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Statistical metadata systems play a fundamental role in statistical organizations. Such systems comprise the people, processes and technology used to manage statistical metadata. This publication provides guidance to senior managers in understanding the importance of metadata and the systems needed to manage them effectively. It outlines the main issues to consider when establishing and maintaining statistical metadata systems, and how to manage metadata across a statistical organization. It focuses on managerial issues, such as corporate governance of metadata projects and the business benefits of good metadata management.

This publication is Part A of the Common Metadata Framework, an initiative to help statistical organizations to choose the right standards, models and approaches in developing their metadata systems. The Common Metadata Framework is a living repository of knowledge and good practices related to statistical metadata, the latest version is available online at http://www.unece.org/stats/cmf.

A statistical metadata system (SMS) is an important tool for ensuring the goals of the statistical information system are met. Since metadata users have diverse needs, effective management of statistical metadata is strategically important for any statistical organization. The foundation of an effective SMS is to identify metadata users and understand their needs. Experience also shows that to be successful, an SMS must be an integral part of a statistical organization's strategic direction.

Management of an SMS project is a demanding task. Statistical metadata is a developing field, attracting researchers and experts from both inside and outside statistical organizations. International organizations are working together to provide standards and guidance and several projects dealing with different aspects of statistical metadata management have been conducted. Standards and guidelines for statistical metadata have been developed, and are already applied in practice by national and international statistical organizations. These include the Statistical Data and Metadata eXchange (SDMX) initiative, including Content Oriented Guidelines, the OECD Data and Metadata Reporting and Presentation Handbook, the Generic Statistical Business Process Model and the UNECE Guidelines for Statistical Metadata on the Internet. Work continues to progress through the regular meetings of the joint UNECE / Eurostat / OECD work sessions on statistical metadata.

The experiences of national and international statistical organizations have shown that direct involvement of senior management is a prerequisite for a successfully functioning SMS. It is not sufficient to engage only metadata experts and information technology specialists in this work. The important role that methodologists and subject-matter statisticians play in managing metadata must be recognized. The variety of metadata users, and the cross-cutting nature of metadata related activities throughout the statistical business process, calls for the involvement of top management in metadata projects.

In the past, the main, and sometimes only, role of metadata in a statistical organization was to support the production of official statistics. However, the SMS should go beyond this function to address other requirements. It should be a tool to facilitate the efficient functioning and further development of the whole statistical information system. This requires corporate commitment and systematic management of activities related to design, implementation, maintenance, use, and evaluation of the SMS.
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Target audience

The aim of this publication is to help statistical organizations improve the effectiveness of statistical metadata across all phases of the statistical business process. It addresses the information needs of senior managers in statistical organizations and is intended as a tool to assist statistical metadata experts to develop business cases for a new or enhanced SMS.

Managers, designers, subject-matter specialists, methodologists, information technology experts, and researchers are all involved in SMS projects. They are responsible for different aspects of the SMS, but need a common understanding of the role and complexity of the system. This not only fosters a culture of teamwork, but ensures clear and consistent communication of the management issues in the SMS business case. This publication provides an SMS project team with a common understanding of statistical metadata in a corporate context: the strategic importance of an SMS, and in particular, the need to integrate the SMS into the overall strategy of the organization.
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What is in this publication?

This publication explores the following topics related to statistical metadata management:

  • Value proposition for metadata management defines the role and functions of the SMS for statistical organizations. It describes major users of statistical metadata and the benefits an SMS provides to each of them.
  • Metadata management strategies and policy framework covers the management and preparation of a corporate SMS vision. It presents a brief description of metadata and explains the role they play in statistical business processes. Recommendations for the preparation of a strategic plan for managing metadata are provided.
  • Principles for metadata management express the fundamental considerations and recommendations for managing metadata. The aim of these principles is to facilitate design, implementation, maintenance and use of a corporate metadata repository.
  • Corporate governance model provides guidance in good corporate governance of an SMS, taken from the experiences of statistical organizations in the implementation of a metadata management strategy. It explains potential risks and challenges in management, and considers related organizational challenges.
  • Case studies and experiences include lessons learned in actual implementations and practical experiences in the development of statistical metadata systems.
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How to use this publication

Readers will get an overview of the functions and content of an SMS, the major steps in the design and implementation of such a system, potential users and stakeholders, and how to prepare or update a corporate metadata management strategy.

For hints on how to use the publication when preparing specific parts of a business case, whether it is for a new SMS or enhancement of existing systems, please see the following topics:

When preparing a value proposition for a corporate system:

When preparing a vision for statistical metadata management:

When preparing management strategies for the SMS (as an integral part of the vision):

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