I had one of those client calls today that brought into sharp focus something that had avoided such clarity. Many of us have known that MDM and BI have a relationship; some mistakenly associate the two as if they are alternatives: I have heard some even think that MDM “needs” BI. But, the reality is that MDM and BI are different, yet have similarities. MDM assures a level of quality and consistency of (only) master data for all purposes in the business, including use in BI. BI includes (is not limited to) the necessary data quality routines in order to clean all data stored within its BI realm, for the purposes of BI only. As such, MDM is focused (or limited, if you prefer) and only looks at master data but for ALL uses; BI is broad (all uses of business intelligence and all data within BI) but is narrow (or limited, if you prefer) in that it does not focus on operational data or operational business applications.
I have written about “rules” in an MDM context before. How an organization masters rules is not a new topic; analysts have written about (business) rules engines before. But MDM is bringing a focus to the topic again, in the context of:
What type of rules are there?
Who authors such rules?
How are such rules used?
If rules or parts of rules (or rule making processes) are re-used, how can this be made effective?
It is the last question that is making users of MDM conclude that rules and MDM need to be related more closely. And because BI is immersed in rules, the connection between BI and MDM is more important. A client inquiry brought this connection unto clear focus today with the following description:
“We have been developing BI for many years, and we recognize that rules that adjust data in some fashion exist at many places in our systems, from initial identification, transformation, load, then aggregation, and even ‘post BI’ since users then take data and drop it into a spreadsheet and do more manipulations.”
These rules, in the context of BI, are what constitute aspects of what I call, “passive governance”. My college, Mark Beyer, would chuckle and correct me with, “Andrew, this is not governance at all” and Mark is correct; I am just a little kinder and I accept that these rules have a job, that is to clean up and process data in a way that should be meaningful to the user/business. As such, when “active governance” is established (aka MDM) then rules are again created to clean up and process data in a way that is meaningful to the user/business. The different is that in BI land, these rules are created and managed by IT independent of the operational system; with MDM these rules are defined by business and directly interacting with the operational system.
So the challenge for me is much clearer – after this one dialog with a client – spelled out the obvious. Over time more and more users will rationalize that they need to apply MDM disciplines to rules that process master data; and also, beyond that, integrity and re-use of those rules, even those that process non master data, can also yield business benefit through more effective management. The connection between mastery of business rules, and how MDM tools help, will only increase in strength in the next few years.
It seems the Rime of the Ancient Apps Manager/Mariner should be something like:
Rules, rules, every where,
And all the re-use did shrink,
Rules, rules, every where,
And not an object to link.