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Meta Data & Knowledge Management:
Revisiting the Top 10 Meta Data Repository Mistakes, Part 2

  Column published in DM Review Magazine
June 2002 Issue
  By David Marco

This column is the conclusion of a two-part series revisiting the top 10 mistakes to avoid when building a meta data repository. This month we will examine the final five mistakes.

6. The Meta Data Repository is Difficult to Access. A key goal for all meta data repository projects must be to provide open access to the meta data to any and all business and technical users, with minimal to no effort required from them. Many of the earlier meta data repository efforts did a decent job of integrating very valuable meta data, but a poor job of providing the meta data to the users. Users were instead required to go to the "Meta Data Czar" and "beg" for the information that they needed. Needless to say, this technique does not breed success. Once you have built your repository, it is vital that the information be easily available to anyone with the appropriate security clearance.

If nobody is using your meta data repository, it is only a matter of time before funding for your project ends.

7. The Meta Data Tool Vendors Manage Your Project. Often, companies will want the meta data integration tool vendor to manage and implement their repository projects. This is a critical mistake, as these vendors tend to be highly tool-focused - as they rightfully should be. While the meta data integration tool is at the heart of the meta data process, it takes much more than a tool to create a fully functional repository. Your executive management is not interested in a tool. They are interested in solving business problems and capturing business opportunities.

8. Not Having An Experienced Meta Data Project Manager/Architect Leading the Project. An experienced meta data repository project leader keeps the vision of the project in concert with the real-world reality of meta data and data warehousing. In addition, the architecture of the repository must be scalable, robust and maintainable so that it can accommodate the expanding and changing meta data requirements. These fundamental challenges require a highly experienced, senior-level individual.

If a consultant is initially retained to get the project up and running, it is imperative that the person be highly skilled at knowledge transfer and that an in-house employee be assigned to shadow the consultant from the onset of the project.

9. Trivializing the Meta Data Repository Effort. Companies often fail to realize the amount of work required to build a meta data repository. Everything a company needs to do to build a data warehouse also needs to be done to build a meta data repository. These tasks include defining business/technical requirements, data modeling, source system analysis, source data extraction/capture, source data transformation, data cleansing, data loading and end-user access. To increase the likelihood of the project's success, it is best to develop the meta data repository iteratively as opposed to building everything all at once. However, when doing a project iteratively, you must keep the end result in mind at all times, as it will be your guiding wind.

It is also important not to overlook the political challenges of the meta data effort. Politics cause the best-planned meta data and data warehousing projects to go astray. Remember that the project requires the cooperation of multiple IT and business teams in support of the meta data effort.

10. The Meta Data Repository Team Creates Standards None of the Supporting Teams Can Follow. In order to capture much of the key business and technical meta data, the meta data repository team will need to develop standards that the data warehousing team and business users can easily follow. Quite often, the meta data repository team makes the processes and procedures far too complex and tedious. When this is the situation, the meta data repository team is viewed as a bottleneck to the data warehousing development process. At this point, it is usually a matter of time before the team is disbanded. To prevent this from occurring, keep all processes and procedures simple and easy to follow. In addition, minimize the amount of time needed to complete the processes and procedures, and do not neglect to create a feedback loop so that the other teams can let you know how you're doing.

Bonus Tip

Whether you are building a data warehouse or a meta data repository, this task will not be easy. In fact, I do not know of any major IT initiative that is easy. For example, is implementing an ERP package at a global level an easy project? Maybe over the next month we can work a couple of extra hours and just pop one in? Anyone that has worked on an ERP implementation knows the lunacy of this statement. After all, the shortest path between the beginning and ending of a project is rarely a straight one. However, if you work hard, are disciplined and methodical, and do not cut corners, you will be very successful.


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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