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Reprise: When is Master Data and MDM Not Master Data or MDM?

by Andrew White  |  June 5, 2014  |  5 Comments

Here is a specific inquiry question I received from an end user organization today:

“XXX has 2 major ERP systems – brand 1 and brand 2.  They each have an MDM layer in their own architecture but when the systems need to talk to one another, the SKUs, customer locations, etc. are coded differently.  How can we fix this?”

This question helps explain the ongoing level of education still required in our industry.  Business Applications do not have their own “MDM layer”.  Business applications DO NOT SUPPORT MDM.  They should, reasonably, support their own data management.   That is not MDM.

MDM was conceived as discipline that probably results in, among other things, an application-independent information layer and/or hub or service that helps achieve the specific goal this end-user question is really hinting at.   So the question as posted is the problem here.  It might be better asked as this:

“XXX has 2 major ERP systems – brand 1 and brand 2.  They each have their own data and data management capability in their own architecture but when the systems need to talk to one another, the SKUs, customer locations, etc. are coded differently.  How can we fix this?”

Now the answer is “a form of MDM”.  I say “a form” since there are different ways of actually sustaining consistency in the information across these two ERP systems.  But that is where the real question should focus.  The fact is that too many vendors are deliberately confusing end users to meet their own ends.  We all need to wide up to this behavior.

Worse, Wikipedia should be corrected!  As of today, this is the current definition of Master Data Management:

In business, master data management (MDM) comprises the processes, governance, policies, standards and tools that consistently define and manage the critical data of an organization to provide a single point of reference.

The data that is mastered may include:

  • reference data – the business objects for transactions, and the dimensions for analysis
  • transactional data – supports applications
  • analytical data – supports decision making

What utter rubbish!  Transactional data IS NOT MASTER DATA, though transactional data MAY include master data.

It get’s better with reference data: Reference data is data that defines the set of permissible values to be used by other data fields.

These are lovely clean definitions that any technician would be proud of.  They also totally miss the point about MDM.  It is because IT has not understood how to prioritize, and the business has not accepted to govern,  the most important information assets that describe what an organization does, that much of what IT does, in the name of “information and its management” does not add the business value expected.

Talk about a problem.  We will all be ‘ungainfully’ employed for a long, long time, sorting this stuff!!!!  Kind of depressing really.  Not sure I even have the energy to fight against the Wikipedia technicians.  The fact that some of us have a different understanding of the DNA of an organization is what provides competitive advantage….

PS In 2013 I suggested that we were only half pregnant with MDM.  I think we are only just a week or 2 past “half pregnant”.

Category: master-data-management  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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