The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Your Metadata

Metadata is defined simply as data about data and is a powerful tool for organizations. Learn everything you need to know about metadata in this guide.
Last updated
May 2, 2024

A brief overview

Metadata is a powerful tool that allows organizations to store, track, and manage their data more efficiently. Understanding metadata and how to manage it is essential for any organization that wants to keep their data organized and secure.

At the heart of metadata management is the concept of data governance, which involves managing data assets throughout their lifecycle to ensure they are secure, compliant, and appropriately used.

Data governance starts with an understanding of the types of metadata relevant to the organization. These can include descriptions of data assets such as ownership, location, accessibility, and retention. These metadata descriptions are key to understanding the security and compliance of how data is used and stored.

Once the relevant metadata has been identified, organizations should establish processes for managing and maintaining it. This involves developing policies, procedures, roles, and responsibilities for managing the data elements. All of these activities should be regularly monitored to ensure that the metadata is accurate and up-to-date.

Finally, organizations should focus on utilizing the metadata to improve efficiency and support the data-driven culture of the organization. By leveraging the metadata, organizations can analyze data more effectively and use it to make informed decisions and take advantage of new opportunities.

By establishing well-established metadata management processes, organizations can gain a better understanding of their data and use it to make informed decisions that will drive success. This guide provides the necessary steps and best practices for effectively managing metadata.

Definition of metadata

Metadata is defined simply as data about data. It includes context about the data, such as information about when the data was created, who created it, why it was created, and where it fits in the data ecosystem.

In a world where data-driven decisions heavily inform how businesses make decisions and track their data, having a comprehensive view of your organization's metadata is essential. Metadata helps data owners and data stewards ensure their data is properly understood and managed.

Metadata informs how organizations secure and manage data, enabling them to make data stewardship more efficient. For example, data stewards can use metadata to identify which datasets are outdated, redundant, or require attention, as well as track data lineage and identify impacted data tables when changes are made.

Metadata is also essential for all data managers, as it allows data owners to define critical data elements and set standards for how and where new data is created. Additionally, metadata can highlight connections between data and the systems it is stored in, enabling data owners and stewards to understand where their data is coming from and how it is being used.

By effectively managing their metadata, data owners and managers can more effectively protect valuable data and develop richer insights that enable better business decisions.

What are the types?

When it comes to metadata, there are three different types that can exist: Structural Metadata, Descriptive Metadata, and Administrative Metadata. Each type of metadata serves a unique purpose and requires a different approach to its management. In this article, we will discuss the different types of metadata and how to effectively manage them.


Structural metadata describes how a document or other information resource is organized. This type of metadata is used to define relationships between different pieces of information and describe how a document is structured. Structural metadata is typically used to enable navigation, manage data access control, enable versioning, and to enable indexing. It can include information such as the type of layout within a document, the order in which topics are addressed, and the visual representation of certain pieces of information.


Descriptive metadata describes the contents of a document or other information resource. This type of metadata is often used to enrich documents for searching and organization. Metadata can be used to categorize documents and to describe their author, date of creation, and other relevant information. Descriptive metadata can also be used to determine how a document might appear in search results, or to determine which documents will appear in a particular search.


Administrative metadata describes the management and workflow associated with a document or other information resource. This type of metadata is often used to determine who has access to a document, who made changes to a document, and when a document was last modified. Administrative metadata is also useful for managing backup versions of a document and for tracking edits over time.

By understanding these three types of metadata and their respective features, you can better manage the metadata associated with your organization's documents and information resources. While each type of metadata requires its own specific approach, they all play a crucial role in managing and organizing your data.

Why is metadata important?

Metadata plays an essential role in helping us understand and organize our digital documents and data sets. In the same way that a librarian catalogues and sorts books on a library shelf, metadata helps us quickly identify and manage digital content. Put simply, metadata is the descriptive information and data about data.

Metadata is important because it allows us to find, organize and interpret data more effectively. It acts as a gateway that allows users to search digital content, which can then be sorted, filtered, and shared. It allows us to quickly answer questions about the data, such as who created it, when it was created, who has edited it, etc. Furthermore, metadata such as tags can be used to classify data and allow for more efficient searching.

Metadata also provides us with a form of data governance. By having a standard way of describing and tagging data, organizations can ensure that data remains consistent and easy to locate. The same conventions and standards can be applied across the organization, allowing everyone to use the same methods of describing and sorting data.

By understanding why metadata is important, organizations can ensure that their data is organized, manageable, and up-to-date. An efficient data governance strategy should include the use of metadata, especially when it comes to controlling and facilitating access to data sets.

The future of metadata management 

Effective metadata management has far-reaching implications for the future of data management and digital transformation. By managing metadata effectively, businesses can enable data-driven decision-making, increase efficiency, and improve their ability to derive insights from data.

If data is the new currency, then metadata is the language used to interpret and understand it. Metadata management involves the creation, management, and governance of data to allow businesses to maximize their use of data and make more informed decisions. In the future, metadata management will become a key element of digital transformation, enabling businesses to achieve their data-driven goals.

The future of metadata management requires organizations to focus on policies and procedures that govern data access, use, and security. By investing in new technologies and standards such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and distributed ledgers, businesses will be able to derive more value from their data.

Metadata management is an essential part of digital transformation, and as such, businesses must take a proactive approach to developing robust metadata management policies and procedures.


Managing metadata requires comprehensive, centralized data governance, including data privacy, security, and access policies. With proper governance processes in place, businesses can gain control of their metadata and use it to drive their strategy. Metadata and data management are necessary to help businesses identify what data they have and to ensure that the necessary policies and security measures are in place to protect it.

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