Knowledge Management for Environmental Resources: Develop a Central Database for Inventory Results
Last week, we waxed poetic on the importance of knowing your enterprise data, discussing important pieces of metadata to keep an eye out for and methods for gleaning this information from the depths of the spatial data itself. Now, we want to talk about what to do with this information.
Importance of a Central Location
Each of us do any number of things throughout our work days and within our lives outside of the office of which we have to keep track. For many of these responsibilities, we often must rely on notes we (or someone else) has made or lists of tasks to be completed. We can - and encourage you to do so as well - something similar with the enterprise data details we gather. Since we are not expected to complete all of these things with just the knowledge we have stored away in our minds, why should we be expected to do so with the intricacies of our enterprise data? In truth, we shouldn't. Having an organized structure in which to store the results of our sleuthing can be beneficial for multiple reasons.
Metadata is scattered, not centrally located. Although much of the knowledge we have concerning enterprise data is available from each piece's metadata, that information exists exclusively alongside the data itself. If not stored in a central location, you would need to return to each piece time and again anytime you needed the details it provides. Patience is a virtue, but it too has its limits.
Structures withstand the test of time. It may not outlast a nuclear fallout, but having an organized structure in which to store spatial data details can help an organization when employees change roles or move on to different opportunities. Rather than remaining with one person and their exceptional memory, it ensures that this knowledge is available for the study of multiple people or teams without the daunting requirement of transferring it.
Knowledge transfer becomes easier. For situations when job duties must be moved around as mentioned previously, an organized results structure allows a point of reference for any newcomers. Being able to see these details in a clear format may be preferred over lengthy on-boarding sessions and hastily scribbled notes.
Analysis and reporting, in turn, becomes possible. We will get into this more next week, but having a central location for these details provides the base you will need to properly analyze and report on the data at hand. This is especially true when the organized structure in question comes as a database.
The Results Database
We have made it to the d-word, and I do not mean datum. One of the best solutions for storing the results of Data Discovery is that of a database. Because it is a common format with which many teams who deal with enterprise data are familiar and because it offers a precise approach to data management, it is a natural fit for this type of work.
The type of database used may depend on your organization - especially its size and resources. This can be an Excel worksheet, database table, or the like. However, we strongly recommend you consider a means with more security than say, the Excel option.
Ideal platforms for housing this type information are database applications like SQL Server, SQLite, or Oracle.
A data structure we commonly use for referencing this inventory here at Integrated is that of a series of database tables, called the Marco Database. Available for consumption by any of the platforms listed above (remember, say no to Excel), this database contains a multitude of Spatial Data Discovery details stored in 20+ tables. Everything from the data type, its owner, where it is stored, any data frames and bookmarks, the name of its first-born child, etc. is housed in these tables to allow you the means for easy analysis. This approach is robust enough to handle the multitudes of data often associated with Environmental Resources, ensuring all details are at your fingertips.
Adopting the use of a results database like the Marco Database can help you to get a better grasp on - not to mention better record of - the spatial data on your network. Relying on a structure like this and automating its population like we do with the Integrated Marco Commander and Integrated Marco Mystic applications allows you to conquer that To-Do list faster. This is information and a process you will need as projects come and go, data is required to be moved or cleaned up, and as the availability of new data renders old data useless.
Explore the Series
This series explores the management of enterprise spatial data commonly used throughout Environmental sectors, regardless of industry. Geographic Information System (GIS) professionals may find tips and tricks for properly reviewing and implementing detailed Knowledge Management practices across an established organization.