The key to your company's prosperity is how well you gather, retain and disseminate knowledge. To this end, the meta data repository is the key for gathering, retaining and disseminating knowledge. This column is the second installment in a walk-through of the key tasks in each of the five fundamental phases of a project plan to build a meta data repository: orientation, feasibility, design, construction and rollout. This month we will focus on the feasibility phase (see Figure 1).

Feasibility Phase

With the orientation phase completed, your company is ready to move into the feasibility phase. The purpose of the feasibility phase is to ascertain whether or not it is cost beneficial for the company to build a meta data repository. There are two key deliverables that occur during the feasibility phase: the project scope document and the high-level project plan.

Figure 1: Feasibility Phase Tasks

Create Project Scope Document

The project scope document is the first, and possibly the most important, deliverable in the meta data repository project. Unfortunately, it is also the deliverable that many companies fail to produce. The project scope document should define the specific business and technical drivers for the implementation of the meta data repository. It serves as the project's compass and drives all subsequent project development work, thereby eliminating the phenomenon of "project creep." Project creep is a very common cause of project failure; it occurs when the end-user requirements increase or change significantly during the design and development phases. Remember the three "S's" of development: staff, scope and schedule. If you change one, you have to change them all or the quality of the project will suffer.

Creating a project scope document typically requires three to four weeks. If your company sign-off policy calls for multiple signatures and/or there are strong political pressures among the decision-makers, then it may take as many as seven weeks to complete this deliverable. On the other hand, if the company is essentially a dictatorship and requires only a single, high-level signature, the entire project scope document process can be completed in as few as one or two weeks.

Perform High-Level Planning and Estimating

The high-level project plan is the second key deliverable of the feasibility phase. This plan defines the cost of the initial release of the meta data repository project and is vital for cost justifying the design and development phases of the project. Once the project plan is approved by the project champion, the project manager of the meta data repository will have to obtain the resources to staff the plan. It is best when the internal staff of the corporation can fulfill these resource requirements. If the IT department does not have enough resources to meet the demands of the project plan, the project manager has three options. First, the project manager may hire additional IT staff, which could elongate the project time lines. Second, the manager could lengthen the project time lines so that the available staff can meet its requirements. Third, the project manager could hire a consulting vendor to partner with on the project.

Tune in next month, when I will be walking through the design phase.

Note: This column is adapted from my book Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository. The complete project plan is available on the accompanying CD-ROM.

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