Managing Meta Data for the Business: Knowledge Management and Regulatory Requirements – Part 4 of 5

By David Marco

Corporate Challenges

·    Reduce IT redundancy

·    Provide IT portfolio management

·    Prevent IT applications failure

·    Reduce IT expenditures

·    Enable knowledge management

·    Adhere to regulatory requirements

·    Enable enterprise applications


Enable Knowledge Management

One of the most vital functions of any MME is to provide the technical architecture and processes to manage corporate knowledge.  All corporations strive to become more intelligent.  To attain a competitive advantage, a business needs its IT systems to manage more than just their data; they must manage knowledge (that is, meta data).  As a corporation’s IT systems mature, they progress from collecting and managing data to collecting and managing knowledge.  Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and an MME is the “technological backbone” for managing a company’s corporate knowledge[1].

George Bernard Shaw once said, “the greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”  Executives often do not realize how not properly managing a company’s knowledge (meta data) can negatively affect their bottom-line profits, or they are under the illusion that proper communication and understanding are occurring.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.


NASA Mars Orbiter: A Case Study in a Lack of Meta Data Management

On December 11, 1998, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) launched the Mars Climate Orbiter to study the climatic conditions on the planet Mars.  The engineers who worked on this mission calculated rocket firing using feet per second.  However, the orbiter was programmed in Newtons per second (metric) of thrust.  The difference between these calculations was 4.4 feet per second.  “Each time there was a burn (rocket firing) the error built up,” said Art Stephenson, Director of the Marshall Spaceflight Center and head of the NASA Investigation Team.  “We entered the Mars atmosphere at a much lower altitude (than planned),” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s chief scientist.  “It (the spacecraft) either burned up in the Martian atmosphere or sped out (into space).  We’re not sure which happened.” 


This situation clearly illustrates a lack of meta data management.  If NASA had an MME, they would have had meta data on the business rules programmed into the orbiter.  The engineers would have known that it was programmed for metric measurements, rather than making incorrect assumptions.  What was the cost of this lack of proper meta data management?  The cost of this mission was over $250 million.  Who paid for this mistake?  The U.S. taxpayer[2].


Adhere to Regulatory Requirements

Every industry has its own dizzying array of regulatory requirements.  Many companies look to MME architecture to assist them in meeting these requirements.  Since most information stored in a company is stored electronically, an MME can greatly assist an organization in tracking, monitoring, and recording changes to its data and documents.  Often this type of information is needed to meet regulatory requirements.  Corporations must be able to meet these requirements because the penalties can be severe.   Penalties range from large monetary fees to felony charges levied against the senior executives within the organization.

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

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