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Hidden Value in Hidden Data

by Andrew White  |  June 10, 2013  |  2 Comments

My friend and colleague, Michael Blechar retired from Gartner in March of this year.  It was both sad and rewarding to see Michael get to do more of what he wants.  I had the pleasure of working with him for several years, and most recently on a concept he pushed, that we ended up calling Enterprise Metadata Management (EMM).  See You Can’t Get to EIM From MDM Without EMM.  EMM is an attempt to call out several things:

  •  There is a need to focus on a discipline in support of EIM that seeks to increase the re use (and hence value) of information assets between information initiatives.
  • There are many other uses of metadata and its management within an IM initiative – this is not EMM.  These are specific to each IM initiative and are called metadata management.
  • EMM helps link the metadata management elements of these individual efforts into a unified discipline

Thus users can re use and re purpose tools and skills, but need to add a specific focus on the discipline necessary to govern information assets in order to improve specific business outcomes.

With Michael’s retirement I had the pleasure of picking up some of his coverage – the discipline side of metadata management and specifically EMM.  With that in mind, I was interested to see the reference to metadata in this weekend’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal ((June 8/9 2913).  The article was titled, Officials Scramble to Assess Leak Damage, and referred to the news that broke the other day about secret government programs to snoop and track data about people that hitherto fore were not known to have been snooped.

The part of the article that interested me concerned how the metadata about an information asset might be more useful and valuable than the content itself.  I am sure that for metadata users this might be obvious.  But for me, a business user of information systems, this is not altogether obvious at all.  In fact it’s almost counter intuitive.

The specific point I found most interesting was buried in a related article “People’s Locations Could be Tracked” that suggested:

“Our courts have consistently recognized that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in this type of metadata information”, and a former Sun Microsystems engineer said, this [metadata] information can be “more revealing than the content of calls”.  In other words, metadata describing location and time can show the movements of the holder of a mobile device.  This is metadata describing a call or signal; but by stringing that data together the actual movements of the device could be determined.  And this is the case even if the calls are about shopping lists for Xmas or for more nefarious plans.

As I said, this is somewhat obvious.  But it is worth remembering some of the more obvious things.  Though I spend my working hours with end users helping them to set up information governance programs to help them increase the positive impact of its governance on business outcomes, some aspect of this is actually focused on the metadata describing the information asset, or things about that asset.  This metadata also needs to be governed – especially when you remember that it has its own intrinsic value.

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Category: dark-data  data-and-analytics-strategies  infonomics  information-as-an-asset  metadata-management  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio


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  1. […] My friend and colleague, Michael Blechar retired from Gartner in March of this year. It was both sad and rewarding to see Michael get to do more of what he wants. I had the pleasure of working with him for several years, and most recently on a…  […]



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