Ants, Grasshoppers and MDM: No Pay Without Enterprise-wide Work

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

10 Critical Myths and Realities of Master Data Management

Prevalent myths surrounding MDM alongside an explanation of the realities.

In a recent report, the Aberdeen Group suggests that those interested in success with master data management start with a formal MDM program. On first read, it seems a little, well, obvious, doesn't it?

But it speaks to two mistakes organizations can make with master data management:

  • Allowing each division to handle its own master data or using an informal approach, rather than formulating a strategic and enterprise-wide approach
  • Treating MDM as a technology solution that can be solved by buying MDM software, rather than a discipline that requires business buy-in and ongoing effort

As I shared yesterday, the Aberdeen Group recently surveyed 176 organizations about their management of master data. In a report on the findings, Aberdeen Research Associate Nathaniel Rowe reviewed the practices and successes of Best-in-Class organizations and found that 73 percent had an existing MDM initiative. This made a formal MDM program "the largest single contributor" to their top performance, Rowe noted:

While investments in master data can take many forms, from data cleansing projects to installing new applications or platforms, the ultimate achievement is a formal MDM program. Ad hoc systems and policies can only go so far, and it takes an organization-wide MDM initiative in order to finally realize the 'one version of the truth' that every company craves.

That's bad news for the 71 percent of the companies surveyed who listed "silos of master data owned by different departments" as a major barrier to enterprise-wide MDM.

This really shouldn't be a surprise. After all, master data, by its very nature, should transcend any one division and cut across the enterprise. Uniformity in master data is also the core goal of MDM, and obviously, you can't accomplish that if everyone is doing their own thing.

The other mistake that companies tend to make is believing MDM is something they buy, rather than an ongoing process or discipline that cuts across the organization. This is hardly news, of course. As Contraste Europe consultant Tod McKenna pointed out in 2009:

Remember that MDM is a capability and not a technology. You cannot buy MDM, but you can build a MDM strategy. ... Vendors will continue to push their MDM solutions, but be careful not to trap yourself into thinking that the job is done once you've installed. Vendors can wrap most technologies necessary for MDM into a single package, but they cannot provide you with a strategy or the personnel to make it work for your organization. MDM is a capability you create, and not a product you can buy.

I've heard that same advice, albeit with different wording, from analysts, educators and, yes, even vendors, time and time again over the past four years. In fact, Rob Karel, a Forrester Research principal analyst specializing in master data management (MDM) and data integration, warned back in 2008 that you shouldn't even consider a technology solution until you've done the internal groundwork for an enterprise-wide plan for managing master data:

Until information managers get a handle on where and how critical enterprise data is being captured and updated, and prioritize the requirements they have across stakeholders to use and consume master data, they should not go hunting for a technology solution. Data governance and business ownership of the rules, standards, and definitions of quality also need to be addressed before focusing on technology.

MDM takes time, work and money-which is bad news for those 40 percent of organizations who told the Aberdeen Group MDM initiatives take too much time. But if you want the benefits, you've got to do the work-it was true in Aesop's famous fable, and as the Aberdeen Group's survey showed, it's true for MDM.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.



Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.