The importance of metadata is rising – and many organizations are beginning (or starting again) to embrace metadata as a means to better understanding their data. This is driven by requirements imposed on organizations such as regulatory compliance, but also on the desire to better understand “big data” to glean intelligence from it using advanced analytics.
In the past, I have blogged about metadata here, such as my adventures with metadata when populating my iPod with digital music. Although I enjoyed writing about musical metadata, I didn’t do it just to amuse myself. There was a point. And that point is that metadata brings meaning and usability to applications that access and use data.
It is important to understand that metadata is applicable across many different disciplines and contexts. But it can be difficult to talk about something that has yet to be defined. In a blog post titled What is Metadata? I discussed various aspects of metadata and taken as a whole, that post can be helpful in terms of defining metadata. But a lot of people will avoid reading a lengthy blog post, instead looking for a pithy, reasonable definition.
Well, usually when folks talk about metadata they roll out that old tried and true definition of metadata being “data about the data.” Even though that is true, it is not really that helpful to someone who is new to the topic. But have you ever tried to come up with a better (short) definition of metadata than “data about data?” Here is my attempt:
Metadata characterizes data. It is used to provide documentation such that data can be understood and more readily consumed by your organization. Metadata answers the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions for users of the data.
Hopefully that is a more helpful definition of metadata.
Anyway, we need to define and classify our data in order to ensure that we are in compliance with the regulations that impact our industry, and therefore, our data… and to exploit the big data at our disposal and turn it into actionable business intelligence. Without accurate and up-to-date metadata there is no hope of assuring that your company is in compliance with all of the laws that impact your data… no hope at all. And the prospects for taking advantage of big data dim significantly…
So, the way I see it, it is time for organizations today to invest in programs to improve their metadata… what do you think?