Business Metadata: Capturing Enterprise Knowledge

William H. Inmon, Bonnie O'Neil and Lowell Fryman

Publisher Morgan Kaufmann
ISBN 978-0-12-373726-7
RRP £29.99
Reviewed by Bob Bater MCLIP MBCS
Score 8 out of 10

Business Metadata Bill Inmon is a well-known name in data warehousing circles, having written eight or more books on the topic. In this latest, which I am almost tempted to describe as 'ground-breaking', he teams up with two co-authors to present a more inclusive view of metadata, recognising that the stuff of data dictionaries, marts and warehouses is only part of the corporate metadata portfolio.

In 312 pages and 15 core chapters, the authors describe how, for those involved in everyday business operations, both 'technical metadata' and 'business metadata' need to be defined and managed.

Technical metadata tends to be designed to describe data elements and their representation in the columns and tables of databases, and as such are for the computer's benefit.

Business metadata are the labels and other descriptive conventions aimed more at human interpretation, such as field names on a screen form for data entry or display, document names and types, or an image description.

The first four chapters introduce business metadata, discuss its value to the business for interpersonal and person-machine communication (including search) and strongly argue for the establishment of a clear business metadata stewardship role.

The six chapters following are devoted to discussion of some of the organisational options and challenges in extracting, consolidating and integrating business metadata and in managing and assuring the quality of the resulting metadata infrastructure.

In the remaining part of the book, the authors bravely elevate the topic out of the backroom and into the boardroom. After an examination of the difficulties of agreeing business semantics and applying them to unstructured information, they lead into a discussion of business rules as metadata and then into compliance issues.

This is a clever way of enticing the reader to venture into the murkier realms of an overview of the relationships between metadata and knowledge management.

While the rest of this book is well-crafted, lucid and illuminating, this final chapter on knowledge management employs so broad a brush that it leaves you wanting a clearer picture.

I personally must applaud the book's potential role as a bridge on which the technical and business metadata communities can approach each other and contemplate their common ground. However, it does leave one with the feeling that the KM community were invited only as an afterthought. Bearing the title of the book in mind, that came as something of a let-down.

Further information: Morgan Kaufmann

June 2008