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Metadata Management

If metadata is the “design documentation” of information products, it may also be the most important, proprietary asset of a firm that makes information products. More and more firms today are data driven organizations whose products or services consist of data. In financial services, for example, banking, insurance, and securities processing are all information products. Vaults have been replaced with servers, tellers replaced with online services, and traders replaced with electronic matching networks.

In much the same way that Coca-Cola values and guards their formula, Intel their chip designs and Microsoft their source code, services firms should treat their metadata as an asset to be guarded. Too often, however, important components of metadata are only informally maintained (if at all), and the real understanding of how things work walks out the door every night.

What’s so hard about metadata?
Consider for a moment, you wouldn't try to build and deliver a computer without very specific information about each of the components that went into it. You wouldn’t try to deliver a circuit board without detailed, accurate schematics. And you wouldn’t try to install a DVR without a wiring diagram of how to connect all the pieces. However, at firms where data is the raw material and the primary product is “information,” this is often the reality: information products have been built without excellent documentation about how they get assembled and delivered.

To complicate matters, the move to data warehouses to manage massive amounts of information has created a new level of complexity in keeping track of where the data comes from and where it goes. The architectural separation of data sources from data destinations supports scalability and flexibility. The downside, however, is traceability and maintainability of the data paths.

What is MIDIOR’s definition of metadata? We view metadata as: “the bill of materials, schematic and wiring diagram for the delivery of information products.” We've adapted our perspective from the manufacturing industry, where managers learned, long ago, that to maintain costs and deliver quality products, they needed to know everything about what went into the product. Quality and cost are integral part of the design and production process, not an afterthought.

We find, that for many organizations, metadata management gets buried at the bottom of the list. The “bill of materials” for the delivery of information products is hard to create, and even more difficult to maintain. Metadata is very much like good old-fashioned documentation in the software development process. The state of the art in software development today is such that code can be developed so much more quickly than documentation therefore, most documentation can be years behind in terms of accuracy. And no programmer is enthusiastic about taking on the task of maintaining accurate documentation.

MIDIOR works with clients to make metadata management a priority, in creating their metadata plan, developing their metadata model or populating the metadata. We know that through effective management and maintenance of metadata, information products can be managed for quality and cost, just as three-dimensional products are managed to roll off the assembly line and be competitive in the marketplace.