In the last post, I discussed why we need metadata management, and some of the common reasons we see projects false starts, and failures.
In this post I will focus on what I feel is the number one inhibitor of successful establishment of a metadata management program. A propensity to focus on the technical and lack of good requirements. Lets talk about business metadata. Since this is where the un-tapped value really lies.
Business Metadata VS Technical Metadata
Business Metadata describes technical computer data and applications in a way that is understandable to the business users. Business Metadata hides technological constraints by mapping business language or glossary to the technical systems, data points, applications, and processes.
Technical metadata includes things such as field definitions, data dictionaries, tasks, transformations, and code. All of which is very useful to the technical staff to search and perform impact analysis to support IT.
The differentiators for Business Metadata is that it provides:
- Search ability
Business Metadata answers the following questions:
- What are the valid values?
- Where did this data come from?
- How do I get more information?
- Who is responsible for the data?
- How is this data calculated?
Business Metadata provides a logical drill down:
- Is this table going to work?
- Show me a list of reports, applications, terms, or rules.
- Can I trust this data?
- How fresh is the data?
- When was the data last updated?
- Is there a single version of the truth?
The Un-tapped Value of Business Metadata (Much of which is in peoples heads)
It is the Business Metadata that we need to focus on. Not the technical so much. That should be automated for the most part.
Example: An ETL developer will want to see the gory details and will use their preferred ETL tool for that. What is needed is a pointer to “what happened” between [a] and [b]. Business users want to know what happened in business language.
Good examples of Business Metadata:
- Business terms.
- Business rules.
- Guiding principles.
- Data governance metrics such as policies, rules, and valid values.
Business Metadata holds the key to the real meaning of data, applications, and processes. In order to be successful we need to know the requirements as they pertain to the pain or need, and then plan or define a road map to begin to capture and manage the metadata.
Most projects I’ve seen are very successful, if they are started with a requirement phase and the focus is on addressing the business needs for information, where we can fill in the blanks.