Contextualizing information resources and data collection within your business is impossible without a solid grasp on metadata management. Metadata can be understood as the data that explains data—the descriptive facts that make it possible to understand, track, and organize information resources within an enterprise. Metadata management enables businesses to meet regulatory compliance standards, and allows leaders to make informed decisions based on real-time business insights.
Why is it important to develop a profound contextual understanding of the data flowing through your organization? Well, to answer the question with a question, what good is information in a vacuum? Isolated data, without a resource like metadata situating it within a contextual framework, is simply meaningless. Imagine a sheet of paper appeared on your desk, printed with a list of dollar amounts and a few words in a list. Would you be able to decipher their meaning?
Unless you specifically asked for that information, say from a coworker or colleague, you’d hardly be able to decipher any of it. But if that information were delivered to you in person by the colleague who composed it, perhaps with some comments to describe what the data was for, you would be able to glean enough of a contextual background to understand the numbers and words.
Metadata works just this way. Keeping tabs on your metadata supports crucial business functions, regardless of whether your priority is providing superior customer service, growing your business model, or reducing your operating budget.
A powerful data governance practice will leave you with a clear view on where data is located, where it originated, who has accessed or amended it, and how that data changes and flows through your organization at all times.
With this knowledge in place, your program’s value is bolstered by the ability of managers, CIOs, CDOs and decision makers to visualize and trust its data elements. What’s more, those decision makers can inform themselves with business insights derived from robust, accurate, contextualized data sources—arguably the strongest business insights we can access.
Meanwhile, metadata management also gets you prepared for hard-hitting regulatory reconciliation. If your regulatory compliance is in question or you are being audited, would you be able to answer these questions?
- How can we prove our definitions are consistent?
- How do we measure quality and fix any gaps?
- How do we control who can use and access data resources?
Without a metadata management system in place, probably not. You wouldn’t be prepared to answer these questions at all, let alone answer them effectively and with a handle on organization and strategy.
Metadata management aligns your organization for regulatory compliance by allowing you to answer these questions and more. You’ll be able to demonstrate consistency and reliability in your business definitions and data conclusions, assess the quality and integrity of your data stores, identify and remedy gaps in data paths and supply chains, and both control and report on who can access and use the data in your organization.
Compliant? I should say so.
Metadata management is just one component of a complete data governance strategy. In fact, because metadata management provides a single, reliable enterprise view of data, it is the cornerstone of a complete data governance strategy. Once in place, good metadata management practices facilitate effectiveness at every level of your business, from reporting and decision-making to successful auditing and compliance practices.