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The Real Value of MDM Lies Beyond a Single Version of Anything

Loraine Lawson

Analysts and vendors talk a ton about this Holy Grail-a single version of the truth-when it comes to master data management, that it's just a given that this is a worthy and even achievable goal.

 

Technologist Robin Bloor raises worthwhile questions about this and other data-integration assumptions in a recent blog post appearing on a data-integration vendor Pervasive's blog.

 

It's a fun, worthwhile read. He starts out at a highly philosophical level, going back to Plato's classic argument that there was somewhere an ideal tree that defined tree, and works his way back down to the world of business intelligence and the equally impossible task of achieving one definition of "customer."

 

Those of you with liberal arts backgrounds will love this, of course. But he's making a larger point that's worth consideration by the very business-minded and tech-minded among you, so I'd urge you to stick with him through the philosophical discourse.

 

The questions he pulls out for discussion are:


 

  • Is complete data integration desirable?
  • Is complete data integration possible?

 

For me, the big question he's tackling here is whether the real goal is a single version of a customer and master data management's ability to actually deliver it. Ultimately, he argues, the value isn't in achieving a single version of customer, but in achieving "a data rich version of the customer":

And if we successfully unite a wide variety of data sources without encountering contradictions, we will get a very rich set of data around any given entity, whether it is a product, customer, business partner or whatever. But, if we gathered all the data surrounding any given entity, we would never have reason to use it all at once in any given context. The benefit would not be in having a single version of customer but being able to generate many different views of customer.

It's an excellent point, and arguably much more valuable to business users than any mythical data Holy Grail.


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