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There are no short cuts to “single version of the truth”. It’s gonna hurt!

by Andrew White  |  September 9, 2011  |  Comments Off on There are no short cuts to “single version of the truth”. It’s gonna hurt!

I had one of those inquiries with a user last week that you hate to have.  The call started off well enough.  The client described a business scenario that is all too common: global company, independent business units, heterogeneous environment, some ERP program, lots of CRM, a new shiny BI plan, yet realization that underpinning data is shot to pieces.  Was CRM part of the answer?  Was BI part of the answer?  What do we do first, MDM or BI?  Would MDM make doing BI easier?  What is the “re-work” if we do BI first?  All the usual questions….

I spent a few minutes comparing and contrasting MDM to BI and CRM and other business applications, programs, and disciplines.  We explored the purpose of MDM, and how it would provide a foundation for all manner of applications that consume data.  Toward the end of my “pitch” I mentioned how adopting MDM will likely lead to discovery of how business rules in the source applications will eventually be questioned, and that they may need to be “controlled” by the MDM program.  As I paused for oxygen, the client jumped in:

“Hang on, I don’t want to do all that stuff.  I think the solution is only a little, simple database in the center of the IT systems that maintains “single version of the truth”, that every user and system can interrogate for any purpose, that publishes out, as needed, good, clean data”.

OK, this is where my mind ran ahead of the words coming out of my mouth.  This sounds like a logical request, but how on earth would this work?  Surely, if this solution were this simple, why did MDM come about?  Could a full blown MDM implementation be serviced by “just” an uber table that stored links and maps between the erroneous data in the source systems and all new resulting systems, including the new CRM and BI tools, yet to be deployed in 2012 and 2013?  Of course, the answer is “technically yes, this could be done, but that is not the point”.  The reason why we are all in the pickle (of inconsistent data across heterogeneous landscape) is because of the number of one-off, “little projects” that were designed to solve this problem that became, themselves, silos that did not replace anything, any role, or any service.  Technology, my dear client, is the least important thing here.  Governance IS needed – there is no way around it.  But how could I bring us back to reality?

We back tracked – and talked about governance, stewardship, roles, responsibility, data ownership, process integrity, business outcomes, and so on.  As we talked more, I could hear the clients wooden/noisy chair gradually lean back on its springs, and could imagine the client coming out in a cold sweat.  I ruined her day.  She did not want to hear a Gartner analysts tell her that this was going to be hard work.  She wanted a simple IT answer to a business problem, make her decision simple.  I felt the wind leave her sails, my customer service score falling, as she put the hand set back on the phone cradle.

I hate calls like this.  On a few, rare occasions, the client spots the mismatch in expectations and they are re-set, and success is sought.  For too many, the short cut is the easy way out – and I get the call 2 years later after the initial “pickle’ as gone very rotten.  And there maybe even less money (and energy) left to tackle the real issue.

Category: change-management  governance  mdm  

Tags: change-management  governance  mdm  

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




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