A Metadata Map Story: How We Got Lost When Looking for a Meeting Room

September 1, 2017 by
A Metadata Map Story: How We Got Lost When Looking for a Meeting Room

You may think that I have gone crazy after reading the title above or hope that our blog is finally becoming a much funnier place. But no, I am not crazy and this is not a funny story. [LONG READ]

A Metadata Map Story: How We Got Lost When Looking for a Meeting Room

You may think that I have gone crazy after reading the title above or hope that our blog is finally becoming a much funnier place. But no, I am not crazy and this is not a funny story. [LONG READ]

It is, surprisingly, a metadata story. A few months ago, when visiting one of our most important and hottest prospects, we arrived at the building (a super large finance company with a huge office), signed in and passed through security, called our main contact there, shook hands with him, and entered their private office space with thousands of work desks and chairs, plus many restrooms, kitchens, paintings, and also meeting rooms.

The Ghost of Blueberry Past

A very important meeting was ahead of us, with the main business sponsor who had significant influence over the MANTA purchasing process. Our main agenda was to discuss business cases involving metadata and the role of Manta Flow. So we followed our guide and I asked where we were going. “The blueberry meeting room”, he replied. We stopped several times, checking our current position on the map and trying to figure out where to go next. (It is a really super large office space.) After 10 minutes, we finally got very close, at least according to the map. Our meeting room should have been, as we read it on the map, straight and to the left. But it was not! We ran all over the place, looking around every corner, checking the name printed on every meeting room door, but nothing. We were lost.

Fortunately, there was a big group of people working in the area, so we asked those closest to us. Several guys stood up and started to chat with us about where that room could be. Some of them started to search for the room for us. And luckily, there was one smart and knowledgeable woman who actually knew the blueberry meeting room very well and directed us to it. In 20 seconds, we were there with the business sponsor, although we were a few minutes late. Uffff.

That’s a Suggestive Question, Sir!

Our gal runs a big group, a business, and BI analysts who work with data every single day – they do impact and what-if analyses for the initial phase of every data-related project in the organization. They also do plenty of ad-hoc analyses whenever something goes wrong. You know, to answer those tricky management questions like:

“How did it happen that we didn’t approve this great guy for a loan five months ago?”

or

“Tell me if there is any way a user with limited access can see any reports or run any ad-hoc queries on sensitive and protected data that should be invisible to her?”

And I knew that they had very bad documentation of the environment, non-existing or obsolete (which is even worse) as do many organizations out there, most of it in Excel sheets that were manually created for compliance reasons and uploaded to the Sharepoint portal. And luckily for us, they had recently started a data governance project with only one goal – to implement Informatica Metadata Manager and build a business glossary and an information catalog with a data lineage solution in it. It seemed to be a perfect time for us with our unique ability to populate IMM with detailed metadata extracted from various types of programming code (Oracle, Teradata, and Microsoft SQL in this particular environment).

Just Be Honest with Yourself: Your Map Is Bad

So I started my pitch about the importance of metadata for every organization, how critical it is to cover the environment end-to-end, and also the serious limitations IMM has regarding programming code, which is widely used there to move and transform data and to implement business logic. But things went wrong. Our business sponsor was very resistant to believe the story, being pretty OK with what they have now as a metadata portal. (Tell me, how anyone can call Sharepoint with several manually created and rarely updated Excel sheets, a metadata portal? I don’t understand!) She asked us repeatedly to show her precisely how we can increase their efficiency. And she was not satisfied with my answers based on our results with other clients. I was lost for the second time that day.

And as I desperately tried to convince her, I told her the story about how we get lost and mixed it with our favorite “metadata like a map, programming code like a tricky road” comparison. “It is great that you even have a map”, I told her. “This map helped us to quickly get very close to the room and saved us a lot of time. But even when we were only 40 meters from our target, we spent another 10 minutes, the very same amount of time needed to walk all the way from the front desk to that place, looking for our room. Only because your great map was not good enough for the last complex and chaotic 5% of our trip. And what is even worse, others had to help us, so we wasted not only our time, but also theirs. So this missing piece of the map led to multiple times increased effort and decreased efficiency. And now think about what happens if your metadata map is not complete from 40% to 50%, which is the portion of logic you have hidden here inside various kinds of programming code invisible to IMM. Do you really want to ignore it? Or do you really want to track it and maintain it manually?”

And that was it! We got her. The rest of our meeting was much nicer and smoother. Later, when we left, I realized once again how important a good story is in our business. And understandability, urgency and relevance for the customer are what make any story a great one.

And what happened next? We haven’t won anything yet, it is still an open lead, but now nobody has doubts about MANTA. They are struggling with IMM a little bit. So we are waiting and trying to assist them as much as possible, even with technologies that are not ours. Because in the end it does not matter if we load our metadata into IMM or any other solution out there. As long as there is any programming code there, we are needed.

This article was originally published on Tomas Kratky’s LinkedIn Pulse.

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