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The literature is rife with stories of master data management project success and horror stories. Your inbox is overflowing with information about the next best software offering to ensure the success of your project to create Nirvana—the “GOLDEN RECORD”. Master data management has almost never been more in the spotlight, than now. It is now commonly agreed that to harness the power of a company’s greatest asset, ITS DATA, the foundation must be constructed and hardened with good, curated master data.
"When the business owns and understands the process, a successful and sustainable MDM journey becomes a much more likely outcome"
The thought of an MDM project overwhelms many in IT: the stories of the complexities, the overwhelming choices in partners, the un-ending options in software offerings. There are so many moving parts that it is difficult to decide where to begin, where to go, and how to get there! The starting point should place a focus on ownership by and buy-in from the business. What does this focus look like in practice? There are several parts to establishing business ownership and it starts with clear, stated value to the business. The problems to be solved and the opportunities supported are documented as part of this shared vision and strategy. The business owners must have a vision that paints a clear picture of the end state.
A strategy to attain this vision is to start with the smallest scope possible and build over time. This helps to ensure early success while demonstrating value. These ‘small wins’ also garner more support and business champions as the database grow. The expansion of data comes from adding new sources, both internal and external (trusted third-party data), mastering new data objects, as well as the introduction of new consuming applications. The evolution of the data model should naturally follow changes in the business. The base model is set but the number of attributes and objects within the database will expand. Start small and grow into the vision.
Having a vision of clear business value and a strategy to get there are only the beginning, but an MDM journey will not be successful without two other concurrent actions. The first and most important is a business-owned and administered data governance program; the second is a data quality program. The governance program should be a cross-functional team with representatives from all lines of business working together. Only the business users, who know the data and its uses, can define each of the data objects to be mastered and set the standards by which the data will be created and maintained. Support functions–such as finance and marketing–should be included as well if they are consumers of the data. IT may also require a seat at the table to gain the understanding of what the business needs and wants from its data. It is with this understanding that IT can build the groundwork for a robust quality program. Quality is best built into the frontend of the process. Interactive, online validation combined with a rules engine assist the business data stewards in creating error free records. This does not alleviate the need for retrospective audits, but it can reduce the severity and frequency of transactional and reporting errors.
While technology is always part of the equation, it is not a significant ingredient that influences success or failure. Projects have succeeded or failed using any of the software packages commercially available. What influences the success of a project the most is centering the focus on the business: the Vision and the Value; Governance and Quality programs. When the business owns and understands the process, a successful and sustainable MDM journey becomes a much more likely outcome.