Metadata has been on my mind recently in a number of areas. I happen to think that a strong metadata tool is one of the most important component pieces of an overall data strategy, and can deliver a lot of value beyond what people generally think about in terms of metadata. Yes, it’s information about the data that an organization has. But a sophisticated metadata tool that is well implemented can provide value that goes beyond this.
If the right tool is implemented well, what you should get out of it is a central application for the following:
- enterprise business model
- enterprise business terms and definitions
- enterprise business metrics
- enterprise conceptual and logical data models
- enterprise architecture
- technology portfolio management
- security classifications
- compliance reporting
- user self-service and self-discovery
In looking at tools, two most critical items that go beyond the normal capabilities model are 1) the flexibility and adaptability of the tool (how customizable will it be in the your environment, as you want to add new metadata elements or get into new lines of business, etc.) and 2) the ease at which data can be extracted (not just viewed) out of the tool for integration into other systems (via open APIs, CSV files, etc) or imported from another system (via the same) into the tool. As a self-service/self-discovery model for internal users, integration with internal collaboration tools such as sharepoint or wikis is important.
If your organization is starting from scratch, don’t feel overwhelmed about populating the tool. Throughout your organization, there is already tribal knowledge about systems, applications, and databases. Outside of the traditional IT group, the cyber security teams usually have a lot of great information that can also be leveraged to populate the tool once it is implemented.
Lastly, strong processes and policies are needed to ensure that the metadata tool is populated with the right information, by those stewards who have the authority, and that the information is kept current.