Master data: from jungle to garden in several not so easy steps

I very much liked a succinct article by the ever-reliable Colin White on MDM approaches. Companies still struggle to get to grips with what a roadmap for MDM is all about, with apparently competing (and incomplete and immature) MDM technologies and management consultants who are only a few pages ahead of the customers in the manual. This piece neatly sets out the end goal of MDM and the various approaches to getting there (via analytic MDM or operational MDM as a start). It would have been even better had it explained in more detail how the alternatives can be run in parallel, and going into more depth on the issues of each sequences of steps. However by clearly separating out operational and analytic MDM and showing how these are complementary he is already doing a significant service.

The issue he mentions with “approach 1” i.e. the “complexity of maintaining a complete historical record of master data” can be dealt with if you choose an analytic MDM technology which has built-in support for analysis over time. Colin points out that a key step is to end up with a low-latency master data store as the system of record for the enterprise, acting as a provider of golden copy master data to other sources, both transaction systems and analytical ones such as an enterprise data warehouse. If properly implemented, this will result in a change of the centre of gravity of master data, from the current situation where the system of record is ERP to a situation where the enterprise master data repository is actually the system of record, providing data through a published interface (and an enterprise service bus) through to all other systems, including ERP. This is a desirable end state, and is a key step to starting to unlock the monolithic ERP systems that companies use today into more manageable components.

I really hope that this paper gets the attention that it deserves. Getting most of the key messages into two page article is quite an achievement. I would like to see this developed further, and hopefully it will be.

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