Good Master Data is Good Business

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master dataEvery building needs a solid foundation. The same is true for businesses – and their foundation is data. “The data is in charge of the business,” according to Scott Taylor, Dun & Bradstreet’s Master Data Market Development and Innovation Lead. “If you don’t have it right, it causes most of your problems.”

Perhaps the biggest of those problems is falling victim to market disruptors – the Ubers and Airbnbs of your own industry. In his presentation, “Why Master Data is Your Most Important Data,” Taylor told an audience at the Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference that those companies “mastered the data of their markets, which let them master their markets.” They disrupted their industries, and rest assured, he said, that there are disruptors lurking in your sector, too. They’re “looking for that soft underbelly of data where they can sneak in” and push you to the side.

Standardized, harmonized, and integrated Master and Reference Data is the key to making the connections that make business happen in today’s API, Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data-infused economies where markets change fast and the businesses that serve them must change fast, too. Master Data brings the necessary structure that makes it possible for 360-degree views of everything from customers to supply chains, for business processes, and for the business to scale, thereby enabling new ways of going to market and servicing customers.

There’s a need, Taylor explained,

“For clean-coded, standardized, expertly governed master reference data to flow through every nature of every process. Entire ecosystems can then connect and integrate with that foundation.”

The Master Data Message

According to Taylor, executives must understand that Master Data – not Master Data Management (MDM) – is critical to getting the business where they want it to go. MDM is not the use case, but rather the software category used to create the output, which is Master Data. “You really need the end result of [MDM], which is the content itself,” he said. That’s what feeds other systems, drives processes across personas, and delivers value.

“The Chief Procurement Officer understands the supply chain, but do they know that Master Data fuels that?” he asked. They should. “That’s where you can draw that connection – that everything your business touches turns to data and you must manage that.”

Use the words that resonate with business personnel to sell the Master Data use case, Taylor advised. Explain that Master Data drives the common language that lets enterprise systems talk to each other. Master Data defines your business knowledge, your business nouns –customers, products, partners, services, revenue. “Revenue is an important KPI but it’s the [result of the] intersection between product Master Data and customer Master Data,” he pointed out. If there isn’t agreement on these entities, “you don’t get the right numbers.”

Taylor further encouraged EDW attendees to make it clear that Master Data is about the same thing your business is about – relationships and all the hierarchies that surround them.

“You all have relationships, and you want to build them, find more of them, stay in compliance with regulations for certain types of relationships, mitigate the risks of some other types of relationships,” he said.

You want to know how each entity “box” relates to each other, and you want to syndicate those connections and the knowledge of them across the enterprise.

Codified as a Master Data record for systems and processes, an entity gets its own code or unique ID to define its existence, a category to explain what kind of thing it is, a company to verify ownership, and a country (or geography). “These four Cs drive daily reporting,” Taylor said, and when not properly implemented, they also drive much of the trouble you run into in that reporting.

An example of how that trouble starts can be found in a code that Dun & Bradstreet has seen at least one company implement: The code was “DK.” It stood for “don’t know.”

Master Data provides for the truth in data that lets you derive meaning from data. And meaning matters to business success. “It’s about making good decisions. Good decisions you make on bad data are just bad decisions that you don’t know about yet,” Taylor intoned. “We need to have standards so we can trust numbers, because we know they’re based on truth.”

At Dun & Bradstreet, the Master Data value proposition revolves around the idea that businesses have a common need for structure, connectability across the ecosystem, coverage across business libraries and quality for governance, timeliness, and trust. According to Taylor, the best course here is to start with an emphasis on the tangible: If you start talking about quality to C-level execs, it sounds like you’re whining about data not being clean enough.

“But if you go in and say that you don’t have structure on data, no uniqueness or standardized category segmentation or hierarchy, that’s tangible,” he said. “Of course, you need quality, but start with structure and see how the conversation goes.”

The Dun & Bradstreet Way

Taylor summed up Dun & Bradstreet’s value framework for Master Data this way: To get to the top of the pyramid – relationships – you start with a foundation of data disambiguation, integration, aggregation, and interoperability. “The future of the enterprise requires interoperability,” he said. “Let machines talk to each other in a systematic and repeatable fashion.”

With truth established to supply meaning, it’s possible to get the right answers for business evaluations. With the ability to speak the same data language, it’s possible to communicate. Without communication, there is no relationship. “Stagnant data has no value,” Taylor said. “It has to move across the organization.”

And never forget that the Master Data journey is never over. “It’s a new way of life – believe and practice, and get others to do so,” Taylor said.

Dun & Bradstreet further makes its mark with Master Data-as-a-Service (MDaaS) where it delivers pre-mastered commercial content. It is a configurable set of solutions that offers companies the ability to seamlessly integrate Master Data into their native workflows. As Gartner has remarked of the MDaaS service, “You get Master Data that is trusted because it is structured from a trusted source.”

For any account-based strategy – sales, marketing, revenue, and so on – you need consolidated and complete account data, and Dun & Bradstreet builds extensive profiles of account entities to merge and match with existing data sources and connect across all internal systems.

Those account profiles can include everything from name to revenue to relationships, such as influencers in a company your business wants to do more business with, where your product is used there, what business units are not using it, and even what competitive products are being used instead. Enriching existing account information with these trusted attributes can provide vital knowledge for the salesperson, for instance, who wants to be able to differentiate your company’s product from competitors at the exact right moment.

“You can help change the nature of your business in the Master Data journey,” Taylor concluded.


Check out Enterprise Data World at
Register for Enterprise Data World in San Diego, CA from April 22-27, 2018 now!


Here is the video of the Enterprise Data World 2017 Presentation:


Photo Credit: Jirsak/

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