The sight of six clowns barreling down the center ring with horns tooting and arms flailing is perhaps my favorite childhood memory of the circus. Inevitably there?s a mishap and they fall out of the car bringing down the house with boisterous laughter. Chaos erupts in the ring as the clowns roll into one slapstick comedy routine after another.
This past week I’ve spent considerable time working with metadata. In my shop, metadata is a hot topic. For years metadata took a backseat to data models in the data modeling community. Metadata was the details that supported the conversation around the data model. As one of my early mentors always reminded me, ?Tom, the model needs to tell the data story to your users.? He was a strong advocate of the visual presentation of data requirements in a diagram to the business and IT. The presentation of metadata in reports was a secondary, less important detail in his conversation.
Today, metadata has moved to the front seat. The data model still remains the primary mechanism that data modelers use to convey the data story to their clients. It?s the details that now transcend that conversation and become part of a larger conversation. This change is largely due to evolving tools and technologies that make the exchange, visualization and management of metadata more readily available.
Let’s go back to the circus. You can think of metadata as that car full of clowns barreling right at you. Metadata, like the clowns, comes dressed in many different ways with bells and whistles that promise to make it easier to integrate. Packed into that car, they try to grab you and make themselves the center of your attention. Then the car jerks to a stop and off they wander with no apparent mission or direction. So it is with metadata. Many tools can toss out their metadata but leave it up to you to give it direction and meaning within your enterprise.
Data professionals are positioned well to bring organization to this metadata circus. I have yet to find that magic bullet that seamlessly links all of my metadata together and presents a flexible reporting and visualization solution to my clients. I do however have tools that can piece together metadata in a way that satisfies many of my client needs. My world as a data modeler has definitely moved outside the box and expanded into the metadata analyst role.
This week I was putting the finishing touches on a redesign of our homegrown metadata repository to encompass metadata from new sources including legacy data structures. Our new design will expose metadata to a larger audience in the enterprise. Most exciting is the fact that we are building a stronger linkage between business and technical metadata.
I do like the job title of metadata ringmaster. I suspect it just won?t fly in our job family. As my time in the data community has passed, I have found that data professionals do assume roles that are similar to the ringmaster. Much of our work is about orchestrating many sources of data using many tools and very different platforms. We have to hone our talents to speak to different audiences and be relevant.
Life is never dull in today?s data management group. Data is the hub that brings applications to life, and data management professionals are the people who turn data into information. Without our work, metadata chaos would erupt and the house would come down. With our work; as the ringmaster announces with his megaphone, ?Ladies and gentlemen, the show will go on!?
Modeling Global User Community President
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