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New Research Published – Metadata Management and MDM – apples and oranges?

by Andrew White  |  April 28, 2009  |  1 Comment

Despite the similarity in terms, we have not written too many notes on the topic of how metadata management and MDM intersect (or overlap).  After speaking with many end users there confusion is not overly great, though once you tackle a specific question in context to a particular business decision or process or application, it can get quite complicated.  

However, my college Michael Blechar just published a really good note (Metadata Management is Important for MDM’s Long-Term Success) that It think nails the topic.  The last bout of material that married the two topics came together at our last Gartner MDM Summit in November 2008, and Michael has done a real great job of building out the note with reference to core metadata management and MDM research.

Without giving the farm away, the note explores the following: 

  • Metadata and master data are different; the former is very broad in its applicability and very IT oriented; the latter is very specific and much more business oriented
  • Defining master data will result in the use of metadata
    • One firms adoption of MDM will result in the representation of master data AS metadata; another firms adoption will result in a different mix of master and metadata in that definition – there is no fixed mix; each firms MDM strategy will differ
  • Managing and stewarding master data will result in the use of metadata

Hopefully you find value in the note which does have some good examples.  

Interestingly, another couple of colleagues of mine (David Newman and Nick Gall) also recently published a note (see Cost Optimization Using Enterprise Information Architecture: Go Smaller, Simpler and Smarter to Meet Savings Goals) on enterprise information architecture relating to MDM.  The note highlights nicely how any broad information management strategy should start small and focused, as this will help get efforts approved and executed, especially in difficult economic times.  

The note defines master data (data entities that are core objects that the business understands and that define the business – such as customer, product etc) as well as the MDM discipline (single view of master data across the enterprise).  But the note also has a great example that shows how one firms master data is another firms metadata, even though both firms get value from managing both types of data for re-use.  One firm is a seller of stock digital photos used in marketing programs.  To the seller these digital photo’s are their “product” and data describing these photo’s is governed according to MDM for reuse across the entire firm.  A manufacturer of (say) consumer goods may purchase these stock digital photos and use them in their marketing programs.  For the consumer goods firm the stock digital photo’s are not the product they are selling; but this firm still gains business value in managing the data for re-use, across its global marketing divisions.  Accordingly, to the supplier the data describing the photo’s is master data; to the consumer goods manufacturer it is metadata.  So the tools and techniques used to manage the data are different, related, but with very similar goals of gleaning value from reuse derived from consistency.  Go for it – enjoy the note.

Additional Resources

Category: mdm  metadata-management  

Tags: mdm  metadata-management  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on New Research Published – Metadata Management and MDM – apples and oranges?

  1. This is an excellent article. I happened to work on evaluation of an Analytical MDM for clinical data trial. The basic aim was to first arrive at a centralized Meta data management solution, to drive the Master data management process. It was an eye-opener.

    The concept of using Part Number or SKU based meta data information in a Product management MDM seems unique. This was conceived by Tim Sullivan from Hub Solution Design ( We could see more traction between Meta data driven MDM soon.

    Thanks and regards

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