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Document, document, document … Common Vocabulary and Data Definitions

Last TOGAF* principle on data we’re going to talk about this week is principle 14: Common Vocabulary and Data Definitions. “Data is defined consistently throughout the enterprise, and the definitions are understandable and available to all users.”


To abide to this principle you need your data teams to get really good at documenting. Most people I know hate documenting. Not sure why that is but it is definitely true. It is very important that you provide good metadata documentation. Again, metadata is data about the data. The metadata will have components that need to be understandable to end users and metadata that is meant for developers. For larger organizations you will want to have different people defining different metadata (similar roles to what I highlight in the Data Trustee or Data Trustees blog). A business data SME (Trustee or Steward) documents the business data such as description, calculation for a KPI, … and an IT SME (Trustee) documents the technical metadata such as data type, field length, …


If you want any consistent reporting across your enterprise you better take this job seriously. Let’s say you let people charge other groups cost center you better make it very clear which cost center to pick or you’ll create mass confusion. If you’d like to understand your inventory carrying costs across various Business Units you better ensure everyone understand the KPI’s definition.


TOGAF* principle 14 uses strong and I think appropriate language “Significant additional energy and resources must be committed to this task. It is key to the success of efforts to improve the information environment


To make life simpler follow the KISS principle. Keep it simple stupid. Keep manual data entry to a minimum. Have the same group enter similar master or transactional data vs it being spread across many. Have the system determine what the possible entries are or just have the system determine the entry and avoid the human.


There are some really good data cataloging tools out there. If you are a complex enterprise invest in them. If not your data warehouse might have some built in metadata documentation and reporting capabilities. If you’re a small company spreadsheets can do wonders. And as I’ve highlighted in all my data blogs not all data is created equal. Heavily document your critical enterprise data and don’t bother on non-important department specific data. Use common sense or you’ll document yourself to death.

Happy metadata documenting :) I’m serious!!



*The Open Group - The TOGAF® Standard, Version 9.2 > Part III: ADM Guidelines & Techniques > Architecture Principles

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