Portals eNewsletters Web Seminars dataWarehouse.com DM Review Magazine
DM Review | Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics
   Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics Advanced Search

View all Portals

Scheduled Events

White Paper Library
Research Papers

View Job Listings
Post a job


DM Review Home
Current Magazine Issue
Magazine Archives
Online Columnists
Ask the Experts
Industry News
Search DM Review

Buyer's Guide
Industry Events Calendar
Monthly Product Guides
Software Demo Lab
Vendor Listings

About Us
Press Releases
Advertising/Media Kit
Magazine Subscriptions
Editorial Calendar
Contact Us
Customer Service

Meta Data & Data Administration:
Which Comes First The Chicken or the Egg?

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

Which application did most companies build first - the data warehouse or the meta data repository? The obvious answer is the data warehouse. Most Global 2000 companies have a data warehouse (typically several). Conversely, many companies still do not have a meta data repository. A much more interesting question is, "If a company only has time/money/resources to build one of these applications, which should it build first?" Before we address this question, I want to make sure that it is clearly understood that both a meta data repository and a data warehouse are critical applications that almost every company needs to have. Companies that neglect these applications or do not build them properly will be replaced by their competitors that do.

Over the years, I have given more than a hundred keynotes/seminars on data warehousing and meta data. During these talks, I've been asked many times which should be built first. After giving it careful thought, I have come to the conclusion that a corporation's optimal approach is to first build its meta data repository. Let's examine the reasons behind this conclusion.

IT Applications Failure

When a corporation looks to undertake a major information technology (IT) initiative, such as customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), data warehousing or e- commerce, the likelihood of project failure is between 65 and 80 percent, depending on the study cited. This is especially alarming when we consider that these same initiatives traditionally have executive management support and cost many millions of dollars. For example, I have one large client that is planning to roll out a CRM system (e.g., Siebel, Oracle) and an ERP system (e.g., SAP, PeopleSoft) globally in the next four years. Their initial project budget is over $125 million! Consider this: When was that last time that you saw an ERP or CRM initiative delivered on time or on budget?

Enabling All IT Applications

When we examine the causes for project failure, several themes become apparent. First, the projects did not address a definable and measurable business need. This is the number one reason for project failure - data warehouse, CRM, meta data repository or otherwise. As IT professionals, we must always be looking to solve business problems or capture business opportunities. Second, the project teams that fail have a very difficult time understanding the existing IT environment in their companies. This includes custom applications, vendor applications, data elements, entities, data flows, data heritage and data lineage. A meta data repository (and specifically, technical meta data) allows a corporation to decipher its IT environment and reduce the systems development life cycle for ERP, CRM, data warehouse and e- commerce applications.

For most of these systems, and especially for data warehouses, a meta data repository is a critical project enabler and long- term sustainer of the application. However, in their enthusiasm to build a data warehouse, many companies did so at the expense of architecture and quality. They also did so without a meta data repository supporting it. Not surprisingly, most Global 2000 companies will spend the better part of this decade completely rebuilding these systems.

Vendor Tools

As I previously mentioned, most companies have selected their data warehousing tools and built their data warehouses prior to implementing their meta data repository. While data warehousing tools have certainly matured over the years, the companies that selected their data warehousing tools without addressing their meta data repository requirements will most likely have tools that will not support their meta data repository. Conversely, the tools that are used to build the meta data repository typically do not hamper the development of the data warehouse (but an incorrectly built meta data repository does).

Often, a corporation will not want to wait to attain the substantial benefits of a meta data repository and a data warehouse, and will look to build both of these applications in parallel. This approach makes sense as a meta data repository is an absolute necessity for the success of the data warehouse. Data warehouses and the tools that build them typically provide some of the most valuable meta data for the repository.

The number of companies looking to build a meta data repository is growing more rapidly than ever before. While meta data repository initiatives are certainly not without their fair share of project failures, those companies that have worked hard and methodically in their approach have built repositories that are providing a tremendous competitive advantage.


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.

Solutions Marketplace
Provided by IndustryBrains

Data Validation Tools: FREE Trial
Protect against fraud, waste and excess marketing costs by cleaning your customer database of inaccurate, incomplete or undeliverable addresses. Add on phone check, name parsing and geo-coding as needed. FREE trial of Data Quality dev tools here.

Speed Databases 2500% - World's Fastest Storage
Faster databases support more concurrent users and handle more simultaneous transactions. Register for FREE whitepaper, Increase Application Performance With Solid State Disk. Texas Memory Systems - makers of the World's Fastest Storage

Manage Data Center from Virtually Anywhere!
Learn how SecureLinx remote IT management products can quickly and easily give you the ability to securely manage data center equipment (servers, switches, routers, telecom equipment) from anywhere, at any time... even if the network is down.

Design Databases with ER/Studio: Free Trial
ER/Studio delivers next-generation data modeling. Multiple, distinct physical models based on a single logical model give you the tools you need to manage complex database environments and critical metadata in an intuitive user interface.

Free EII Buyer's Guide
Understand EII - Trends. Tech. Apps. Calculate ROI. Download Now.

Click here to advertise in this space

View Full Issue View Full Magazine Issue
E-mail This Column E-Mail This Column
Printer Friendly Version Printer-Friendly Version
Related Content Related Content
Request Reprints Request Reprints
Site Map Terms of Use Privacy Policy
SourceMedia (c) 2006 DM Review and SourceMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
SourceMedia is an Investcorp company.
Use, duplication, or sale of this service, or data contained herein, is strictly prohibited.