Developing a Master Data Management strategy

Posted Date: October 31, 2019 | Category: MDM

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.