by David Marco

April 2003

Top 10 Questions to Ask/Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Meta Data Repository (Part II)

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; however, these efforts got sidetracked as the meta data was never rolled out 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 meets with no success. Once you have built your repository, it is vital that the information be EASILY available to anyone with the appropriate security clearance.
Needless to say, 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
All too often companies will want the meta data integration tool vendor to manage and implement their repository project. 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 a lot 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 retained to initially 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
All too often companies fail to realize the amount of work it takes 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 cooperation will be needed from multiple IT (information technology) and business teams to support 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 for following these standards far too complex and tedious. When this situation occurs, the meta data repository team becomes viewed as a bottleneck to the data warehousing development process. At this point, it is usually a matter of time before the meta data repository team is disbanded. To prevent this situation from occurring, make sure to keep all processes and procedures simple and easy to follow. In addition, keep the amount of time needed to complete them to a minimum 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 (enterprise resource planning) 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 that 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, methodical, and do not cut corners you will be very successful.