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Metadata management: no longer an option

Jul 24, 2020 | Meta Data

For the second time, Gartner is devoting a study to metadata management tools. For the firm’s analysts, metadata and its management are the new Holy Grail to finally enhance the value of corporate data thanks to an intimate knowledge of its content.

This value is obtained on the condition that information governance based on the documentation and mapping of the company’s datasets is put in place.

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Metadata management: an interest finally recognized

Metadata has long been the poor relation of IT to data. Until then, there was little interest in exploiting these descriptions of information. Time has done its work. After an initial phase of euphoria generated by the business potential created by big data, enthusiasm is waning due to the difficulty of exploiting the data collected, in addition to existing data. According to studies, only 10 to 15% of the data owned by the company would be used. The rest consists of redundant, trivial and other unknown data (Dark Data). This loss also explains why, on average, a user loses between 30 and 40% of his time in finding and identifying useful data. So much time wasted on value creation!

To compensate for this loss, Gartner and its famous “magic quadrant”, promotes the indispensable role of metadata for sound information governance, even if it means being outrageous: by 2020, 50% of information management will be based on metadata alone.

Metadata: the context for understanding information

To justify this prophecy, it is no doubt useful to recall the role of metadata and the operational modalities of its deployment.

In short, metadata is the information of the information of a file and extensively all the processing rules associated with this information.

Basically, when you export a photo from your digital camera, the metadata includes information about the camera, shooting settings, location, weight, etc., as well as all the processing rules associated with that information. This file can be used by a human, but also by processing software. In order to manage information governance, it should be the same for the data that is exploited by the company, but with a much more detailed description. 

In addition to basic information, metadata should provide the enterprise with a complete mapping to understand its data and associated processing modalities. Concretely, the metadata must make it possible to meet the 5 W + How, or QQOQCCP in good English, namely :

  • Who created this data? Who uses it? Who owns it? Who processes and maintains it?
  • What is the business definition? What are the business rules? How secure is it? What are its standard names within the databases?
  • Where is the data stored? Where does it come from? Where is it used, shared? What regulatory or legal standard does it comply with?
  • Why is this data stored? What is its use and purpose? What is the business leverage to use it?
  • When was this data created and updated? When must it be deleted?
  • How is this data formatted?

In how many databases or sources is it present?The answers to this set of questions bring considerable added value to your data. They become precise, understandable by all the company’s business lines, accessible and easy to share. Or the exact opposite of the most common situation where files roam around shared volumes under as many names as there are users, sometimes stored in databases unknown to the IT department – the advent of shadow-IT, where people simply sleep in a data lake waiting for someone to figure out what to do with them. By implementing data mapping, these situations will only be a bad memory for the benefit of proven benefits.

The benefits of metadata

As you have understood, thanks to metadata, a fine mapping of data allows a contextualization of the information and brings many advantages in the exploitation phase: time saving, compliance management, quality.

The virtues of metadata are multiple, including among others:

  • Access to information by users with no technical background. Data creates value when it is exploited by the business for business purposes. With detailed contextualization, it is easy for everyone to access the information requested using a simple search engine indexing the structure, content, quality and nature of each data.
  • Data quality. Assessing data quality is easier. Once qualified, the data no longer need to be sifted to see if it is useful, timely and relevant. The metadata have done the job.
  • Saves time. By giving a complete and detailed profile to each piece of data, the user’s time is spent on operating, not evaluating, the information.
  • Metadata helps protect sensitive data. The DPMR Regulation imposes a new framework for the use of personal data. The mapping of personal data (DCP) and sensitive data, facilitates the work of protection (encryption, access management…) of these data and the updating of the processing register, requested by the regulator.
  • Easier operation and collaboration. The traceability provided by the metadata provides transparency on the processing carried out. This knowledge gives the user greater confidence when using the data, for example by being assured that the impacts of these actions on the data are under control.
  • Uncovering hidden data. The company often has a reservoir of hidden, and therefore spoiled, data. They can come from mainframes, complex applications or other, which makes their analysis and exploitation almost impossible. Once mapped with metadata, these sets of information come to light and can be exploited by the business lines in the company.

To these benefits, we can also add the IT department’s renewed peace of mind in the face of business and regulatory constraints (GDPR), once the operational implementation of this metadata governance is assured. This is priceless!