Andy on Enterprise Software

Data Governance and MDM

April 30, 2007

There is a good article about business ownership and MDM in DM News, from the rather unlikely pen of the marketing director of Siperian. Although any article written by a vendor should be the reading equivalent of held at a distance and handled with tongs, this piece actually has a lot of good sense in it. The key thesis is that MDM initiatives will not do well if owned by the CIO office or IT department, since success critically depends upon business engagement in the area of data ownership and governance. Now that MDM is developing momentum, some IT departments are embarking on large, enterprise-wide MDM initiatives. The hidden point of the article is that these projects are frequently being done using software from Oracle or SAP rather than an independent company like, well, Siperian, say, but you can forgive this subtly disguised message. The point is that without the business standing up and saying “Fred over there owns the notion of customer and will handle disputes over it between departments” and similarly for other master data, things will end in tears.

I was impressed recently by a client of mine who had already set up a cross-functional business team to do exactly this, and they could list not only the department which had been agreed to own various major master data elements (not just customer but asset, product, production facility, person etc) but actually had real people’s names attached to them i.e. it was not just wishful thinking. There were still plenty of issues with that project, but at least they had established the groundwork that would give them a chance of success. MDM initiatives which are driven by IT without this level of involvement to resolve boundary disputes are doomed to failure, whether the technology they use is from a mega vendor or an independent.

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[…] 2. Data is only useful if it is trusted, making data quality a key issue. Most data is in a shocking state in large companies, and the problems often come to light only when data is brought together and summarised. The BI project cannot just gloss over this, as the customers will quickly avoiding using the new shiny system if they find they cannot trust the data within it. For this reason the project teams needs to encourage the setting up of data governance processes to ensure that data quality improves Such initiatives are often outside the project scope, are unfunded and require business buy-in, which is hard. The business people themselves often regard poor data quality as an IT problem when in fact it is an ownership and business process problem. […]

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