An increasing number of our clients are asking, "What is this data?" Sure, the business intelligence (BI) applications they are using are providing data, but they want to feel comfortable with the origin of the data, the business rules that were used to manipulate it and want the context in which the description of the data elements to make sense. In these situations, our clients are asking about the end-user presentation of meta data. Simply defined, meta data is the data definition of data. There are two primary levels of meta data: administrative and end-user layers.

The administrative layer of meta data relates to the application and the database configurations that are stored in entities within a database. While this is an important layer, the end-user layer of meta data is where most of the questions and differences of opinion arise. Figure 1 attempts to define and classify the various levels of end user meta data.

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