MDM, what's in a name?

Master Data Management, or MDM to those in the know, is a later addition to the vast lexicon of IT acronyms. But what does it really mean? Some industry acronyms are fairly self-explanatory such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and BI...

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Master Data Management, or MDM to those in the know, is a later addition to the vast lexicon of IT acronyms. But what does it really mean? Some industry acronyms are fairly self-explanatory such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and BI (Business Intelligence).

You can have a good guess at what value the software brings to the organisation just from the name. Other categories of software are more obscure - such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) - and require further explanation to uncover the full business value.

I am still unconvinced about which of these categories the term MDM falls into. On the one hand, what the software does is fairly obvious: it manages your master data. However, the answer to “Why MDM?” is not as obvious from the name.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, organisations often pay lip service to the concept of MDM without necessarily putting their money where their mouth is.

So what does MDM actually mean then?

Well, in a harmonisation MDM-style implementation, master data is imported from multiple sources.

It’s a good start, but there is no real value-add from this activity. Once in the repository, data quality routines can be run to match data from various sources together in this repository. Except in the limited use-case of automatic merging of records, you will need people to validate the results of matching and applying intelligent merging to the automated process of finding matches. Then you’ll need to push these changes through a master data governance business process to approve and authorise this data for consumption in destination systems.

A centralisation MDM-style allows people to enter new and changed master data into the repository and then again push these changes through a master data governance business process to approve and authorise this data for consumption in destination systems.

As ever, the concept of a governance process with clear ownership and stewardship remain fundamental to the delivery of successful master data management.

To my mind, automated Master Data Governance gives a clearer picture of the value of this software over and above that of Master Data Management, and probably more importantly, it gives a clearer idea of where to start: with governance and ownership and not with technology. MDM is the technology to underpin your governance initiatives and not the other way round!

Companies that start with this mindset have a much better track record of success in these endeavours. Master Data Governance Software, anyone?

Of course the integration of this wonderful golden copy of the master data into the appropriate destination systems remains a great challenge and a topic for a future blog.

Blog post by Duncan Slater, Accenture Information Management Services


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