Managing Meta Data for the Business: Reducing IT Redundancy, Part 2 of 5

By David Marco

In part one of this series I discussed the importance of managing data as a corporate asset and the vital role that meta data management plays. Over the next several months I will present several common business challenges and how a managed meta data environment (MME) addresses them[1].

Reduce IT Redundancy

“CIO” is commonly defined as chief information officer; however, there is another possible meaning for this acronym—career is over. One of the chief reasons for this is that most IT departments are “handcuffed” by needless IT redundancy that too few CIOs are willing and able to fix.

There are several CIO surveys that are conducted annually. These surveys generally ask, “What are your top concerns for the upcoming year?”  Data integration is usually high on the list. Data integration focuses on two key areas:

  • Integration of data across disparate systems for enterprise applications
  • Removal of IT redundancies

Some IT redundancy is a good thing. For example, during a power outage when one of your data centers is not operational, you need a backup. The discussion here focuses on needless IT redundancy, or IT redundancy that only exists because of insufficient management of the IT systems.

I was working with a Midwestern insurance company that, over a 4-year span had initiated various decision support efforts. After this 4-year period, they took the time to map out the flow of data from their operational systems to their data staging areas and finally to their data mart structures. What they discovered is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Typical IT architecture

The typical response to Figure 1 is, “Where did you get a copy of our IT architecture?” If you work at a Global 2000 company or any large government entity, Figure 1 represents a simplified version of your IT architecture, which is actually no architecture at all. Poor architecture creates a litany of problems, including:

  • Redundant applications, processes, and data
  • Needless IT rework
  • Redundant hardware and software

The following sections will discuss each of these problems in greater depth.

Redundant Applications, Processes, and Data

It has been our experience in working with large government agencies and Forbes Global 2000 companies that needlessly duplicated data is running rampant throughout organizations. One large banking client asked us to analyze its IT environment. During this analysis, we discovered a tremendous amount of application and data redundancy. The company had over 700 unique applications. During this analysis, we compared this client to a bank that is more than twice its size; however, this larger bank has a world-class MME and uses it to properly manage their systems. As a result, they have less than 250 unique applications. Clearly, the bank with more than 700 applications has a great deal of needless redundancy. The bank with the world-class MME was also 14 times more profitable than the one maintaining over 700 applications. Obviously, the less-profitable bank would become much more profitable if it removed its needless redundancy.

In our experience, a typical large organization’s data has 60% to 75% needless data redundancy. Some organizations have hundreds of “independent” data mart applications spread all over the company. Each one of these data marts is duplicating the extraction, transformation, and load (ETL) processes typically done centrally in a data warehouse. This greatly increases the amount of support staff required to maintain the data-warehousing system, and these tasks are the largest and most costly data-warehousing activities. Each data mart also copies the data, requiring even more IT resources. It is easy to see why IT budgets are straining under the weight of all of this needless redundancy.

Fortunately, these large organizations are beginning to realize that they can’t continue to operate in this manner. Therefore, they are targeting MME technology to assist them in identifying and removing existing application and data redundancy. This can be accomplished because the MME can identify redundant applications through analysis of the data and the application’s processes. These same companies are starting IT application integration projects to merge these overlapping systems, in conjunction with their MME initiatives to ensure that future IT applications do not proliferate needless redundancy.

Needless IT Rework

During the requirements-gathering portion of one MME initiative, an IT project manager brought up the challenges that he faced in analyzing one of the mission-critical legacy applications that fed the data-warehousing application his team had been asked to build. During our interview he stated, “This has to be the 20th time that our organization is analyzing this system to understand the business rules around the data.”  This story is all too common, because almost all organizations reinvent the IT wheel with every new project. This situation occurs when separate teams build each of the IT systems without an MME, so the teams can’t leverage each other’s standards, processes, knowledge, and lessons learned. This results in a great deal of rework and reanalysis.

A good MME captures this invaluable IT information, including business rules, business processes, attribute definitions, entity definitions, and data lineage. This information is invaluable to an organization that is looking to maximize its IT investment.[2]

Redundant Hardware and Software

All of this redundant application and IT work generates a great deal of needless hardware and software redundancy, forcing the enterprise to retain skilled employees (usually at great cost) to support each technology. In addition, more money is spent because standardization doesn’t occur. Often software, hardware, and tools can be licensed at a considerable discount to an enterprise. These economies of scale can provide tremendous cost savings to the organization.

In addition, the hardware and software is not used in an optimal fashion. For example, one client purchases hardware for each individual IT project. As a result, they have a bunch of servers running at 25 percent capacity.

Software presents even more problems. One IT project leader responded to the question of what software vendors his company was standardized on with, “All of them!”  This leads to the old joke “What is the most popular form of software on the market? Answer: shelfware!”  Shelfware is software that a company purchases and winds up never using, so it just sits on a shelf collecting dust.

About the Author

Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise information management, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on meta data management.  He is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”.  Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business “Top 40 Under 40” and is the chairman of the Enterprise Information Management Institute ( He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture, data governance and managed meta data environment technologies (  He may be reached directly via email at [email protected]

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