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Metadata, Metadata, Metadata. Data about the data.

I once saw Inmon, the holy prophet of the data warehouse, talk about metadata. The guy went on and on about the stuff for two hours. What he said was that metadata does not apply just to a data warehouse. It is the guts of any database.

Successful projects I work on know what each attribute and entity mean as a semantic definition, how to create, update, delete and archive the model elements. How elements change over time. This is in addition to the language definition of the model element and its relation to other elements. There is a lot of modeling software on the market to help track metadata. Use it or not, there is no excuse not to have a reasonably complete model.

Dangerous projects are interfacing one application to another or migrating a legacy application to an ERP application. A first step for a DBA is to find and secure the metadata of each model involved. Having the metadata means that you can interface applications, migrate legacy models to new models, plan resource allocation and manage the data with no surprises.

Project managers and companies who do not understand metadata and its role are always in some crisis mode. Nothing they do will work or be delivered on schedule. Avoid these people.