Metadata management is the administration of data that describes other data. It involves establishing policies and processes that ensure information can be integrated, accessed, shared, linked, analyzed and maintained to best effect across the organization.
Metadata is generated whenever data is created, acquired, added to, deleted from, or updated. For example, document metadata in Microsoft Word includes the file size, date of document creation, the name(s) of the author and most recent modifier, the dates of any changes and the total edit time. Further metadata can be added, including title, tags and comments.
The goal of metadata management is to make it easier for a person or program to locate a specific data asset. This requires designing a metadata repository, populating the repository and making it easy to use information in the repository.
Benefits of metadata management include:
- Consistency of definitions of metadata so that terminology variations don't cause data retrieval problems.
- Less redundancy of effort and greater consistency across multiple instances of data because data can be reused appropriately.
- Maintenance of information across the organization that is not dependent on a particular employee's knowledge.
- Greater efficiency, leading to faster product and project delivery.
When an organization is establishing policies to manage metadata, it is important for managers to gather together and agree upon a common data vocabulary and taxonomy. Intra-department variations should be addressed, and custom usages eliminated or replaced.
In some cases, the organization may choose to use a metadata repository that comes with a toolset already in use. For instance, ETL vendors offer metadata management applications for cataloging and managing ETL metadata, as well as metadata associated with source and target applications.