Master Data Management: Evolution at the Heart of the Business

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Master Data Management“The role of Master Data Management (MDM) and the opportunity it presents in the marketplace has never been more critical and strategic to the overall success of today’s business,” said” Prashant Bhatia, Chief Product Officer at Stibo Systems.

Real-time systems, Artificial Intelligence, and the influx of Cloud-based service providers are reinforcing the need for MDM as data volumes continue to grow in the age of digital transformation. According to Bhatia:

“It doesn’t matter how much investment you make in technology, if you don’t have clean and accurate data, you will not be able to derive the best answer. It’s a real problem and is a conversation we’re having more and more with customers and prospects.”

Once an organization experiences the benefits of good Master Data Management in one domain, Bhatia said, they want to extend those benefits to other domains. Customers from three years ago who deployed MDM for their ‘product’ domain now want to “talk [about adding] ‘customer,’ and ‘location,’” he said.

“They want to know how they can syndicate data both internally and externally because they’re getting more pressure from their stakeholders whether it be retailers, manufacturers or distributors to share and ensure trusted data. To do so, they need to continually expand and improve their MDM resources and policies.”

Bhatia said that understanding just how complex the world of data has become is driving many organizations to realize that, “If they can do more than just a single domain, they can start to build even more insights going forward.” Today, there are still a lot of companies that are working to focus on the basics of mastering data, he said. “That’s kind of the here and now,” but the growing awareness of the value of multi-domain MDM is just one area of evolution Bhatia has seen.

“A second area of evolution would be around new emerging technologies,” remarked Bhatia. The companies that are looking to the future are the ones that are making the right investments and asking the questions such as: “I’ve got all this IoT data, so what does that really mean? What about self-learning algorithms? And what is that ultimately going to look like?”

Without having clean data, none of an organization’s processes in their supply chain, store, or manufacturing operations will be streamlined or more efficient due to inaccurate data. That leads back to Master Data Management.

He also sees the Cloud as another growth area. “Cloud is interesting in the sense that you can now build true microservices, or shared services, on the Cloud that can be deployed standalone first, and then extended to add additional value.”

One of the first microservices that Stibo Systems created is based around ‘product data syndication,’ to provide a collaboration tool allowing for seamless sharing of data between retailers and their suppliers.  Bhatia sees the acceptance of Cloud services as coming a bit slowly to the MDM world, but he thinks it will be, “Another area of growth that will create new offerings and services that Stibo Systems is going to be able to help clients with going forward.”

Stibo Systems and Master Data Management

Stibo Systems is part of Stibo Group, a company operating in Denmark since 1794, first as a printer of catalogs and labels, and then in the 1980s, moving into software with Stibo Systems, he said. While the Company focused on its strength in Product Information Management (PIM) they were actually one of the first true MDM players, “Our technology platform, STEP, has always been a true MDM platform even though customers were initially using us just for PIM.”

At the same time, customers wanted support and guidance for how best to respond to future market changes and Stibo Systems has stepped up to provide best practices, he said. The desire to bring ‘exponential value’ to its clients has driven the expansion into multiple domains and into offering new services, such as product data syndication. STEP has always supported multiple domains and is not just limited to the ‘product’ domain or model, which allows our customers to take advantage of implementing other domains with minimal investment.

“So, whether that be ‘customer,’ ‘employee”, “location,’ ‘supplier,’ ‘asset management’ whatever it is, we can model almost any type of data within the platform which provides a lot of value and ROI for our clients.”

This multi-domain capability makes it possible for Stibo Systems to manage MDM for any business using many different types of data. “We’re really excited that we have allowed that level of flexibility for the marketplace.”

The way Stibo Systems’ clients are buying the tools is evolving as well, so that rather than the client focusing on acquiring a specific piece of technology, “clients are looking for us to be prescriptive and get them up and running faster, making sure that they are seeing value from their investments quicker.” A quicker rollout and time-to-value makes it possible for companies “to unlock greater value for the business” and extend the power of the technology platform to other domains, other businesses, other geographies, he said.

Bhatia remarked that they are seeing growth in the number of companies expanding from ‘product’ into ‘customer’ MDM, and due to customer demand, Stibo Systems is expanding its solution to support Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) as well.

“PLM really talks more about the origination of a product all the way to the point where it’s actually being created – from raw material to finished goods. When you take a look at PIM, it tends to really be focused on the finished goods itself.”

Data Governance and Master Data Management

As data becomes more pervasive across all organizations, complexities arise such as who owns what data, who can make changes, etc., which is requiring a focus on the business objectives when it comes to establishing governance decisions. Bhatia feels the first consideration should be to establish a Data Governance framework by defining the company, its organizational structure, its processes, and those responsible for maintaining it as IT programs can only apply rules that are defined in advance by an organization.

“You start looking at other initiatives that tend to play and be complimentary around Data Quality and Data Governance, and those aren’t always one to one with MDM,” he said. Due to the tremendous growth in the Master Data Management space, it’s possible to overlook the importance of ensuring that processes work together.

“People can do an MDM project and if they don’t put the Data Governance in place, all of a sudden, their investment in MDM will start to erode after a period of time.” He sees exponential value and insight in correlating different domains to one another, but Data Governance and other initiatives should evolve together, “Because you can’t do Data Governance on bad data, and you can’t have MDM and not maintain a semblance of Governance and stewardship and quality going forward.”

Stibo Systems’ Mindset

Stibo Systems’ focus is on a “Business-first Mindset,’ and the concept of the ‘digital business core,’ Bhatia said.

“Business-first is not talking about us; it’s not about Stibo Systems at all. It’s really about the business value an organization is trying to derive as the software is the enabler, not the answer. The digital business core concept is to take data across disparate data sources and derive clean data and apply that to other data domains such as customer, product, supplier and so on, resulting in greater value for the business.  Mastering additional data domains is the key to achieving a cross functional value and to adopting that Business-first Mindset philosophy.”

The Business-first Mindset has driven a shift in focus from the CIO to titles such as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), as it’s these lines of business professionals that rely on accurate data. “They’re the ones that care about the customer data.” Of course, the CIO needs the tools to provide golden records in the ‘customer’ domain, but ultimately, the CMO needs that record. “They want to create a more unique and personalized experience for the consumer,” he said. “Those are the kinds of conversations we’re having in a Business-first Mindset – how do you really focus on the business?”

He commented they are now getting a growing number of requests from clients to talk to the business side, not because they want to hear about the technology, but because, “They want to hear about what the technology can do for them. And that’s an evolution in messaging with how we engage in the marketplace.”

The Future of Master Data Management

The next few years will see a focus on the difficult process of mastering multiple domains within the enterprise, and “this is really the power of MDM,” the correlation of the domains with one another. For example, having the ability to understand what products a customer likes to buy, whether he shops online or in a store, locations where he shops, you are able to create a 360-degree view of that customer. This 360-degree view allows organizations to create a better view of someone as a customer, because companies are more aware of all the other attributes that are associated with them even though they are not necessarily true ‘customer’ data attributes.

Bhatia believes the next step in multi-domain is how to correlate data, “Because that’s the other piece that hasn’t happened.” As consumers become better educated, companies must create a more unique experience to stand out in today’s marketplace, he said.

“Given the advancement and technology, the amount of data that’s been created, the type of data that’s being created, the business issues companies are facing in terms of training to differentiate and create unique experiences, they need to be better educated. And to be better educated, you’ve got to do that with the data that you have and derive actionable insights from it.”

MDM: The Heart of the Business

“Somebody likened the MDM platform that we offer to the heart. You bring blood into the heart; you get clean blood, and you push it back out throughout the rest of the body,” Bhatia said. If MDM is the heart and the data is brought in, cleansed, and governed, Stibo Systems pushes it back out to the other systems. “Pushing bad data into CRM financial, supply chain, or other critical systems is like passing bad blood to your extremities.” Eventually an organization’s ‘arms’ aren’t going to function the way they should, neither will their ‘legs, and onward until the entire organization breaks down due to bad data.

Evolution of Focus

The overarching driver for the evolution of Master Data Management is a shift in focus. Bhatia said that ten years ago, a small company trying to succeed focused on the features and functions of existing technology. Vendors spent almost all their time working with the IT side but in the process neglected to consider the people who relied on the data the most. Changes in technology have raised customer expectations, and now the business side has stepped up to meet those expectations, he said. It’s a simple change to make: “Focus on the end result and the outcome versus more of the how you’re going to get it done. Adopting a Business-first Mindset is key to ensuring operational data is continuously shaped and delivered to produce superior business outcomes.”


Photo Credit: gst/

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