This column is adapted from the book Universal Meta Data Models by David Marco & Michael Jennings, John Wiley & Sons, 2004.
In the first four parts of this series on Allstate's managed meta data environment (MME), I walked through their data stewardship organization, MME solutions overview, meta data sourcing layer and the meta data delivery layer of their MME. In this, the fifth and final installment, I will discuss their MME future directions and return on investment (ROI).
Allstate's Future MME Directions
While many corporations would be happy to rest on their laurels, this is not the case with Allstate, as they are constantly looking to build on their success.
Allstate believes that business rules are another area where they can add value to their enterprise. Rules engines from various vendors are likely to show up in an organization of Allstate's size. Rather than struggle to impose a particular engine on a specific application, Allstate's approach is to define and capture the common meta data around a business rule in which they have interest. Allstate plans to extend their MME to accommodate this additional meta data and provide a central place where users can obtain reliable information on what rules may already exist concerning a specific topic.
ETL Tool Integration
Allstate has recently chosen an enterprise solution for its extract, transform and load (ETL) needs. It is now working on a bidirectional meta data bridge that will push logical model information, codes and values to the ETL tool and pull back transformation meta data. This will be stored centrally in Allstate's MME and passed through the same meta data generation process into their data warehousing environment. In addition, Allstate will also gather load statistics and data quality statistics from actual runs of the ETL tool, and plans to present that information to business users of key reports.
Process definitions and data about processes are other areas where Allstate is considering expansion. Allstate currently has a group that will help their business area document and subsequently improve their current process.
Another group within Allstate is exploring the creation of an enterprise taxonomy, or classification scheme, to be used for searching and general knowledge management of Allstate's Internet and intranet offerings. Allstate's Vincent DiGiannantonio, team leader of Data Administration and Common Name Space, observes, "In general, we listen closely to what our application services people and ultimately our business community is saying. We position ourselves to provide tangible benefits to the community through our work, thus enabling us to continue to add value to the corporation."
Allstate's MME implementation is one of the most advanced meta data management applications in existence. An application of this magnitude requires sufficient upfront investment and sustained organizational support. It has been Allstate management's unwavering support that has allowed this effort to prosper. Linda Hall, director of Enterprise Data Management and Data Warehousing, stated: "You must have an excellent vision, coupled with a strong development team ... We have real strong visionaries, and those visionaries have continued to support us. They continue to set our sights onto the future."
Allstate calculated the cost for the development and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to build and support the MME. Added to that is the cost of all groups responsible for working with the application areas and gathering the meta data to populate the repository. Allstate's company policy prohibits the publication of actual costing numbers; however, like any major IT initiative, it is not a minor investment. Linda Hall mentioned, "Now we get lots of IT reuse, and this shows up in faster and cheaper application development."
While the investment in meta data management is not trivial, Allstate's tremendous success has provided them an equally impressive return through the IT reuse. Doug Stacey commented, "Consider the effort that goes into researching codes for an application. If we did not have the repository as a base for this information, we would be forced to repeat that effort every time a new requirement for the application arises or a set of codes changes. This savings is significant and results in real dollars to our organization." Allstate is currently achieving a reuse factor of 7.5, meaning that for every domain in production mapped to a physical column, it is actually mapped to an average of 7.5 columns. In addition, more than 50 percent of the domains captured in the MME are mapped to more than one physical column.
Allstate has estimated both the costs of the MME and the savings realized through reuse, and feels comfortable stating that it has achieved a significant return on investment. Doug Stacey stated, "Our repository has been invaluable to our company. The ability to manage our systems in a more flexible manner has made the repository pay for itself several times over."
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