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Who Are You?

  • R. Todd Stephens, Ph.D., Stephanos Bacon
  • August 01 2007, 1:00am EDT

It's a simple question: who are you? OK, you have 30 seconds to tell me who you are, what value you bring to the table and why should I invest in your idea of bringing metadata into the organization. If you impress me, I'll give you five minutes of my time next week. Tick, tick, tick ... time's up! I hear crickets chirping in the background. On my notepad, I just noted "C player" next to your name and crossed off the metadata program from the funded project list. Next!

Are You Worth the Investment?

As you return to your office, you think about why you were not prepared to answer that question. You ask yourself why you didn't have your metadata roadmap ready to present. Oh, you don't have a metadata roadmap. No problem; when you get back to your computer, you could email your annual plan to the executive. Don't tell me you don't have an annual plan either. How are you going to communicate the importance of managing metadata? Did you think you would get a request like this with several weeks of lead time? It doesn't work that way. You never know when this type of information will be asked of you, so you had better get started today. I wish I had the time and space to walk through the entire portfolio for a roadmap and the annual plan. This column will address only a single topic.

Metadata Vision

In order to answer my question, you need to understand your vision and value statement. No, not the worthless corporate speak that is never used by anyone. You know what I am referring to: "We will hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and ethical behavior ... to achieve sufficient profit ... maximize its growth potential ... to provide products of the highest quality." The values I am talking about are at the core concept of why you exist.

An army cook was asked if he was in charge of serving the troops food. He responded with a passionate, "No. If I were in the business of feeding troops, then I wouldn't care how the food was served. I wouldn't care how it looked, how clean the mess hall is or how the food tasted. I would not send my cooks to culinary school nor would soldiers drive 100 miles just to eat here. No, we are not in the business of feeding soldiers; we are in the morale business. Camp Victory is home to the Pegasus Dining Facility, which also sports a short-order grill, salad, pizza, sandwich and ice cream bars." One soldier remarked, "Pegasus Dining is the one place where I feel that I am back home."

Value Statement

What's your metadata vision? If it mentions anything about repositories, data movement or taxonomies, then you have missed the point of a value statement. You are in the education business. Yes, you build repositories, move data around and build classification structures for information representation. All of these activities simply support your core purpose of education and fostering understanding of the technology environment.

But wait, you say, if we can automate the data movement or use metadata to control the production process, then that's not education; right? In his book Disruption and Beyond Disruption, Jean-Marie Dru stated the following: "Apple opposes, IBM solves, Nike exhorts, Virgin enlightens, Sony dreams, Benetton protests." So does that mean "metadata educates"? When I only have 30 seconds to answer the question of who I am, then yes. I am in the education business where I bring together technologies, processes and people in order to deliver a sustainable advantage to the business. In those 30 seconds, I need to convince the executive that I am something special, something worth investing in and something with a track record of success. Make no mistake about it - he isn't investing in metadata; he is investing in you. No, I don't think that you can get away with answering the "who are you" question by replying that you are in the education business. However, it does allow you to follow up with facts, stories and programs that support that claim.


  1. Jean-Marie Dru. Disruption and Beyond Disruption. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishers, 2002.

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