Blog post

Where did MDM “come from” in the first place?

By Andrew White | January 20, 2009 | 2 Comments

Product Information Management (PIM)IBMCustomer Data Integration (CDI)

I was sent a link to a story in December, Winning over the MDM Chief Procurement Officer with MDM, (thanks Debbie) that I found interesting.  The article is based on some vendor (Bristlecone Inc.) content (not always a bad thing), but the thing that I found most interesting was the source link referred to in this article (see Avoiding the Big Bang Backlash of MDM Implementations).  Jessie Chimni, VP of North American Services for Bristlecone, wrote in his source article that MDM consisted originally of Product Information Management, and Customer Data Integration.  Now why would I find this interesting?


Correctly, in my view, Chimni affirms that MDM had common roots in two different parts of the business: how to achieve single view of product, and customer.  And when we say, “single view”, we don’t really mean that.  We mean, “from a single source of master data, each user in context to the task at hand, can perceive the information in the way they need too” which really results in multiple views from one source.  But we say colloquially, “single view” as its simpler.


But, you can tell about where a vendor comes from by the way they talk about MDM’s history.  Too many relate MDM to CDI only, as if that were the source.  Too few related MDM to PIM only.  The reality is both are parts of MDM’s history.  As PIM and CDI, these two technologies did start at different times, and in different industries, but they are part of MDM.


I read “Master Data Management and Customer Data Integration for a Global Enterprise” back in 2007, apparently an early MDM book, and found it to be severely wanting.  It only talked about CDI, and the book clearly had been updated to take advantage of the MDM hype.  Clearly, the authors did not have a complete understanding of what MDM was, and is.  I wrote a book review and this was it:


This is an interesting book on a hot new topic, Master Data Management.  Only part of the book, the first 20% is legitimately MDM focused however – most is CDI.  CDI is in affect MDM for the customer domain however when one talks about MDM there is a perception that you talk about the whole space, and when you talk about CDI you talk about that part of MDM that is specific to the customer data domain.  Hence the book leaves you a tad empty.  With CDI you get a good overview and update on the topic; with MDM you are left wanting.  Certainly the content is good and valuable – well worth the read if your business is trying to achieve single view of customer across the enterprise.  However, if you are trying to implement MDM you will need to go elsewhere. 


I would save your money and not bother with this book – but I do have a suggestion for you.  A much better book, one that I am still working my way through, is IBM’s “Enterprise Master Data Management: An SOA Approach to Managing Core Information”.  It’s long, and deep, and I have some issues with terminology and frameworks.  But this is a much more up to date, and rounded view of MDM. 

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  • Robert Rich says:


    Wasn’t it SAP who first coined the term MDM to synchronize different instances of business partner and other master data objects within their applications architecture?

    The data quality definition “fit for use” reflects your single view comments in two parts. “Free from defects” is an objective standard about the facts while “possesses desired features” is a subjective evaluation specific to a business context. That single set of accurate and complete facts needs to be delivered in different combinations of accessibility and relevance to be fit for use by different functions in the business.


  • Andrew White says:

    Actually no, SAP did not coin the term MDM first. In fact, the history is much more interesting than one might think. ERP vendors in general, and I mean a lot more than just SAP (which is not really an ERP vendor any more, but that’s another story), were not overly keen (shall we say) that MDM emerged as a discrete topic.

    ERP vendors were coping as best they could with the underlying problem for years. In fact, ERP was designed to eliminate the underlying problem – or so ERP sales reps used to day. The reality is that ERP was only ever designed to yield single view of financial transaction, and this led to an implicit concept of master data. The reality was that most ERP users were not able to run the entire business on ERP, so governance of master data was never centralized, or even achieved, across ERP and non ERP systems. Many users report to using redundant copies of ERP as aggregator systems akin to yet another BI oriented data warehouse.

    MDM comes along as another attempt to solve specifically single view of master data and the ERP vendors realized, late, that MDM was a threat to their hegemony of the application infrastructure. Then, a few years later, the ERP vendors adopted MDM (since they could not beat it) and started their own serious MDM efforts. But this history helps to explain, in part, the blind spot that ERP vendors sport that has prevented them from ‘leading’ this market. Today, the ERP vendors are very focused on assuring that they are the owners of master data. He who owns the master data becomes pretty hard to replace (a favorite vendors position to take).