I just spent a day with an end user organization trying to get its information governance program launched using Master Data Management as the vehicle. Despite the opportunity, despite the conditions that seem favorable for MDM, and despite the multi-stakeholder willingness to participate, getting MDM off the ground is hard work. And like with most organizations, trying to get MDM off the ground all the while trying to keep the business running, is even harder. We spent some time tackling a common issue I see a lot, and have increasingly seen, over the last year. The role and responsibility of “governance” needs to be defined clearly. However, I think we need to go further.
Collectively I see a lot of folks coming to terms with defining, and re-defining, the role of “data governor”, “data steward”, and “data maintenance”. I think this is a critical delineation of duties, yet so many organizations start with an “all in” definition and then struggle when it comes to execution. I don’t think MDM, and any related information governance effort, can work unless these roles are clearly identified and resourced (sometimes by separate people). I don’t mean to suggest that organizations need to build up their bureaucracy; it could be that these roles are staffed by one or two folks. The point is that these roles exist today in every organization, but mostly informally and inconsistently. These roles need to be explicit and the dependency of the roles needs to be made clear; I know what I am supposed to do in my home every evening; why not in our day to day work?
I spent another day this week with several other clients I was reminded, as I flew home, of two press pieces. Jim Ericson over at Information Management, wrote a nice piece: MDM: No Roots, No Fruits. The part of the article that resonated with this week’s most recent client interactions was this: “…[I]t’s easy to forget that most companies – by far — are only kicking the tires on MDM.” This is just so true. And this tells you just how far we have come with “data governance” – not very far.
This does not mean that there aren’t examples of other data that might be governed for specific purposes (think records management, digital media), but widely adopted, enterprise wide, primary information assets, broad based data governance does not exist. And despite this many organizations are still “successful” in that they still ship the goods, still tax the citizen, or still power the washing machine. Talk about a tough message to sell.
In support of Jim’s point I noted a survey Kalido published recently. In The State of Data Governance 2011” they reported, among other things, “Despite nearly seven years extolling the virtues of managing master data by analysts and vendors, 49% of companies still do not manage master data anywhere but in their disparate applications.” Well I have to disagree! I think a figure of 49% is very flattering. I think the vast majority of organizations that could take advantage of information governance programs like MDM are “not there yet”. I would estimate nearer 80% of companies are not managing their master data properly. A figure nearer 80% seems to jive better with the level of inquiries we saw a few years ago, the much higher level we see now, and the type of organizations we talk with.
On a more positive note Heiler also published a survey of organizations using MDM solutions to help master product data. The survey is called “Return on Investment (ROI) of Product Information for Multichannel” and by definition, this is a segment of the overall MDM market. The good news is that the survey showed some interesting data supporting the business case for how an MDM approach helps organizations achieve their business goals more so then without MDM.
“Conversion rates”, that is, the rate at which a prospect turns into a customer transaction, was reportedly higher for organizations adopting MDM of Product Data. But oddly only manufacturers surveyed suggested this; retailers suggested a much small impact of governed data on conversion rates. Then again, the maturity of MDM in retailers lags that of manufactures by quite a large margin (I surmise) so I wonder if the respondents really answered the question that was asked of them. I would have to explore the responses (and organizations) more fully to get to the bottom of the difference.
Either way both survey’s expose some good information, and provide more food for thought. I am still really excited at the amount of work going on, but there is so much more ahead of us than there is behind – for most of us.