Do you really know the impact and cost of application changes in your enterprise environment?

Despite the increased recognition and success by many Fortune 1000 companies on the use of managed meta data environments (MME), meta data repositories and meta data, many companies still have not realized the value of this critical enterprise information resource. They continue to believe they have enough understanding of the complex data integration and business rule processing plus insights into ever changing data usage, line of business terminology differences and definitions to use their information without the benefit of meta data. How many critical decisions are made daily on information that looks correct, but due to the lack of knowledge of its origin or semantics is being used incorrectly? This issue is further amplified as information is derived from an increasing number of data sources and as data is aggregated into executive summarizations.

This is the first part of a two-part series examining the impact adoption and usage of an MME can have on an organization's enterprise information management environment. We will look at some of the common misconceptions typically seen at firms that do not consider meta data to be a critical component in their overall enterprise solution and the potential issues they expose their organizations to by not embracing this vital information resource. In the second part of this series, we will look at an impact analysis case study and the advantages meta data espousal provides for answering enterprise-level questions.

Meta data provides context to data, which is any organization's most valuable and underutilized resource. An MME provides context on the systems, applications, interfaces, resources and data that comprise the enterprise information management environment. These information resources are the means for obtaining knowledge from your firm's ever growing data pool, which can be used to make informed, insightful decisions and conclusions.

Time, money and culture are often cited as reasons why meta data initiatives are never started or fully supported. If business is growing and profitable with existing enterprise information systems and the information delivery that they provide, why is there a need for an MME and meta data repository? Why change the status quo? The lack of an MME means the organization is compensating for its lack of availability in other redundant and inefficient ways. At first glance, the cost of developing meta data for a single case may appear small but when totaled across the enterprise, it can have a significant impact on the bottom line in many tangible and intangible ways.

Firms without an enterprise meta data strategy pay the cost of their omissions daily. For example, a decision is made to expand into a new region based partially on reviews of a monthly sales forecast summary that is missing information or has misleading labels that executives believe they understand. Operational meta data from the MME would have alerted the IT or business technology individuals responsible for creation of the monthly sales forecast summary to a potential issue with a data integration process where records have been dropped due to violation of data quality rules. This information might affect or, at a minimum, influence the decision being made if all the data and meta data were being considered.

In another case, a change management request (CMR) is submitted for approval for an existing HR application. Based on a review of the business case, project plan and other information available for the CMR, the plan is approved by management. An MME would have allowed the business sponsor and management to consider not just the impact of the CMR on the HR application and its immediate dependent systems, but also the total enterprise downstream impact resulting from this application upgrade. This would allow a more enterprise-level decision to be made by management that would benefit the entire organization, not just one area.

We will look further at the total impact a single change can have on the enterprise and the insights meta data can provide next month.  

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