Master Data Management Success? Yes!

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Dartsby Christine Denney

Recently, I received an inquiry as to whether there really were success stories with MDM or whether MDM implementations were destined to fail. My answer as to whether there were success stories was a resounding “YES!”, but I was left wondering what prompted the inquiry in the first place. Over the years, I’ve seen presentation after presentation and article after article on how companies have created value through master data management.  If that was the case, why would there even be a question about whether MDM implementations could be successful? Has word not spread widely (and continued to spread) about the value brought by quality master data?

It appears that MDM is no different than any other newsworthy topic – the failures capture our attention and remain in our memory far more than the successes. Although there are many success stories at our fingertips, are there enough to crush the doubt of new adopters?  Apparently not. So, why don’t we continue to talk about our MDM successes? Shouldn’t we be shouting from the rooftops that we’ve achieved great things with master data? There were a few theories that I was pondering in the wee hours.

1.Mainstream hum-drum

For some subject areas, such as customer, MDM is no longer a “hot topic”, but rather a main stream expectation. It is no longer news-worthy when someone has success with improving customer data. You were able to de-duplicate your customers? You found yet another solution for mastering customers? More tools cleanse the data? Yawn. It just doesn’t stir up the excitement that it did years ago. With all of the various resources and a growing base of experts, organizations are able to achieve success in this mature subject area, but don’t necessarily feel the need to alert the media.

On the contrary, it is news-worthy when someone doesn’t have success with their MDM implementation. Why is that?  And where do we place the blame? As with any initiative, an MDM initiative may fail. It didn’t fail because it was MDM, it failed because of an underlying issue or issues (unclear requirements, lack of clear objectives, lack of sponsorship) that are not unique to MDM. As with any initiative, you must ensure that your MDM initiative has clear objectives, sponsorship, and a compelling business case.

2. Shhh…it’s a secret

As companies begin to recognize their information as a corporate asset, they also recognize the competitive advantage that well-managed data brings. For subject areas that aren’t commonplace, finding ways to improve the quality of your industry-specific master data domains, and in turn improve your analytics capabilities, can bring competitive advantage. Unless there was an industry-wide consortium involved, where knowledge sharing was expected, companies would be reluctant to advertise how they were able to expose the hidden golden nuggets in their information. In this case, the success stories exist; they are just “classified.”

3. It didn’t count

Sometimes reports incorrectly attribute success to a certain technique or discipline or fail to recognize all the components that were necessary for success. How many warehouse implementations have neglected to recognize a key player in their success? Without quality master data, how exactly did the integration work? Is it bandaged together or is there a well-oiled master data machine underneath, that ensures that key items fit together? The underlying master data work that it took to make a reporting or analytics solution successful wasn’t widely advertised because managing master data wasn’t the ultimate goal – it was a critical enabler – but not the end goal.

I hope that we continue to see MDM success stories shared through articles, webinars, and conference presentations. Although master data management has achieved maturity, its ability to be newsworthy is far from over.

NOTE: All opinions in this blog are those of the author and not her employer. 

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