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We have built a 700GB data warehouse. Now we want to initial a meta data project, what is the first step?

    Ask The Experts published in DMReview.com
February 1, 2000
  By Ross Armstrong and Sid Adelman and David Marco


We have built a 700GB data warehouse. Now we want to initial a meta data project, what is the first step?


Ross Armstrong's Answer: So the easy part is done, now the project gets interesting. Meta data is one of the greatest mysteries of our industry. In my practice, I usually recommend running these projects in parallel because the process of sourcing and defining the transformations, no matter how simple, provide a significant amount of meta data. The first objective is to find out what the roles and responsibilities are of the meta data. Is it only used to define data elements in the warehouse? Is it to record the state of the data in the warehouse (i.e., date of last refresh, number of rows added, etc.)? Is there a legacy system tie-in? Can the business user use meta data to construct a query? Is the meta data to be the single authority on definition, ownership, where-used, rules of integration, etc for the corporation? Due diligence at this level will set the scope and success criteria of the project and saves tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don't get dragged down into a technology or meta-model discussion until you are very sure of the role and responsibilities of the meta data in your environment.

Sid Adelman's Answer: The first step is understanding what meta data you need, who will use it, how it will be used, who is responsible for it and where will it come from.

David Marco's Answer: Start by creating a project scope document. Within this document you will need to define the specific business and technical drivers that your meta data repository project will attain. When identifying business and technical drivers, it is important to highlight exactly how the driver will benefit the company. The job of all senior executives is to make their company more profitable. They generally accomplish this by "reducing expenses" or "increasing revenues." Therefore, each driver should show how it either reduces expenses or increases revenues or both. This is especially important when speaking to high-level executives. Keep in mind that anytime you speak to these executives and you are not talking about reducing expenses or increasing revenues, you will be viewed like the teacher that was in the old Charlie Brown Peanuts cartoons... "Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah." Examples of the most common technical and business drivers include:

  • Reduce future IT development costs and shrink the system development life cycles
  • Drive the business users access to the decision-support information by creating a meta data-driven decision support front-end to help them find the information that they need
  • Reduce turnaround time for production related problems
  • Record and provide access to the business users for historical changes in the decision support system to allow them to make better business decisions


Check out DMReview.com's resource portals for additional related content, white papers, books and other resources.

Ross Armstrong is a consultant and president of R & L Armstrong & Associates specializing in assisting clients in identifying information analysis strategies exploiting data warehousing concepts and technology. He provides hands-on consulting on data integration strategies, project management, data warehouse architecture and implementation of single data marts or multi- terabyte enterprise data warehouses. He can be contacted via e-mail at rossarm@attglobal.net.

Sid Adelman is a principal in Sid Adelman & Associates, an organization specializing in planning and implementing data warehouses, in data warehouse and BI assessments, and in establishing effective data architectures and strategies. He is a regular speaker at DW conferences. Adelman chairs the "Ask the Experts" column on www.dmreview.com. He is a frequent contributor to journals that focus on data warehousing. He co-authored Data Warehouse Project Management and is the principal author on Impossible Data Warehouse Situations with Solutions from the Experts. His new book, Data Strategy, is scheduled for publication this year. He can be reached at 818-783-9634 or sidadelman@aol.com.  Visit his Web site at www.sidadelman.com.

David Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence and is the world's foremost authority on meta data. He is the author of Universal Meta Data Models (Wiley, 2004) and Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide (Wiley, 2000). Marco has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain's Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40."  He is the founder and president of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc., a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing and meta data repository technologies. He may be reached at (866) EWS-1100 or via e-mail at DMarco@EWSolutions.com.

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