In part one of this series, I discussed the importance of managing data as a corporate asset and the vital role that metadata management plays. In the next several columns, I will present several common business challenges and how a managed metadata environment (MME) addresses them.

CIO is commonly defined as chief information officer; however, there is another possible meaning for this acronym: career is over. One of the chief reasons for this is needless IT redundancy that too few CIOs are willing or able to fix.

There are several CIO surveys conducted annually. These surveys generally ask: What are your top concerns for the upcoming year? Data integration is usually high on the list. Data integration focuses on two key areas: integration of data across disparate systems for enterprise applications and removal of IT redundancies.

Some IT redundancy is a good thing. For example, during a power outage when one of your data centers is not operational, you need a backup. The discussion here focuses on needless IT redundancy, or IT redundancy that only exists because of insufficient management of the IT systems. I was working with a Midwestern insurance company that, over a four-year span, had initiated various decision support efforts. After this four-year period, they took the time to map out the flow of data from their operational systems to their data staging areas and finally to their data mart structures. What they discovered is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Does Your IT Architecture Look Like This?

The typical response to Figure 1 is, "Where did you get a copy of our IT architecture?" If you work at a Global 2000 company or any large government entity, Figure 1 represents a simplified version of your IT architecture, which is actually no architecture at all. Poor architecture creates a litany of problems, including redundant applications, processes and data; needless IT rework; and redundant hardware and software.

Redundant Applications, Processes and Data

It has been my experience that needlessly duplicated data is running rampant throughout organizations. One large banking client asked me to analyze its IT environment. During this analysis, I discovered a tremendous amount of application and data redundancy. The company had more than 700 unique applications. During the analysis, I compared this client to a bank more than twice its size; however, this larger bank has a world-class MME and uses it to properly manage their systems. As a result, they have less than 250 unique applications. Clearly, the bank with more than 700 applications has a great deal of redundancy. The bank with the world-class MME was also 14 times more profitable than the one maintaining more than 700 applications. The less-profitable bank would become much more profitable if it removed its redundancy.

A typical large organization has 60 to 75 percent needless data redundancy. Some organizations have hundreds of independent data mart applications spread throughout the company. Each one of these data marts is duplicating the extract, transform and load (ETL) processes typically done centrally in a data warehouse. This greatly increases the amount of support staff required to maintain the data warehousing system, and these tasks are the largest and most costly data warehousing activities. Each data mart also copies the data, requiring even more IT resources. It is easy to see why IT budgets are straining under the weight of all this needless redundancy.

Fortunately, large organizations are beginning to realize that they can't continue to operate in this manner. They are targeting MME technology to assist them in identifying and removing existing application and data redundancy. The MME can identify redundant applications through analysis of the data and the application's processes. These same companies are starting IT application integration projects that merge overlapping systems in conjunction with their MME initiatives to ensure that future IT applications do not proliferate redundancy.

Needless IT Rework

Almost all organizations reinvent the IT wheel with every new project. This situation occurs when separate teams build each of the IT systems without an MME. The teams can't leverage each other's standards, processes, knowledge and lessons learned, which results in a great deal of rework and reanalysis. A good MME captures invaluable IT information, including business rules, business processes, attribute definitions, entity definitions and data lineage.

Redundant Hardware and Software

All of this redundant application and IT work generates a great deal of needless hardware and software redundancy, forcing the enterprise to retain skilled employees (usually at great cost) to support each technology. In addition, more money is spent because standardization doesn't occur. Often software, hardware and tools can be licensed at a considerable discount to an enterprise. These economies of scale can provide tremendous cost savings to the organization.

In addition, the hardware and software is not used in an optimal fashion. For example, one client purchases hardware for each individual IT project. As a result, they have many servers running at 25 percent capacity.

Software presents even more problems. One IT project leader responded to the question of what software vendors his company was standardized on with, "All of them!" This leads to the old joke, "What is the most popular form of software on the market? Answer: shelfware!" Shelfware is software that a company purchases and winds up never using, so it just sits on a shelf collecting dust. 

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