One of the more frustrating problems with master data management is that "master data" isn't always easily defined. You would think this would be a no-brainer-it's data about the customer and product, right? Alas, it is not that simple.
You may be wondering if this is just an issue of pedantry-and it's a fair question, since it's a common ailment among engineers and wordsmiths. Unfortunately, it's not. As David Loshin points out in a recent BeyeNetwork post, customer support will give you a different definition of "customer" than the sales department.
Loshin is relentless on this problem of defining master data. He's the president of the BI consultancy Knowledge Integrity, the author of the book, "Master Data Management" and a master of the idiosyncrasies involved in defining master data. A year ago, I interviewed him about master data management, and asked him to define the term "master data." This was his answer:
There have been many definitions proposed out in the general literature, and I have always been careful to say that I am providing a "description" of what I believe MDM incorporates rather than a definition. Master data objects represent the core business concepts used in the different applications across the organization, along with their associated metadata, attributes, definitions, roles, connections, and taxonomies, such as customers, suppliers, parts, products, locations, contact mechanisms.
He revisited the issue this year during a panel he lead on MDM. He asked the panel-four leaders from master data management vendors-to explain what defines master data, and he didn't let them get away with the sound-bite answers, either. You can read the full discussion or you can read my summary, where Loshin and others actually continued the discussion in the reader comments.
Apparently, he's given it more thought since March, because he'll be discussing best practices for developing master data models in an free webinar Wednesday, July 28. The event, titled "Accelerating MDM Initiatives with Master Data Modeling," will begin at 2 p.m. ET, or 11 a.m. PT. It's sponsored by Embarcadero, which, among other things, sells modeling tools.
Loshin says he hopes the webinar will provide "an open forum for discussing some critical issues regarding master data modeling." After talking with him and reading his take on master data, I'm 99.9 percent sure you can expect a thorough, real discussion of the challenges, but more importantly, it sounds like he has some concrete suggestions for how to solve them. If you're involved with MDM or about to be, that makes this event a "must attend" in my book.