Metadata, in simple terms, is data about data – it tells the user where and how data is stored within an organisation. As such, it makes complete sense that data management professionals are eager about metadata management these days. With the constant evolution of data in the information age, accurate metadata management can elevate your business to the next level.
Metadata management refers to the proper handling of all the metadata present. A good metadata management strategy enables those in charge to get the necessary contexts to properly understand and link different sets and types of data. This streamlines the daily processes within a company and has widespread benefits.
Meeting Challenges Right From the Beginning
While the benefits of a proper metadata management strategy are abundant, data specialists might find it difficult to get backing for their project. Some of the most common obstacles when creating an effective metadata management strategy are:
- Convincing the upper management to invest in metadata management.
- Gaining resources for the project when said resources are already spread thin among different departments.
- Gathering members from different teams to coordinate on providing information.
- Data specialists and scientists are already preoccupied with several projects. This is common in businesses who cannot staff every project individually.
These problems can hinder the creation of a proper metadata management strategy. Especially since metadata management strategies take time to get implemented effectively within any company. The return on investment (ROI) is far easier to show for some projects compared to metadata management, which has some short-term benefits, but it’s full effects become prominent cumulatively over the years.
A data management tool can be useful for most organisations as it takes a majority of the brunt of staffing and intensive operations away from the company and into the hands of a competent external firm. Automated metadata management also saves a ton of time as it provides high-quality metadata with constant monitoring and alerting.
Laying the Right Metadata Management Foundation
Apart from a good data management tool, it is vital that the chosen metadata strategy becomes part of the day-to-day operations of different teams on a long-term basis. For this to happen, a good foundation is necessary; so here are some key guidelines to begin with:
- Design and implementation – The architects of the metadata management strategy must make sure that the strategy or tool is tailored to fit the unique needs of the organisation. This means that they need to ensure that the metadata that is collected and organised is what is necessary for that business. The tool or strategy must be built in a way that future business needs can also be accommodated – this can be done by consulting an external firm, who then reports to the company’s Chief Data Officer (CDO).
- Understanding the types of metadata – There are three types of metadata – physical, logical, and conceptual. Physical refers to the location of the data, logical refers to the data lineage, and conceptual refers to the meaning of the data from a business perspective. The first two types of metadata are technical in nature and thus, can be collected automatically once a proper management strategy or tool is in place, but conceptual metadata requires a collaborative effort between the different team members and data specialists.
- Collecting metadata – In the initial phases of a metadata management strategy, metadata needs to be collected from the various departments in the company. This can be done through one-on-one meetings, group gatherings or workshops. While these meetings will only be necessary at the beginning, for physical and logical metadata, conceptual metadata will require continuous input from different team members.
- Management – For any strategy or tool to work, there needs to be a project manager who is overseeing operations to ensure there are no hitches. In this case, the project manager needs to be a data specialist who is an expert in metadata and all its facets. This manager is in charge of making sure that the right data is being collected and maintained, according to a pre-determined schedule. This role is crucial for the proper implementation of the tool or strategy throughout the company.
Getting the Team On-Board
A metadata management strategy has substantial operational and financial benefits. This, however, might not be evident for every department in a company, especially since they have their own tasks to focus on. In some cases, different departments might be eager to participate in the construction and implementation of a strategy. But this is not the case very often.
In cases where there is a lack of co-operation between different departments and data specialists, upper management must step in and start with bringing exposure to metadata work and its benefits in making better use of operational data. If actionable information and insights are not enough to convince employees, then short or long term incentives need to be created.
A good metadata management strategy is the right combination of a good metadata management tool and the efficient collaboration between the departments in a business. Once implemented, employees can easily find out where certain data came from, its evolution to its current status, and its link to other data. This will help identify information, which can boost their efforts in reaching targets, regardless of the department they are from.