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Data Governance Role in Metadata Strategy

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Data Governance and data stewards play an important role in the development and implementation of an organization’s metadata strategy

Data governance is the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity and security of data used in an enterprise.  Organizations benefit from data governance because it ensures data is consistent and trustworthy.

Metadata is data that describes other data.  Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier.  For example, author, title, date created, date modified, and file size are examples of basic document metadata.  Having the ability to filter through that metadata makes it much easier for someone to locate a specific document.

Data is much more stable than process or organization.  Success in developing a data governance program and instantiating that approach requires strong change agents and a set of carefully orchestrated plans.  Sometimes, developing a truly effective data governance program requires some re-engineering of the Information Technology (IT) and business organizations to explain and enforce the collection, management and understanding of the meaning of the data used and stored by the enterprise.

Data Governance and Metadata Strategy

The data governance program is responsible for ensuring that the organization’s policies and practices for managing data as an asset include standards and guidelines for managing the meaning of the data.  Data stewards, who represent the business areas as subject matter experts, are responsible for the data instances (values) and the metadata for that data.  Therefore, it is important that any data governance program include the development and implementation of a metadata strategy.

A metadata strategy can assist in the achievement of the goals of data governance by providing a focus for sharing the data assets of an organization.  As the data governance program offers recognition to the value of data and its components and usage within and throughout the organization, a metadata strategy can provide a map for managing the expanding requirements for information that the business places upon the environment.  A metadata strategy highlights the importance of a central data governance organization that will focus on data quality, integrity and reuse.  Finally, development and implementation of a metadata strategy enables an organization to begin to measure the value of the information assets under their control.  The purchase or development of a metadata storage facility / metadata database can assist the data governance team and the data stewards in the management of metadata for the organization and all its information needs.

Components of a Metadata Strategy

The components of a metadata strategy could include:

  • Organizational meanings of metadata and its role in the organization
  • Business challenges and issues that can be addressed by improved metadata
  • Approach to data governance
  • Data stewardship roles for all main subject areas and key data
  • Metadata usage guidelines
  • Identifying sources of metadata
  • Assessing processes to determine the quality of the metadata sources (absolute, relative, historical, etc.)
  • Methods to consolidate metadata from multiple sources (where applicable)
  • Identifying where metadata will be stored
  • Determining responsibility for proper use, quality control and metadata update procedures
  • Establishing metadata standards and procedures
  • Measuring the use and effectiveness of the metadata by data stewards and others

The Data Governance Committee or Council, comprised of the Data Governance Program Manager, senior business representatives, and lead business data stewards, should be part of the group responsible for developing the metadata strategy.  This team participates in the decisions concerning the requirements in the strategy list above and the level of expected detail for each item.  Frequently, data governance councils use consultants to assist them in the development of a metadata strategy and implementation of the strategy’s components since this is a specialized area in data management.

Enterprise or corporate data models often serve as one of the first discovery areas for metadata management.  The development of data warehouses or data marts is cited as one of the main reasons companies adopt a metadata strategy – to understand the data that is resident in their systems and to make more efficient use of that data as a corporate resource.  With the growth of business intelligence and analytics, the importance of metadata is continues to rise, and the central role of data governance in enterprise data management is becoming more apparent.


The development and implementation of an effective metadata strategy enables a company to address the true information needs of the business community and promulgates the importance of data for the benefit of the company.  Metadata can be called “the foundation” of an organization’s success in realizing the potential value of its data and information, to achieve competitive advantage.


Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D.

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise data management, data governance, data strategy, enterprise data architecture and data warehousing. Dr. Smith is a consultant and educator with over 30 years' experience. Author of numerous articles and Fellow of the Insurance Data Management Association (FIDM), and a Fellow of the Institute for Information Management (IIM), Dr. Smith is also a well-known speaker in her areas of expertise at conferences and symposia.

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