata (and a corresponding investment) while the systems are in use in preparation for their retirement. While the systems are in production, the metadata is not in great demand (since things are typically not going to change too much). This lowers the perceived priority of metadata management.

You do need it when you are changing things. Therefore you are going to not just throw out the existing system, but its reliance on the existing documented metadata. Therefore, the return is limited because you have invested a huge effort in maintaining something you about to retire. But I do need metadata when I am going to migrate data so I know what I have to work with.

And yet, metadata management is an indicator of good data management practices, and is likely to coincide with good system development and maintenance practices, lowering the need for system modernization.

So metadata is needed usually when I don't have it and is not needed when I do have it.

On top of that, the effort to maintain discrete information about the thousands (if not tens of thousands) of data elements used across an organization is gargantuan, which also limits the utility of a metadata resource 9since it will take forever to collect all the information).

The answer has got to be somewhere in between - "just enough metadata" to support existing application needs (for improvements and upgrades to functionality) and enough to support the processes needed to retire the applications and design their replacements.

Anyone have any experiences that can support this view? Post them!

Posted September 15, 2009 7:53 AM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

1 Comment

Hi David,

This is a great post. We had a similar experience at my company. We started going down the path for doing enterprise metadata but ended up getting bogged down because we couldn't keep track of the difference betweem the data elements people cared about and the ones that nobody cared about. We looked at different open source implementations, chose one, but it became too complicated to get metadata into, and worse, even afterwards nobody other than the data stewards ever looked at it.

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