Last month, I emphasized the need to treat metadata management as a business process for managing the data assets of the enterprise and avoid the technical emphasis that metadata typically receives. Within the six dimensions of the Zachman Framework, I then explored the first two steps of the data lifecycle - planning and acquisition. In this column, I'll address maintenance, dissemination and disposal.

Metadata about Maintenance

Maintenance consists of the activities that are performed to ensure that an asset is protected and kept in good condition so that it can be used by the enterprise.

Examples of the metadata required to answer the six critical questions for the maintenance step follow.

  • What describes the data that is available within the organization and what it means within the stored (application-specific) context.
  • How explains the way in which the data is protected, the processes used to move data from one data store to another and the processes used to ensure that performance expectations are met. The process descriptions include both the processes themselves and the results (e.g., run statistics and audit and control data) of executing the processes.
  • Where provides information on the data stores that contain the data and its physical location.
  • Who defines the data stewardship and maintenance roles and responsibilities for the stored data.
  • When provides information on the currency of the data and on the schedules for the processes that maintain the data.
  • Why provides the business rules for the data within each data store. Because data stores contain subsets of the data represented in the business data model (defined in planning), the business rules may vary from those depicted in the business data model. For example, if "customer" includes prospects, the business data model would show an optional relationship to "product," while a data store for sales could require a mandatory relationship.

Significant expenditures are made maintaining the data asset, and the information about the maintenance activities is essential to ensure that appropriate activities are taking place and value is received for the money spent.

Metadata about Dissemination

Dissemination delivers data and information to the business community. The delivery can be direct, in the form of reports and data files, or it may be indirect, in the form of data access capabilities. In both cases, it's through the dissemination that the business community is in a position to apply the data for business value. Examples of the metadata required to answer the six critical questions for dissemination follow.

  • What is a critical metadata component in that it provides information on the data that is available and the analytic capabilities that can be supported with the data.
  • How describes the way business users can get to and navigate through the data.
  • Where provides information on the location of the data access capabilities and on the location of the data stores that can be accessed.
  • Who defines the security roles for the business user groups and the data views that each group can access.
  • When provides data currency information so that the business users can determine if the data is sufficiently timely to meet their business needs.
  • Why explains the business value of the data access capabilities that are being provided.

Metadata about dissemination helps the business users leverage capabilities developed by others and develop their own analytic applications to maximize the benefits the organization receives from its data assets.

Metadata about Disposal

Disposal is an often ignored part of the data lifecycle. This step addresses the deliberate erasure of data (that can be legally deleted). Examples of the metadata required to answer the six critical questions for the disposal step follow.

  • What identifies the data elements and records that should be eradicated.
  • How describes the business processes for removing the data and for ensuring that the processes executed properly.
  • Where identifies all of the locations that are impacted by the data disposal processes.
  • Who establishes the roles and responsibilities for establishing the disposal rules and for actually deleting the data.
  • When provides information on when the data should be erased and age-dependent criteria for data disposal.
  • Why provides information on the reasons that the data should be erased.

Metadata management is really about managing information about the data asset of the enterprise. The development of the metadata management capabilities, therefore, should follow traditional approaches for systems development. The Zachman Framework has proven to be a valuable tool during the development process. This column completes the description of the metadata needed for the lifecycle steps of the data asset.  

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