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Developing a Master Data Management strategy

Master data is business truth. When managed and maintained correctly, that business truth can flow like liquid gold to every far-flung corner of an organisation; informing decision-making and strategy and driving value in the data age.

Fundamentally, master data management is when a business seizes control of its critical data entities (namely customers, suppliers, products, locations, employees and finances) so stakeholders can easily access one pure, consistent view of everything. MDM is the framework which ultimately defines where, why, what, how and when data is entered, maintained, stored, governed, accessed, retired and, crucially, monetised.

Master Data Management is the great enabler when organisations wish to see a new day in customer intimacy; in innovation leadership; in risk management and in operational excellence.

The concept is simple enough, but as established in recent Onepoint whitepaper Six Steps to MDM Success, the theoretical ease of MDM can be a bit of a trapdoor. And as tempting as it might be to start writing a technology wishlist, the first step to building an MDM strategy is simply talking …

MDM and stakeholder buy-in

It sounds like business 101, but the purpose of funding a large-scale data infrastructure project is to see a return on that investment. But MDM isn’t like buying in a new piece of software. MDM is not a standalone entity with a binary ROI.

Yes, MDM involves a lot of IT mechanisms, but it is absolutely not an IT project. It is a business project, thus all within the business have a stake in it and a role to play.

On several occasions we have been called to implement an MDM project only to find it is entirely an IT-led initiative with limited business engagement. Such projects are on the road to failure.

In days gone by, the company’s data strategy and the wider business strategy may have been separate entities. But through MDM they will henceforth be fused together and working in harmony.

So the first step in an MDM strategy is, alongside upper management and key business stakeholders, putting KPIs and real business goals against the project. An MDM vision document (that’s written in plain English and not tech jargon!) is the best way to justify and codify the project’s aims. It acts as a handbook for implementation and a measuring stick for success.

How data-mature is my organisation?

The next phase of strategy is, again, nothing to do with strategy. The next phase is assessing your current data maturity, and thus readiness for MDM. This chapter often begins with a root-and-branch investigation of the technology, the data streams and the platforms plugged into every corner, department and location of your business.

Key here is the notion of data governance. This is the umbrella term for how well defined and organised a company’s data infrastructure is: what definitions, policies and quality measurements are in place and how far stakeholders actually adhere to the rules.

Data governance is crucial. As Steve Putman of SAS Data Management states, “You can implement data governance without MDM, but you can’t implement MDM without data governance.”

Is my business too small for MDM?

While it’s true that big MDM systems are complex and require deep commitment to deploy and run, MDM is a crucial tool if SMEs wish to monetize data and achieve success.

While it’s true to say that MDM costs can mount, it is an investment and it is possible to feel your way into the process. Starting small and identifying quick win opportunities in contained areas of business before branching out.  If the purpose is to convey MDM’s value to the wider organisation, a small-scale use case or proof-of-concept can be of critical benefit in ascertaining company buy-in.

Proof of concept?

Objectively speaking, MDM is a disruptive project that can take two years to mature. As a loss-leader, it can be a difficult sell to budget-holders without a strong business case to back up its potential.

Onepoint like to begin the MDM process with a proof-of-concept phase. By speculating on, and even proving, the additional value that MDM will generate in a contained environment, we can extrapolate the global benefits.

Again, MDM is a long term investment and a tough sell but it’s easier to do so when it is presented, correctly, as a launchpad for next-generation value, efficiency and innovation.

In-situ picture

Let’s take the first step … and talk

As laid out in the beginning, the scope of an MDM project is deceptively large. For a company to get oversight on all its data it needs to look here and there; to structured and unstructured data; to both warehoused data and data which is on active duty, pulsing through POS systems, CMS and analytics dashboards.

Yes, the strategy will soon be about technology, processes and people. But first is the talking phase, then it’s the looking phase.

Once those have come to pass, we have foundations on which a custom strategy can be built: a roadmap for installation including project milestones, gap analyses, and tech solutions.

Info-Tech acknowledges three phases of MDM strategy: Ready – ensuring all prerequisites for MDM – whether small scale or large – are in place. Aim – figuring out the organisation’s master data objectives and getting company-wide buy-in. And Fire! – approaching MDM with a clear-cut blueprint that has sufficient room to maneuver when challenges arise.

It’s tough to speak generally about MDM strategy – there is no one-size-fits-all. The scale and spread of an organisation – not to mention its sector, goals and business vision – all have a bearing on the approach and the likely challenges ahead.

But if you’re at the start of your MDM journey, it’s best not to worry about those things yes. As we’ve said, the first step on the implementation roadmap is talking …


So why not start now. Please sign up for a free half day Workshop with Onepoint. We can help you and your business bring MDM into focus. Contact@onepointltd.com

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