MDM Overcomes Youthful Bad Reputation, Delivering Successes

Loraine Lawson

Master data management is now a mainstream concept, but before it's widely embraced, MDM has to shake its youthful bad rep for failure and inadequate ROIs, according to a recent CIO Zone article


Of course, it doesn't take a brain child to figure out that MDM's hype cycle is stepping up. I realized that all by myself earlier this year when my Google alert for MDM outpaced the SOA alert.


I also got a pretty good clue when Microsoft announced its move into MDM. By now, everybody knows, when Microsoft gets into the game, it's got to be mainstream.


Although to be honest, if I worked at Microsoft, I would not find that comforting. Would you?


Anyway. The article begins with the rather obvious statement that Microsoft's entry means MDM is going mainstream. Thankfully, that's just the introduction. As you read on, you get into some more beefy information about how MDM has evolved since its introduction in the 1980s.


If you're unfamiliar with MDM, this is a really great introduction to the topic. And if you are familiar with MDM, I think you'll still find useful information for explaining MDM to others. For instance, it doesn't just define MDM-it examines the nuances of the term. That's important, since MDM suffers from the type of dual meaning that tends to lose business staff.


It also does an excellent job of pinpointing how MDM as a theory diverges from MDM as a reality. For instance, theoretically, MDM will give you "one version of the truth," putting everybody across the organization on the same data page. In practice, that's not always possible and some departments may be restricted to what they can and cannot access.


As an added bonus, I found a real answer to my most persistent MDM question: Why MDM? After all, lots of solutions have promised to deliver one version of the truth and haven't. But why would companies even try MDM, given the dismal track record for projects promising "a single version of the truth?"


Granted, I don't think that was actually the question the writer, Lauren Bielski, meant to address when she quoted Phillip Russom, senior manager at TDWI Research, as saying there are two drivers for MDM:


  1. A need for business intelligence-related assessments

  2. "The need to produce squeaky clean regulatory and financial reports"


I take that second one to mean companies really don't have a choice. After all, even if MDM doesn't deliver a single version of the truth, at least it shows you're trying. And often when it comes to compliance, the important point seems to be that you tried. (For more on what's driving MDM adoption, check out last week's post.) But setting aside my journalistic cynicism about what's really driving MDM adoption, the good news is there's reason to believe MDM can now deliver, according to the article.


Mind you, it's still not going to be easy. Or cheap. But it is getting easier and cheaper, and some companies are succeeding, according to Aaron Zornes, founder and chief research officer of The MDM Institute:


"Today, the technology - which integrates data through data modeling, and labels it through meta data management - for [data integration] is much easier to work with. Overall, as a 'people, process, and technology project,' MDM is not easy to do. Certainly, there will always be political issues for larger projects. However, firms are gaining ground and it is being done."

I suppose that's not exactly the joyous guarantee of success for which you may have hoped. But, I think Zornes is being honest and trying to set realistic expectations for the growing number of companies embarking on MDM.

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