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Knowledge: The Essence of Metadata:
Metadata's Annual Plan

online columnist R. Todd Stephens, Ph.D.     Column published in DMReview.com
December 15, 2005
  By R. Todd Stephens, Ph.D.

The end of year brings up a deliverable that every IT organization should produce but rarely does. The annual plan is an extension of the original business case that you put together to allocate funding and resources. Have the environment, customer community or requirements changed since you started your program? The annual plan is a great communication device that can be used in various ways such as:

  • Budget support: Gather the financial support to continue to deliver metadata technology.
  • Education: Inform and convince management to continue to support the project.
  • Lighthouse: A guide, vision and roadmap for the project.
  • Motivation tool: Ensure people see the importance and impact the project has had will continue to have in the future.
  • Executive reminder: Ongoing support from the executives which serves to remind them why they supported the project originally.
  • Ongoing feedback: Provides measurements and ongoing verification of the project.

Ensuring a solid communication plan after the business case will enable the metadata organization to add value over the long term. The annual plan itself consists of five major components: yearly review, major accomplishments, summary plans, architecture reviews and metrics.

Yearly Review

The yearly review provides a synopsis of the prior year events and accomplishments. By providing this information in an annual plan format, managers can publish the value-add for the entire enterprise metadata program. The components of the yearly review include an executive overview, business strategy, staffing plans and budget review.

Executive Overview. The executive overview is a short description of the year in review. The purpose is to disseminate critical information to the information technology community. Here, you simply hit the highlights and provide the data and fact that executives enjoy reading.

Business Strategy. When you define metadata as a business model you begin to understand the full life cycle of information technology. The basics foundation of the business strategy is the establishment of your products, services, solutions, processes and support functions. These elements are grouped together and measured against a maturity model, which in turn provide you a benchmark of progress. Metrics, which include ROI, provide the currency of your business model and you should ensure that the strategy produces value-add for the business itself.

Staffing Plans. Staffing plans describe the additions and subtractions from the core staff. For each employee, contractor and consultant you should provide their level of experience, job grade, role and responsibility within the metadata group. Always add the organizational chart in order to provide a complete view of the operational staffing plan.

Budget Review. For each month of the year, you should provide the expense and capital dollars that you budgeted, projected and the actual expenditures incurred during the year. Each organization will use different terms to describe the financials of their internal business processes. Basically, you should tell them what you planned to spend (budget), what you spent (projected) and what actually got booked on the general ledger (actuals). You may also break out you project and program activities depending how senior management prefers to view the financial information.

Major Accomplishments

Major accomplishments should be rolled up into an executive view, and you should only provide the details on the top five or six. Smaller accomplishments should be placed in the appendix for further review. Accomplishments may be in the form of goals, objectives, releases, metrics and penetration into the customer base. As the manager of the metadata organization, you should always document accomplishments with quantitative and qualitative measurements and results. This will enable better tracking and reporting of accomplishments and challenges across the technology groups. By developing these benchmarks, the organization will be able to use them as a baseline for the future.

Summary Plans (Next Year's Activities)

The primary reason for the annual plan is to layout the plans and objectives for the following year. This summary section may also describe any changes in strategy as well as cover the specific objectives which address the main economic, corporate and architecture concerns of the organization. Summary plans should include another executive overview, upcoming requirements, major deliverables, staffing requirements and critical success factors.

Executive Overview. As with the prior executive overview, you can hit the highlights and follow the advice of FDR: be sincere, be brief and be seated.

Upcoming Requirements. The new year will be bring requirements generated by the customer base or even internal process improvements. The requirement section should be a high level abstract of the actual requirements gathered during a project review or business case development. Internal improvements make take the form of process modifications or quantifiable improvements in the product, service or solution delivery.

Major Deliverables. The major deliverables section will highlight next years additions to the product line, releases, or acquisitions. While the these deliverables have already been described in the requirements section, this section allows you to add timelines, resources levels, funding requests, and integration points with other IT efforts.

Staffing Requirements. If there are open positions or you are looking for an uplift in ongoing resources, the staffing requirements allows you to bring this need to the forefront. In addition, you can provide a breakdown of long-term needs (employee) as well as short term needs (contractors/consultants) for each program area.

Critical Success Factors. Critical success factors (CSFs) are those things which must go right for the organization to achieve its enterprise metadata mission. The advantages of identifying CSFs are that they are simple to understand; they help focus attention on major concerns; they are easy to communicate to coworkers; they are easy to monitor; and they can be used in concert with strategic planning methodologies (Michaels, 2005). Rockart (1986) defined four basic CSF categories:

  • Industry CSFs resulting from specific industry characteristics;
  • Strategy CSFs resulting from the chosen competitive strategy of the business;
  • Environmental CSFs resulting from economic or technological changes; and
  • Temporal CSFs resulting from internal organizational needs and changes.

Architecture Review

The architecture review documents the current data, functional, application and technical architecture within the enterprise environment. Data architecture focuses on the data quality, data management, data content, data usage, modeling, storage and traditional metadata management. Technical architectures review the hardware, software and vendor relationships while the functional architecture documents the business processes. The final architecture is the application architecture which works as a conduit between the functional and technical specifications. In most cases, the core architecture won't change within a single year unless you deployed new technology.

Metric Review

The metrics section provides the dashboard metrics that could include content, usage, engagement, survey, capacity and performance metrics. In September, we defined the main inventory of metrics for the program (http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleId=1037094)

The annual plan will collect and present these metrics to the executive community. The best method for this type of communications is the dashboard which provides a quick, concise and aggregate view of metadata. This information should be presented in an easy to read and quickly digested manner for top executives of a firm. Ideally, we could get this information from a business intelligence (BI) type tool as well as application trending software. Figure 1 provides a sample screen shot of the high-level metrics that help drive home the business value of the repository.

Figure 1

Each repository will have a dashboard card which provides the high-level information such as title, description, type of assets, owner or data steward, contact information, universal resource locator (URL), date of last update and overall status based upon a previously agreed to metrics. All of this information is located in the top section of the dashboard.

The content section breaks down the content as the number of assets as well as the number of associated artifacts. December of last year, we took a snapshot of the content for the repository. Throughout the year, we monitor the growth of the assets which not only includes updates and adds but also subtractions. The standard growth metric does not differentiate between the different modifications; only the final net result is taken into account. Other organizations may want to expand the value of modifications and deletions but the add-only forces the organization to ensure a solid growth plan.

The usage section operates off the metric data within the server logs and trending software. This time we operate off the averages versus final content counts. For example, Figure 1 indicates that the average unique visitors view for 2004 was 8,111 while the 2005 average was 9,715; indicating a 16 percent growth for the year. Other usage metrics include the page views, artifact views and subscriptions to the content.

An overall dashboard could be created for the entire portfolio which summarizes the metrics in total. For the annual plan, these dashboards should be placed in the appendix but summarized in the metric section. The annual plan is a pain in the rear but the value cannot be understated. The effort forces you to plan ahead, be proactive, monitor performance through out the year, develop ROI models, ensure capacity and performance, develop roadmaps and communicate the value-add of enterprise metadata. The reasons for not doing one include; well, I'll let others complete that sentence.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Enterprise Information Management.

R. Todd Stephens, Ph.D. is the director of Meta Data Services Group for the BellSouth Corporation, located in Atlanta, Georgia. He has more than 20 years of experience in information technology and speaks around the world on meta data, data architecture and information technology. Stephens recently earned his Ph.D. in information systems and has more than 70 publications in the academic, professional and patent arena. You can reach him via e-mail at Todd@rtodd.com or to learn more visit http://www.rtodd.com/.

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