In other articles, I have discussed the concepts of the consumer, producer and broker where meta data services acts as the broker between those that produce information and those that use it. The producer is usually the more difficult nut to crack since it's the consumer that actually gets the value from the meta data collection. Obviously, the idea is that producers are also consumers and they will see the benefit from playing both roles. I have also talked at length on the benefits of applying usability principles to the consumer, but what about the producer? What value-add elements could be addressed for the producer of meta data information. The most frequent request is that we make the process of engagement easy, simple and, if possible, automated. That is, of course, a very large order for any group beginning at ground zero; but for organizations that have well-defined processes, the opportunity exists to move toward a simple procurement model. This model is based on a design that is found in just about every grocery store. My local Kroger has three methods of product procurement (excluding illegal purchases). The first is self-service where I simply scan my own products, bag them and pay via cash or credit card with an ATM-like device. The second option is the 10 items or less option; as long as I follow the rules then I can have much of the work done for me. The final area is the full service where everyone in the store will wait on my every desire. OK, it's not really like that, but it would be nice. The meta data services group can also build a procurement model based on these three layers: self-service, guided service and full service.

While it may sound like a pipe dream, ideally we want the customer to own and manage the data. We, inside meta data, don't want to be data stewards, database administrators, data analysts or data modelers. Our job is simple: collect data from the producers, apply information systems best practices and deliver value to the consumer. We perform the other jobs due to the lack of quality and processes within the environment. If we can provide a rich set of tools that the end user can use to mange their own data then we can reduce the expense of the meta data services group. For example, suppose we manage the corporate search engine where meta data is collected and services are provided to the end consumer via Intranet search engine. Ideally, the customer can simply fill out an online form that instructs the spider (a search technology that assembles the meta data) to actually search the new site collection. No manual labor would be required or better stated, no one would need to call our organization. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? If all producers could load their data without our help then why would we need to exist? Remember, long-term success of meta data not only depends on content but usage as well. The more content we can add, by any means necessary, will lead to more utilization of the information. Imagine a full system development life cycle which includes front door activities, requirements, design, procurement and ongoing maintenance where most of the activities are automated. This would be the ideal environment for all parties: consumers, producers and brokers.

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