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Jill Dyché

There you are! What took you so long? This is my blog and it's about YOU.

Yes, you. Or at least it's about your company. Or people you work with in your company. Or people at other companies that are a lot like you. Or people at other companies that you'd rather not resemble at all. Or it's about your competitors and what they're doing, and whether you're doing it better. You get the idea. There's a swarm of swamis, shrinks, and gurus out there already, but I'm just a consultant who works with lots of clients, and the dirty little secret - shhh! - is my clients share a lot of the same challenges around data management, data governance, and data integration. Many of their stories are universal, and that's where you come in.

I'm hoping you'll pour a cup of tea (if this were another Web site, it would be a tumbler of single-malt, but never mind), open the blog, read a little bit and go, "Jeez, that sounds just like me." Or not. Either way, welcome on in. It really is all about you.

About the author >

Jill is a partner co-founder of Baseline Consulting, a technology and management consulting firm specializing in data integration and business analytics. Jill is the author of three acclaimed business books, the latest of which is Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth, co-authored with Evan Levy. Her blog, Inside the Biz, focuses on the business value of IT.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Jill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

January 2007 Archives

In which Jill wonders whether the days of "If You Build It, They Will Come" have returned, and has a crisis of conscience in the process.

Much of Baseline's client work lately has been in the area of MDM and CDI planning. Some clients have launched formal assessment activites, while others have embarked on initial implementation projects. Several have already been successful and are turning their heads toward what's next.

I've asked a few of the latter group how they managed to sell the idea of master data management to their executives. After all, it's an often complex concept, an intermingling of business rules management, new governance processes, and disruptive technology. MDM is a difficult pitch.

To my surprise, some never made that pitch. "We just built it," one IT executive recently told me. "And they came."

Heresy! Build it and they will come? This is a knife in the heart of enterprise IT program managers everywhere! Where's the rigor? Where's the end-user involvement? Where are the JAD sessions? If I were near an oven, I'd stick my head in it.

The "just build it" mentality is anathema to those of us with background in enterprise IT programs like data warehouses and CRM, where business requirements can mean the difference between a successful deployment and a doomed one. I've spent the better part of my career helping companies build structured and rigorous requirements-gathering processes that serve as insurance policies against project failure. I don't know much, but I consider myself a requirements-gathering specialist. Defining business requirements is art and science, and it's critical to enterprise projects.

But for MDM, particularly CDI projects that reconcile important customer reference data, often for the first time, it's been different. The automated matching and deliberate deployment of customer data is seen by many companies as an "infrastructure" investment. CDI hubs provide harmonized, integrated, authoritative customer details to a range of applications and systems. End-users and managers might not even know you've added a hub. They'll just start getting better data faster and think you've done something brilliant.

So why are some MDM pioneers getting away with just building it? Two words: capital expenditure. CDI solutions are often a fraction of the cost of other, enterprise-class IT solutions. They fit in with many IT departments' discretionary spending, and can be deployed using agile programming techniques that are perfect for functional (not business) applications. Moreover, they can pay for themselves in fairly short order. If you knew the impact that operationally integrated customer data would have on your business, wouldn't you just build one too?

Technorati Tags: MDM, CDI, data governance, master data management

Posted January 29, 2007 12:14 PM
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In which Jill explains why getting a table in a restaurant might be overkill for a CDI hub. Or is it?

Ever since I can remember, my last name has been a source of grief for me and various family members. It's a Gallic last name, the origin of which I have neither the time nor the patience to research, that has been a source for endless familial debate. Without the accent, the name is one syllable, but with the accent it's two. Phonetically, it's pronounced "dish-ay" with emphasis on the second syllable. When I make restaurant reservations, I spell it "D-i-s-h-a-y" to avoid the embarrassment of being summoned aloud by an otherwise well-intentioned hostess who might not catch the accent. Let's just say that I've answered to some colorful interpretations of my last name when waiting for a restaurant table.

If you think that's bad, you should see what shows up on my credit report. There have been at least five different spellings of my last name across reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and different versions of who I was, where I lived, and where I worked. One of the bureaus had me living with my Dad in northern California. (Message to Dad: Don't even think about it.) There were three different variations of my southern California address.

Also disconcerting was the missing information. I lived at a prior address for four years, but two of the three bureaus missed that address altogether. It was as if significant areas of my past had been wiped clean, like one of those movies where the protagonist's friends don't recognize him and he has to court his wife all over again.

It's not shocking that different agencies have different information about me, whether that's the spelling of my name or my current workplace, or my credit score. What is surprising is how off the individual reports themselves are.

Of course, the problem of customer recognition and "individualization" is writ large across companies, industries and market segments. Our companies have more information about our customers than ever before-but we seem to have a more difficult time than ever recognizing individual customers across business divisions, subsidiaries, and sales channels. Some forward-thinking data quality and CDI/MDM vendors--check out Identity Systems, for instance--are leading the charge to address customer identity resolution.

Until companies get this stuff right, put me down for a table for one. As in: D-i-s-h-a-y.

Technorati Tags: identity resolution, CDI, MDM, customer identity resolution

Posted January 15, 2007 3:13 PM
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In which Jill makes her lone prediction for 2007, to wit: Companies will begin MDM Phase 1. (Watch for her end-of-2007 retrospective and see if they succeeded!)

It wasn't supposed to be like this. We were supposed to be able to centralize our data on an enterprise data warehouse and have it all fit together. We were supposed to automate our data quality through hard-coded ETL and watch the data become continually refined over time. We were supposed to be able to rely on EII to federate our queries across platforms so data integration was easy.

But it didn't happen that way. Our tools have let us down. The data warehouse doesn't house all the data we need, and the data is does have is variously latent and inconsistently defined. Our ETL tools represent yesterday's business rules. And EII is a tough sell to executives with organizational ADD.

And that's just the easy stuff. The hard part has been putting the business functions and processes in place to manage our data in a sustained way according to a centralized set of data governance standards and policies. Our inability to manage our data based on specific subject areas has had lasting business consequences, from botched customer loyalty programs to executives sweating over compliance reporting. Master Data Management is the set of policies and processes around managing your company's reference data across subject area domains. It's bigger than data quality, business rules, or conformed dimensions. It's much loftier and more organizationally challenging than simply buying a software tool.

And that brings me to CDI. Customer Data Integration automates the reconciliation and quality of customer master data. Lately there have been plenty of debates on whether MDM is a subset of CDI or vice versa. (Both are true.) But what's certain is that companies need operational integration of disparate customer data more than ever.

If 2006 was the year of MDM research, 2007 is the year MDM implementation. Our clients are putting the pedal to the metal and starting MDM Phase 1. It's gonna be a fun ride.

Posted January 5, 2007 9:58 AM
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