Compared to the myriad group of “integrated” systems that most companies are managing today, master data management (MDM) solutions are much simpler to manage and maintain, and provide companies with more business benefits. Unfortunately, MDM technology is developing a reputation for being complicated and taking a long time to implement when the reality is that the process can be dramatically simplified if companies plan before they implement.
To streamline the implementation process, companies need to make a number of decisions about data, business processes and technologies, before an MDM project begins. First, they need to make critical decisions about what data to master and why. Then, they need to address other “typical” business process issues, common to any IT program, including building out the business case; getting buy in and budget approval; figuring out the business process, strategy, enterprise architecture, rules, policies and procedures; and dealing with change management. Finally, they need to make technology decisions, including selecting the best technology to match data and business goals and ensuring the choice is simple, predictable, low risk, and can be implemented in months, not years.
What Do You Master and What Does It Mean?
The first step for a company considering MDM is to understand the benefits of an MDM solution and how it differs from the way things are done today. MDM solutions generate and maintain an enterprise-wide “system of record” that contains the consistent, reliable information necessary to perform vital business functions across a large organization. MDM deployments result in a massive simplification of the widely distributed, uncoordinated data management solutions that most companies struggle with. The benefits of MDM include enhanced revenue and profit, improved customer service, lowered operational costs, easier compliance, managed risk and better strategic decision making and business agility.
Once a company knows it needs MDM, how does it decide what to master? The most basic advice here is to pick the data that will deliver the biggest bang for the buck first. The best way to decide which data to choose is to identify the largest areas of pain within an organization. Decision makers should take a look at areas where costs and data defects are out of control, customer satisfaction is trending downward, inconsistent pricing exists across channels, market share is shrinking, customers are complaining about marketing, regulatory requirements are creating a stranglehold, reporting to Wall Street is painful, or there are significant untapped opportunities that could be capitalized on.
A company should choose the area that will deliver the greatest measurable return and tackle that first. The process of determining the first project will most likely make it clear what the other top five or 10 projects might be.
After a company makes the decision about which data to master, it is important that it understand what is entailed in the process. An MDM solution puts all the myriad data sources into a single complete database to create a central, single version of the truth for that data domain. Once data is centralized, duplicate records will be resolved, relationships between data will be detected and declared, and data will be made available to the applications, people and processes that need it. Different business uses and security restrictions require that not everyone has the same access rights or ability to view data, so MDM technologies need to be able to control access, enforce security policies, and provide logging and reporting on details.
MDM implementations can be onerous and complex if the team does not focus on simplifying each step and its overall approach to the MDM project. Below are specific business and technology guidelines that will help to simplify MDM deployments.
Five Key Lessons to Ease the Pain
It’s important to first consider five key lessons to help ease the pain and streamline MDM business requirements:
From a Technology Perspective
If you want to simplify MDM, do not undertake a single comprehensive project that will take several years to implement. Instead break the MDM project into segments and deploy each individually. Technology should help make the process of implementing MDM easier, not add to its complexity. Here are five technical guidelines that will help most businesses further simplify their MDM program:
Getting the MDM Solution You Need Simply and Easily
MDM can provide companies with many business benefits and do not have to be difficult to deploy. The key is to approach the project in pieces and plan before you implement. Once you have considered all of your organization’s data, business and technology questions and have made the critical decisions, the MDM implementation will be much simpler. A company that takes this approach, and starts today, should see results within six or eight months.
About the Author
Marty Moseley is a 25-year IT industry veteran with extensive systems architecture experience. Moseley is an accomplished speaker and author on technology topics including data governance, customer data integration (CDI), master data management (MDM), service-oriented architecture (SOA), software architecture and product-line architecture. Moseley currently serves as chief technology officer at Initiate Systems, a leading provider of master data management software for companies, healthcare organizations and government agencies that want to create the most complete, real-time views of people, households and organizations from data dispersed across multiple application systems and databases. He can be reached at mmoseley@InitiateSystems.com and additional information on Initiate Systems is available at www.InitiateSystems.com.
About Initiate Systems
Established in 1995 as Madison Information Technologies, the company became Initiate Systems, Inc. in 2003. The company has 175+ software customers across numerous industries. It is cited as a "visionary' by Gartner and a “leader ” by Forrester. Initiate Systems operates globally through its subsidiaries, with corporate headquarters in Chicago and offices across the U.S., and in Toronto, London and Sydney.
Moseley, M., "Simplifying Master Data Management Deployments", DSSResources.COM, 01/09/2009.
Kevin Johnson, Manager, TechImage Media Relations (for Initiate Systems), provided permission to archive and feature this article at DSSResources.COM on Decemebr 2, 2008. This article was posted at DSSResources.COM on January 9, 2009.