How Active Metadata Works & Benefits for Data Teams

Active metadata is data that defines data to create a single source of truth. Learn more about active metadata management and the benefits for data teams here.
Last updated
May 2, 2024

What Is Active Metadata?

Active metadata is an essential component of modern data stacks. While passive metadata provides basic technical data, active metadata shows you how data moves through your data pipeline and what changes it undergoes. Active metadata can give your data context and give you a clearer view of your data pipeline overall.

In short, modern companies need to have a metadata strategy in place to ensure their data isn’t siloed and their active and passive metadata is consistent, accurate and reliable. In this blog, we’ll be doing a deeper dive into active metadata and how it can help your organization. Read on to learn more.

Active vs. Passive

Before diving deeper into metadata management, let’s take a closer look at the difference between active and passive metadata.

Passive metadata — To understand active metadata, we need to first break down passive metadata. In short, passive metadata is technical metadata that gives you basic data information such as the type of data, the owner of the data, schema, data profiles and other operational characteristics. However, passive metadata is static, so it won’t provide as much context into your data pipeline as active metadata. Let’s see how active metadata differs.

Active metadata — Active metadata gives your passive metadata context and shows you how it flows. It shows you changes to data and transformations. While passive metadata is definitional, active metadata is descriptive. Descriptive metadata includes operational, business and social metadata. This data allows you to get a more comprehensive understanding of your data and how it moves through your organization. If you’re looking to get more insights into your data, it’s important to understand your active metadata.

Now that we have a better understanding of passive and active metadata let’s talk about how you can manage that metadata.<p>

How Metadata Management Works

Metadata management is the process and policies you have in place to keep your metadata organized, accurate and usable. With proper metadata management, you can ensure your data integrity isn’t compromised and that your data is consistent throughout all areas of your organization. With these practices in place, you can gain more insights into your data, more easily analyze your data and keep your teams connected and on the same page.

Metadata management is a multipoint strategy with many considerations. Your metadata management strategy will undoubtedly vary based on the needs of your organization. While you’ll have to develop your own metadata management strategy to make sure it fits your company, there are some guidelines you can follow to get started. Such as:

  • Architecture — You need to define the type of architecture you’ll have in place to house your metadata. This architecture can be centralized, decentralized or both.
  • Data Governance — In your metadata management strategy, you need to have a data governance policy in place. This will define the internal standards for how your data is used within your company.
  • Metadata management tools — You’ll want to build a data stack for managing your metadata. An end-to-end solution can help you gain all the benefits of metadata management and get the most out of your data. You should make sure to choose a solution, like Secoda, that allows you to search your data, make it usable throughout your company, make sure metadata is consistent throughout your company and give you the tools you need to manage your metadata effectively.<p>

What Are the Benefits?

organizations need to have a strategy in place for managing both active and passive metadata. The benefits are numerous, but the downsides of not managing your metadata can be detrimental. Without a metadata strategy, your data can become disorganized and disparate, making it difficult for users to verify the accuracy of your data and use it reliably.

However, the benefits of managing your metadata include the following:

  • Consistent and accurate data — You can count on your data to be more reliable and consistent across your organization.
  • Better insights — Your users can get the insights they need quickly and reliably
  • Optimized processes — With your processes optimized, your users can get work done more efficiently and you can save time and money as an organization overall

The above points cover some of the primary benefits you get from generally staying on top of your metadata and keeping it organized. As mentioned, active metadata is a bit more dynamic and complex than passive metadata, so it requires its own management strategy as well. The benefits of active metadata management include the following:

  • Complex data storytelling — Implementing an active metadata strategy shows you where your data goes and how it’s used, giving you deeper insights
  • Simplified data purging — Active metadata can show you the data you’re not using, allowing you to determine what data is outdated or obsolete and can be purged from your organization 
  • Best user experience — Active metadata can be integrated into your data tools, making it easier for your users to utilize the information it provides
  • Simplified compliance — Active metadata can highlight sensitive data, allowing your data team to ensure the proper authorizations and data governance measures are in place to protect it

In short, metadata management strategies aren’t something that organizations can afford to push to the wayside. They’re an integral part of data operations in modern data stacks.

What Is Metadata Used For?

Put simply, metadata describes other data. It can give data context and provide information about data or data sets. With this context, users can better understand the type of data, what the data is used for and how it relates to other data in a database.

Metadata makes it easier for organizations to manage their data by providing that data with structure and categories. It can also make data more searchable when you organize your data well and have a solid metadata management strategy in place.

Why Is It Important?

Data is becoming more and more essential to organizations everywhere. It’s safe to say that most businesses use data to some degree, and many businesses use large amounts of data to drive decisions. With the incredible amount of data being collected, it can be difficult for organizations to parse the data and ensure that it’s accurate and insightful. However, metadata can provide that much-needed context to organize data and help organizations search through it efficiently and effectively.

With metadata, organizations can more easily assess data, create data sets and know where to store the data. Metadata can even provide organizations with details on how data should be used and who should be able to access it. With these shortcuts to understanding data, organizations save time and money. More importantly, they can ensure their data is accurate, up-to-date and useful to the organization.

To go back to our earlier example of active data management, imagine that you have numerous data sets that your company has been collecting over the last decade. A user wants to find out which customers have signed up for your platform in the last year. With metadata, a user can quickly search a database and filter out all customers who signed up more than a year ago. This is just one small example of how metadata can provide context for data and provide insights for an organization.

These insights can be powerful. Using the same example, a user could find which customers have dropped an organization’s services in the past year. These customers could be retargeted and remarketed too, possibly bringing some of them back to the platform. There are many things that your organization can do with active metadata, so it’s essential to make sure you’re properly managing it.

In summation, metadata makes it possible for your data to be searchable and for your team to get the insights they need to make data-driven decisions. If you’re looking for a tool to help organize your data and make it easier to access, Secoda is your solution.

Try Secoda for Free

Secoda is a modern data catalog tool that allows you to consolidate your data and make it more searchable for all users in your organization. Using Secoda, you can easily centralize your data and pull your disparate data sources together in one intuitive platform. This allows you to cut out data silos, eliminate data inconsistencies and ensure your data is as accurate as possible. Additionally, Secoda gives you all the tools your team needs to easily search and query data. With Secoda, searching for company data is as easy as doing a Google search. Along with making it easier for users to search data, Secoda makes data easier to understand too.

Using Secoda, you can save your team time and money and empower even nontechnical users to leverage data insights and make the most of your organization’s data. Of course, this also frees up your data team and allows them to focus on other tasks rather than getting bottlenecked by data requests. Ready to learn more about Secoda and see how we can help your business? Try our platform for free today!

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