My name is Barbara Nichols. Metaview360 is my company. Its not a very common type of company, though we solve a very common problem for our clients. Please take a few minutes to read our story, my story, and you’ll come to understand why working with us might be very good for your bottom line.
One of the things I love about data management is that it’s a combination of science and art. Throughout school I was always attracted to the precision of mathematics and in fact it was my first declared major in college. But after a while its precision failed to hold my interest – I wanted to find a discipline where science principles were important, but where human nature and preferences also influenced a desired outcome. So I switched to economics, which has plenty of mathematics, but the human factor figures heavily into what will happen in market dynamics. I have also always been drawn to the study of architecture: of buildings, spaces and places, and the kinds of patterns that have recurred throughout time that represent “good design”. The fact that a building needs to be engineered so that it won’t collapse is necessary, but not sufficient to ensure a welcoming and functional sense of place. All of these areas of interest and attraction became manifest in my professional career – to define, convey and implement the discipline and art of data management
I started my career in Information Technology as a programmer and then moved into business analysis for information systems development. I quickly realized the importance of taking both the business AND technology perspectives into account in order to design and build successful information systems. Understanding what people meant when they specified requirements was of critical importance. Representing those requirements in such a way that the ‘right’ system could be built, maintained, and be open to future requirements was very difficult. System development often took a year or more, people changed jobs, requirements shifted and business opportunities could be lost during the process.
In 1981, as the manager of IT development for the Export department of a large computer manufacturer, I enrolled in a seminar that changed the course of my professional life. It was entitled “Data Analysis for Database Design”. I learned about the power of data, separate from processes and programming, to specify systems that were easier to build, met requirements and stood the test of time. Mathematical principles backed the development of what was then relatively new technology – relational data management and databases. Data normalization provided a way to express business rules semantically (i.e. getting at what business people really meant) and with the mathematical precision of relational algebra. Eureka! This could change everything, and it did… The approach proved itself when the estimate to lengthen a key corporate field in the Export system, the product identifier, was one month — compared to the 2 year estimates for all the traditionally built systems.
The company I was working for created a program to bring data management best practices and data governance into the mainstream for all of its application development. I was a founding member of that strategic initiative which defined data architecture and integrated it into the IT development lifecycle. We implemented data modeling and standard naming as disciplines, developed organizational structures for data stewardship and governance, and measured success via the number of standard data definitions that existed as application building blocks. We introduced the concept of separate data structures for business analytics vs. transaction processing and the company built its first data warehouse in the mid-1980’s.
We created Data Management as a Business and IT function at a 100,000 person company, which had greater than $2B in revenue, where not a single data standard had existed before.
I have worked with many data modelers over the years and I have discovered that many of them tend to be economics majors! My theory for this co-incidence is that both economists and data modelers understand and appreciate the hard sciences, and embrace the human part of those disciplines. In fact, just as with the aesthetics of building architecture, the mathematics is a given, but the expression of semantic meaning as defined by the people who will use the system is what is most important to a successful outcome. Who wants a structurally sound but cold and ugly building? Data management became my passion and after working successively for three vendors of metadata and data management tools, I saw the importance of what we’d done in the 80s without benefit of modern metadata, ETL and BI tools. The underlying discipline was NOT the same as a tool. In fact companies often bought tool solutions and then failed to realize the lofty vendor promises. So, in 2002 I started consulting with those kinds of companies so they could get the business benefit from their substantial tool investments. After my initial consulting successes I formed Metaview360 in January of 2003.
I love to create levers in businesses that enable a company to perform magnitudes beyond where they thought they could. It is an imperative in today’s world. I am thrilled when a group of people can resolve data inconsistencies that have previously caused them huge errors and expenditures. I love it when the light bulbs go off, when ancient problems and new business opportunities are finally clear. Data management tools accelerate the process. A lever is a simple machine that magnifies effort into force. As the physicist Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world”. I believe that data is that lever in business and I love helping businesses to move their world to a better place for themselves and for our increasingly connected society. Metaview360 has provided a way for me to live my passion and to experience the continued awakening to the power of data through the eyes of my clients.