Master Data Management: Exercise for Your Data

Loraine Lawson

There's a lot of focus on master data management tools lately, mostly because the market is in full-tilt consolidation mode, but also because it's IT's nature to look at technology. That's why it's called "information technology," right?


But, moving past the obvious, it's important to remember that master data management isn't something you buy. It is, I've read recently, something you do, like exercise.


Twice recently I've read pieces that have compared MDM to exercise. The first was a sharp attack by Shaun Snapp on the growing misconception that vendors can "sell" you MDM.


Snapp, an independent SAP consultant focusing on software configuration management, contends MDM vendors and consultants are essentially selling diet pills, when organizations really just need exercise:

The best analogy I can come up with is that master data management requires investment and constant vigilance, thus it is similar to exercise. What that major software vendors are offering is a quick fix, or basically a diet pill or informercial exercise equipment. Clients should not allow themselves to be deluded. No particular tool is needed for MDM.

The second exercise/MDM reference appeared two days later in a CIO.com post titled, "Seven Pillars of a Successful Master Data Management Implementation." Vitaly Dubravin, CTO of an IT consulting firm specializing in MDM, cautions that organizations must view MDM as a "lifestyle":

Do not think of a Master Data Management as a one-time deal, but a continuous effort. Compare it to your daily fitness routine. You have to get in shape first (initial implementation), but should continue exercising through the rest of your life to stay healthy. Any attempt to put the MDM on hold ("I'm too busy with something else, will catch up later") will have the same effect as ignoring gym-getting back into shape gets harder and harder every year.

I always hate that term-lifestyle-because I always decode it as "diet that you never, ever get to quit" and who wants that?


But, if you want to be healthy and a decent weight, a lifestyle change - and, yes, exercise - is an inescapable reality. And so it is with MDM: If you want your data to be lean, clean and quality, you've got to dedicate yourself to the discipline, not just the technology.


This issue has also emerged as a discussion point during this week's Gartner MDM Summit, which started Wednesday and continues through today in Las Vegas. A number of people have been tweeting from Gartner's MDM conference, including Aaron Zornes of the MDM Institute, Gartner analyst Ted Friedman, and marketing professional, Lorita Vannah. You don't have to join Twitter to follow the discussion, either. Just do a search on the tag #GartnerMDM and you'll find their posts, which include some discussion about MDM as a discipline.


Vannah's tweets have been especially worthwhile, since she tweets information from the sessions she's attending. Here's a sample:

Gartner MDM view continues to segment by domain. We need to be looking at holistic view. Domain-specific MDM perpetuates silos.
MDM part of info sharing env(ironment), as are BI, Content mgt, metadata mgt, data quality, performance mgt.

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