Speaker Spotlight Column: Seth Earley on Metadata Governance

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edw2013-speaker-spotlightby Charles Roe

DATAVERSITY™ recently interviewed Seth Earley, the CEO of Earley & Associates. Seth will be giving a panel discussion at the Enterprise Data World 2014 Conference in Austin, Texas from April 27 – May 1, 2014. His panel is titled “Metadata Governance Conundrum,” and is co-presented with Ron Klein, the Global Strategy Content Governance & Metadata Leader at KPMG International;  Peter R. Benson, the Founding and Executive Director of ECCMA; Danette McGilvray, the President and Principal Consultant at Granite Falls Consulting Inc.; and, David N. Plotkin, an Advisory Consultant at EMC Global Services.

The Speaker Spotlight Column (and its parallel venture the Sponsor Spotlight Column) is an ongoing project that focuses on highlighting several of the central issues represented at the many Data Management conferences produced by DATAVERSITY.

The primary emphasis of the interview was to question Seth Earley on his work and history within the industry, with particular importance on his presentation at the upcoming conference:

DATAVERSITY (DV): What are you going to discuss during your session at EDW14, and what will the audience gain from attending your talk? (Please be specific about one or two issues you’ll be addressing and the benefits the audience will obtain).

Seth Earley (SE): This panel I am on will discuss both the role and value of Metadata Governance and provide attendees with some ways to help make the case for governance and explain ways to get more value from metadata.  Part of this is raising the awareness of issues that can be addressed through proper metadata curation and illustrating why organizational attention to and discipline around metadata provides value. We’ll be discussing both the relevance to unstructured content and structured data and how metadata governance is a necessary foundational element to any Big Data initiative.

DV: What is really important about such a topic in terms of the current state of Data Management and / or how the industry going to transform moving into the future?

SE: Every organization has a web presence and that presence is driven by metadata.  As we move up the maturity curve and provide more functionality and a broader range of interactions and capabilities through web sites, all of the internal processes that enable those capabilities need to be integrated and require consistent metadata. However, metadata can be very fragmented and decentralized in many organizations.  At the same time, the overhead of active management and formal governance is not perceived to be worth the effort relative to payback.  As enterprises attempt to improve customer experience and responsiveness as well as improve organizational agility, a pragmatic approach that engages business stakeholders at the correct level is necessary to achieve business objectives.  Metadata Governance is an enabler for these vehicles that are the foundation of many new offerings and capabilities.

DV: Please tell us a little about yourself and your history in the industry, past work experience, and how you got started in the data profession?

SE: I have been in the field for 25+ years and working with Content Management, Data Management, Taxonomy and Metadata, and Information Architecture throughout that time.  I worked in the early days of collaboration with Lotus Notes and have seen the changes brought about by new technologies and new approaches to information management.  I am founder of a 50 person consulting firm that assists organizations with Enterprise Metadata and Information Management initiatives.

DV: What is the biggest challenge happening in your particular area of Data Management at this time?

SE: Faster clock speeds of development, more of an enterprise focus on integration, customer experience management program demands on data integration, Big Data initiatives to pull all of the pieces together and act on data from diverse sets of tools.  Web marketing, collaboration and customer experience technologies have created new demands on the IT organization and caused greater levels of business involvement with technology decisions and capability development.

DV: How is such a change influencing your job?

SE: We have been very busy elevating this message to the C-Suite.  Senior leadership understands the need to be agile and that web sites are embodiments of internal processes.  Those processes are enabled by data.  So our job has been changed in that we have been bringing a more senior level audience into the discussion and pushing ownership of data and technologies deeper into the business.

DV: How have your job, and / or the work you are doing at your organization, altered in the past 12 months? How do you expect it will change in the next 1-2 years?

SE: Continued communication to a wider range of business stakeholders.  Marketing communications increasingly relies on integrated data from structured and unstructured sides of things. Increasing emphasis on data analytics, search as an integration mechanism, Master Data Management linked to business outcomes and capabilities, Big Data becoming more practical.  Business users know they need to depend on enterprise capabilities and integration across silos.  They realize that they cannot go off and do things in a silo as they may have in the past.  Helping to bring order to the chaos and develop enterprise governance with a focus on business outcomes is a big part of this.

DV: Are there any other emerging technologies you predict will affect your job function in the future?

SE: More intelligence added to search and content processes that will reduce dependency on hand curated content.  Increasing use of predictive analytics to reveal patterns in data.  Greater emphasis on enterprise perspectives on taxonomy and metadata.

DV: What’s your favorite “Data” or “Data Management” quote?

SE: So much metadata, so little time”.

DV: How do you explain what you do for work, at a cocktail party, or to your grandparents?

SE: I say we make information more findable, usable and valuable. We are very well known for our work in enterprise taxonomies.  My mother-in-law explains taxonomy as the way that products are organized on a web site like and how you are able to select according to size, color, brand, model, etc.  She says “that’s taxonomy.” That works for me.
If you are interested in attending Seth’s panel discussion at EDW2014, please see the conference schedule at:

His session is on Tuesday, April 29th at 1.15pm.

About Enterprise Data World:
Enterprise Data World is the business world’s most comprehensive educational event about data and information management. Over five days, EDW presents a diverse schedule of programming that addresses every level of proficiency, including keynotes, workshops, tutorials, case studies, and discussions.

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