Zen and the art of master data management

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I am always intrigued by the number of times I hear how difficult it is to justify the business case for new master data management initiatives. Andy Hayler talks about this theme a lot in his insightful and entertaining blog.

His most recent post on the matter, ‘MDM and Spaghetti’, serves to highlight the fact that the source of this business case may be found in the darkened internal corridors of IT project budgets rather than in the more grandiose hallways of top line revenue growth.

In my experience the truth of the matter is that hidden in every project budget are a host of items which relate to master data management. Application development and implementation projects generally choose to configure or build this functionality themselves.

As Andy highlights this is especially true in projects which involve application integration of any kind. For example, an integration application which requires an individual ERP chart of accounts to be merged into a group reporting hierarchy will require these mappings to be held somewhere, maintained and propagated. Usually these services will be built as part of the application development effort.

Savvy projects will list these out as separate line items and seek enterprise level initiatives to help them manage these entities in a coherent manner. Almost without fail the larger the organisation and the larger the application portfolio, the larger the integration efforts and therefore the larger the sum of possible MDM line items.

Imagine for a minute how this expands when you bring the future bank of cloud computing into the window frame.

Savvy enterprises will have mechanisms in place to discourage this ad hoc explosion of master data management and try and bring a modicum of enterprise control around the most important master data entities.

Accenture maintains that significant value is created and performance enhanced throughout an organisation when high-quality data is available, governed and used to interact and operate differently. After all, you cannot claim data is an enterprise asset unless you start treating it as such.

So how does this happen in on the ground? Zen philosophy encourages its participants to de-emphasize theoretical knowledge in favour of direct, experiential realisation.

In MDM this philosophy leads to a kind of ‘build it and they will come’ approach which does not always wash in this day and age where investment proposals and return on investment are the order of the day and the yardstick by which every idea is measured.

It takes an intrepid organisation with an enduring enterprise architecture focus to invest in a concern-wide multi-domain MDM solution. To do this they need to enlist the master data entities from the organisations collection of projects. The rewards will certainly be hefty in preparing organisations for an environment where computing is more service driven and even less monolithic.

The knack to getting this done is showing individual projects that there is immediate value to be unlocked by driving out cost and outsourcing master data management development to the enterprise.

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