Are You Really Ready to Buy a Master Data Management Tool?


Gartner analyst Andrew White recently posted a "tale of two MDM initiatives," from which he reaches two conclusions:


  1. It's very, very hard to succeed with master data management when you don't have a larger information management strategy.
  2. With MDM, governance, process and organization are more critical to success than technology.


Time and time again, I've read that MDM is not a technology. Recently, Contraste Europe consultant Tod McKenna used a term I really liked, describing MDM as a "capability." As White points out, MDM is more about the strategic elements-governance, the processes and organizational change-than a tool you buy in the box.


I can see where companies would look to technology for MDM. MDM products are impressive and powerful. But, as information management consultant David Loshin explains in a recent BeyeNetwork article, you'll cause more problems than you'll solve by buying technology before you've laid the MDM foundation:


"... acquiring an MDM system should be the culmination of preparatory steps taken once the organization is prepared to make the hard decisions regarding business process modifications, application retirement, application migration, and data governance. Purchasing decisions made prematurely ... may lead to roadblocks and stonewalling that will impact the success of the program."


Last month, Loshin began a series of checklists to help organizations get ready for MDM. The first checklist was designed to help you identify and communicate the business drivers for MDM.


In the second installment of the series, Loshin provides a checklist of questions designed to measure your organizational preparedness for MDM.


The list covers all the stuff you'll need to figure out before you buy an MDM solution and, believe me, these are not easy, multiple choice, true/false stuff. They're more like essay questions, designed to determine how deeply you've thought through the issues.


Here's a sample from his excellent list:


  • What business processes will need to change to accommodate a master data environment?
  • What business processes will be eliminated or overhauled as a result of the transition?
  • Is there an existing or planned enterprise architecture?
  • Will enterprise architects oversee changes needed to move to a master data environment?
  • Are there potential synchronization issues for real-time business application use of shared master data? If so, how will you address them?


Hard questions-but as you answer them, you'll be doing the type of work White says you need to do to succeed with MDM.


Until you can answer all the questions on this checklist, Loshin wisely warns, hold off on the vendor dog-and-pony show.