The technology piece of MDM is much easier when you take a business-centric approach to mastering data, says Steve Jones, global lead for master data management at Capgemini. In this interview with IT Business Edge’s Loraine Lawson, he explains Capgemini’s three ways of viewing MDM and why it solves some of those tricky MDM political issues.
Lawson: What is the typical profile of a Capgemini engagement on master data management?
Jones: The median project, almost, rather than the typical, is one that starts from a strategy perspective, that looks at how can the business take control of its information, how can it better leverage that and how can it start presenting the sort of the federated view of information to the organization.
A major thing that we see with a lot of clients is that basically they don’t have control of their master data. They need to know two things. Number one, how do they take control of it, and number two, what will the benefits be when they do take control of it? So working on those two questions is something that we do a lot of.
Lawson: How does Capgemini approach MDM? Do you do multi-domain or single domain or all of it?
Jones: One of the things we really focus on is a business-centric approach to MDM and a concentration around the operational side. There are a lot of MDM programs out there, very technical-focused, doing an OK job of data matching, data quality and those sort of pieces, but lacking the focus on actually how does it work operationally for business.
When you on-board a customer, a supplier, a product or whatever, how are you actually getting on board? How are you going to make the modifications to it? How is that information consumed? What business processes does that information actually impact?
People talk about single-domain and multi-domain MDM. From our perspective, technically, it’s all multi-domain.
But from a business perspective, there are three key areas for master data management. The first one is customer-centric and that’s not just the customer as an individual or organization. It’s the customer, the products they buy, because there’s no point in having, from a customer’s perspective, a single view of the customer when you can’t present a single view of the products you're selling
The second is internal looking, what we call “enterprise-centric” MDM. Primarily, the business cases there are around revenue generation. That’s something that applies more to federated businesses, large businesses that have multiple different divisions where the real goal there is to create a globally consistent view. It’s the ability to have a globally consistent view of plants, plant machinery, of the employees within the organization, globally consistent financial control. Efficiency and risk are the two things that primarily drive that sort of business case.
The final piece is what we call “supply-centric,” which is, again, externally focused, but looking on the procurement side and the collaboration with suppliers to help things like product arbitrage and reducing stock levels.
We did a piece of work for a large oil company where we identified the fact that a tiny little O ring, something that’s about the size of a wedding ring, they had over 200 definitions of that product inside SAP. So we were able to point and say, “Look, they have bins, which have only a few hundred of these things left,” and, for the want of an O-ring, maybe a recaster shut down. Well, six feet away, exactly the same product sits in a different bin for a different rig, but nobody knows the fact that that’s actually the same product. So if you ran out, you could just walk six feet and get all the ones you wanted. Because they didn’t have that master data management control, they weren’t able to do things like purchase arbitrage or substitution.
So we really look at it in those three different business areas, because we find that, from a business-governance perspective and a business-operations perspective, those things tend to work differently. Getting the person in sales to agree on the product view with the guy who’s buying it from an external supplier in procurement, they want two different things. The sale-side view of the product and the buy-side view of the product are two connected, but different things. Trying to have unified governance that does both at the same time, we just find business politics make that inefficient.
It makes the technology programs much, much simpler than if you approach it from a technology-centric way.
Lawson: The MDM Institute just issued a prediction that governance will be a major focus for MDM. Do you agree with that? What are the trends you're seeing with MDM?
Jones: We’ve been working with clients for quite a view years on the whole data governance challenge because of our business-centric approach. Fundamentally, if you govern the information and you agree on the specifications and you have real clarity —governance then drives through to operations.
Do we expect to see more of that work in the next 12 months? Yes, absolutely. There’s an economic reason, which is that big MDM projects are expensive and governance is much more of an operational expense than a capital expense. So there are things that can be fixed using governance without requiring a big capital expenditure, which I think has a real positive impact on governance.
I think the real reason that governance is becoming more important is that the business is taking more control of the information and the business sees the value of the governance before they spend the money on the technology. Historically, IT departments are seeing the value of the technology and haven’t been able to get the business engaged enough to do the governance. Now we’re seeing more business people buy MDM projects, but they're starting them from a governance perspective, whereas historically IT couldn’t get the business engaged, therefore they started from a technology perspective.
What we really work at is separating the different types of governance. So, having the clarity on what standards are, what is your genuine gold standard in governance, and then separately working out, but today what’s the best we can achieve? And that’s something that I haven’t seen many other organizations doing. I know a lot of the clients we go to, it comes as a bit of a good surprise.
Basically, we split governance into three pieces. One is a group that defines the standard, which is the gold standard, the “where we want to be in 10 years.” Another is a group, which I always think of more the grumpy people who go, “Well, that’s great, but the best we can do today is this.” Then the third, separate group sets up to measure the KPIs. I measuring and tracking the KPIs and demonstrating the actual impact is an integral part of governance. That’s something that organizations can put in place relatively quickly if they’ve got the support of people who have done it before.