How to Align MDM with Business Goals

Loraine Lawson

This week, I've shared what I've learned about the steps you need to take before you begin a master data management initiative. These factors are not my opinion, but what MDM experts say form the foundation of a successful MDM program.

To quickly review, so far I've covered:
Factor 1: Determine if you really need MDM.
Factor 2: Make sure you excel at data integration.
Factor 3: Don't shortchange data quality.
Factor 4: Start a data governance program.

The final two factors are suggestions you tend to hear over and over with IT initiatives; however, with MDM, both take on a special significance. Today I focus on:

Factor 5: Align your MDM efforts with business priorities. I know, I know: IT/business alignment is so 2010. But in this case, experts offer some very specific recommendations for what that means and what you need to do.


For example, Forrester Research analyst Rob Karel firmly believes the key to alignment is to focus on the business processes, not just with MDM but with any data governance, data quality initiative. In a 2008 interview, Karel explained why that matters and why you should do it before you invest in an MDM solution:

The next step would be to identify which business processes are in the most critical need of master data, and to understand how and why the information in its current state is not meeting end user needs. MDM is a business capability, not just a technology space, and an organization's MDM strategy must include improvements to the processes and systems that capture and update the raw data, not just the centralized solution that processes the data later. Understanding where changes may need to be made throughout the information supply chain is key to designing an MDM strategy.

How do you identify where the most critical need is? Try a consultant's trick: Listen for key phrases that indicate a need for MDM such as "we really don't know how many customers we have." That suggestion came from Jill Dyche, vice president of DataFlux, Baseline Division, at a recent seminar attended and written about by Rich Murnane for the Data Roundtable.


Focusing on the business process also allows you to identify artificial constraints that may have been created by previous applications, according to David Loshin, a consultant and president of Knowledge Integrity, Inc. That's why Loshin recommends you model the relevant business processes before embarking on MDM. Writes Loshin in a Beye Network article:

Determining an approach for managing master data will be based on the ways that the applications use the data, and the ways that applications use data should be related to how they are intended to achieve business objectives. In reality, though, often the business process is confused with the business application; in other words, the implementation of an application to support a business process supplants the process itself.

There are additional benefits to modeling the business process before starting MDM, which Loshin explains further in the article.

In my next post, I'll share the final preliminary factor for MDM success.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 13, 2011 4:46 PM BackOffice Associates BackOffice Associates  says:

Great article. Thank you for sharing. I really agree with engaging the business / business process owners. Many companies see Governance and MDM as an IT initative, and it should not be.

Another great way to kill two birds with one stone by getting executive buy in and figuring out exactly where you need governance is to hire a company to perform an analysis of your data. Ours is called a Data Audit, and it is a one week engagement where 2-3 consultants come on site and analyze all of your legacy data to determine what is relevant for your business, what is not ready for your ERP / target systems, and what data does not align with your business. Quick and easy way to figure out where your pain points are and build a strategy around it.



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