Let’s Talk: Do You Really Need an Executive Sponsor for MDM?

Loraine Lawson

Almost without exception, experts will tell you to recruit an executive sponsor for just about every IT project.

Take master data management, for instance. Oh sure, experts preach that it’s a discipline, not “just” a technology, but come on. Did anybody ever hear about MDM before MDM solutions were created?

So how much do you really need that executive sponsor for MDM?

“The worst possible way to start a master data management initiative is failing to recruit a senior executive from the business to act as the champion or sponsor,” write Julie Hunt and Dan Power in a recent whitepaper. “If you can’t sell your MDM initiative to an executive sponsor, then you’re not ready to launch it — and there’s more work to do.”

Alrighty then. That sounds pretty darn serious.

Hunt, the editor of Hub Design Magazine, and Power, founder and president of the MDM consulting firm Hub Designs, collaborated on the recently released whitepaper, “The 8 Worst Practices in Master Data Management and How to Avoid Them.”

“Executive sponsor missing in action” ranked number one in top worst practices, ahead of:

  • Skipping the business case
  • Approaching MDM as a “big bang” initiative
  • Failing to plan for the required organizational and cultural change
  • Taking a one‐dimensional approach
  • Underestimating the importance of a dedicated data governance group
  • Failing to establish metrics for measuring success

Here’s why Hunt and Power say an executive sponsor is so critical that it outranks even skipping a business case: MDM will quite probably touch every system and process in some way. So it is critical that MDM projects align with the business goals.

But beyond that, it’s going to be a very political process as you propose changes to data and the processes people use to interact with that data.


Have you ever heard someone — usually at a medical facility these days — complain about this “stupid new system” that makes them do all this “stupid stuff” and “it just slows everything down?” Well, that’s pretty much going to be how people view governance and master data management work if it’s not explained to them. If you’re the only one driving the MDM bus, then you’re the one they’re going to blame, fight and otherwise malign.

But worse than listening to the whining and complaining and maligning is this: Business users won’t do what they’re supposed to do, and then the next thing you know, you’ve spent a ton of precious organizational money on something that’s not paying off.

So you don’t want to be that CIO who goes at MDM alone. You need another executive with enough political capital to grease the wheels, so to speak.

“MDM changes not only how data is managed but also the business processes and practices that affect many departments, groups and people across your company,” Hunt and Power state. “This type of change will be disruptive and filled with political landmines. Involvement from the top helps ensure your project will be able to preserve its momentum.”

If you’d like to learn more about the worst practices and how they thwart MDM success, Information Builders is offering the paper as a free download.

For more on how to recruit an executive sponsor, you can also check out these IT Business Edge pieces:

How to Get a Business Sponsor to Back IT Initiatives

Executive Sponsor Really, Really Important (Really)

Tips for Launching an MDM Program

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