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Master Data Management in Simple Terms

Most organizations, by now, understand the importance of improving the accuracy of their data. In doing so; they will build a strong foundation for MDM. Still, it is a long and tiresome process. In order to achieve their goal, executives must navigate their way through broken processes and internal disagreements.

Picture this: A large corporation loses one of their key production facilities due to flood or fire. The CEO, in an attempt to “save-face” with customers, decides that he will send a letter to each customer to let them know why their orders are being held up, and when they can expect their shipments to return to normal.

The executive team, charged with implementing his plan, naturally pulls the list of customers from their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program and their billing systems. Sadly, each of the two applications offered a different list of customers, so they couldn’t rely on either to use for their mailing list.

The company is in a dire situation and needs to act fast in order to retain customer loyalty. But their data management systems are holding them back. It may be hard to believe, but similar situations happen on a regular basis to companies who do not have functioning master data management.

These days, there are a seemingly endless amount of companies who seem qualified to help in this situation. There are plenty of custom, or stock (out-of-the-box solutions). The stock solutions are meant to be a “quick-fix,” plugging into the CRM, billing systems, and other programs to compile one master list of data. From an IT perspective, these are great solutions; however, you must not make the mistake of thinking that MDM is simply a technology effort. Nor is technology solely to blame for the problem.

As companies adapt MDM solutions, they soon realize that there is more to data management than technology. Each organization must align their processes, programs, and people to accomplish the unified goal that they expect from MDM. It is only then that they can be successful. Even the most perfect MDM is useless with poorly managed data. Incorrect data is often entered because of internal disagreements, incorrect definitions, or inaccurate reporting. According to a study done by the Data Warehousing Institute, 83-percent of organizations are afflicted with the same problem: poor data management that has nothing to do with technology.

The first step in laying the foundation for a successful MDM is for an organization to pinpoint and address any broken processes or internal disagreements. Everyone must agree on how they will define a customer or a supplier, as well as how they plan to solve current and future disagreements. This is often a stumbling point for companies because the process can get very political, but it is important to work through the disagreements to form a unified goal.

For anyone who is considering an MDM strategy for their organization, the best advice they can consider is to start small and plan their approach over a set period of time. This way, they will have time to address any office politics that might stand in the way of an effective implementation.

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