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Meta Data and Data Administration:
Meta Data Repository Project Plan: The Orientation Phase

  Column published in DM Review Magazine
January 2001 Issue
  By David Marco

Over the next several months, I will be discussing the key tasks in each of the five fundamental phases of a project plan to build a meta data repository: orientation, feasibility, design, construction and rollout. Some of you may be thinking that these are the same phases used for all of their information technology (IT) projects. That observation is correct. A meta data repository project has the exact same phases as any other IT project, but there are some subtle changes.

The orientation phase is the first phase of the meta data repository's life cycle. The goal is to ensure that key people in the company understand the fundamental concepts of meta data and the value of a meta data repository. If, however, the key people understand meta data and its value and are likely to allocate funds to the project, this phase can be skipped as its objectives have already been met. This situation rarely occurs because most companies are still discovering meta data's essential value. The orientation phase also gives the project manager or project champion the opportunity to sell the meta data concept to the executives in the company. This is almost always necessary before any funding is allocated. This is why the orientation phase needs to occur before the feasibility phase.

If the project manager has a strong background in meta data and repository implementations, then he or she can be a fine instructor for an orientation class. In most situations, however, it is advisable to bring someone in from outside the company to teach the class. This is primarily because a good meta data course requires about 4 to 6 hours of development time for each hour of class time. It usually takes a total of about 20 hours of class time, 4 hours for executive training and 16 hours for detailed developer training to prepare a company for a meta data implementation. The project manager would need between 80 and 120 hours (i.e., 4 to 6 hours x 20) to prepare for the executive and developer courses. This time can be decreased slightly if the development team is familiar with meta data; in this case, eight hours of training should be sufficient. Figure 1 summarizes the training requirements, along with the other tasks in the orientation phase.

Figure 1: Orientation Phase Tasks

Of course, finding a qualified meta data course instructor also takes time. Plan to spend about seven days to find the right instructor for the course, negotiate the statement of work and sign any necessary paperwork. It's very important that the instructor has actual experience building meta data repositories. In addition, it is best if the instructor is a senior individual, since part of the training task is to sell the concept to executive management. Many companies make the mistake of letting a meta data tool vendor conduct these training sessions. In my experience, a trainer who is "borrowed" from the tool vendor makes the course very "tool focused" and far too technical for management. On the other hand, if the person comes from the vendor's marketing department, the talk is likely to be relatively nontechnical, but still very "tool focused." These individuals tend to greatly oversell the ease of building a meta data repository. As we know, any major IT effort takes a good deal of work, and a repository project is no exception.

The subject-matter expert may attend both courses or just developer training. If this individual will be working on a day-to-day basis with the business analyst, then he or she should attend both sessions.

Tune in next month for a discussion of the feasibility phase.

Note: This is adapted from my book, Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository. Complete project plan is available on the accompanying CD- ROM.


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

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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