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David Loshin

Welcome to my BeyeNETWORK Blog. This is going to be the place for us to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions on all aspects of the information quality and data integration world. I intend this to be a forum for discussing changes in the industry, as well as how external forces influence the way we treat our information asset. The value of the blog will be greatly enhanced by your participation! I intend to introduce controversial topics here, and I fully expect that reader input will "spice it up." Here we will share ideas, vendor and client updates, problems, questions and, most importantly, your reactions. So keep coming back each week to see what is new on our Blog!

About the author >

David is the President of Knowledge Integrity, Inc., a consulting and development company focusing on customized information management solutions including information quality solutions consulting, information quality training and business rules solutions. Loshin is the author of The Practitioner's Guide to Data Quality Improvement, Master Data Management, Enterprise Knowledge Management: The Data Quality Approach and Business Intelligence: The Savvy Manager's Guide. He is a frequent speaker on maximizing the value of information. David can be reached at loshin@knowledge-integrity.com or at (301) 754-6350.

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

Last week at the TDWI conference in orlando, I had the chance to briefly chat with Phillip Russom, who has assembled some very nice research papers this year on data quality and on master data management. One comment about his latest effort on MDM that I found intriguing was that his research suggested that a large number of MDM projects are done on behalf of finance activities, often in the area of accounting (GL, chart of accounts, item lists, etc.). I thought a large part of that data was what we might call "reference data," not necessarily "master data." One the one hand, it is good to see that the kinds of governance that are relevant for financial activities being applied to data.

However, his comment drives back to a question I must have heard 10 times down there - what is the difference between master data and reference data? This underlies an even more challenging question - how do you define "master data"? We have a lot of descriptions of master data, but nothing definitive. Dan Linstedt has done a good job of tracking some of these questions in his blog, but I think it is about time to nail this definition down. Any suggestions?

Posted November 13, 2006 8:09 AM
Permalink | 4 Comments |


Master data exists, even when it isn’t being used for reference; reference data only exists in the act of referring...

One way you can differentiate is based on the nature of the entities: master data is operational (closely related to business transactions), whereas reference data is structural (more for corporate planning, analysis, or reporting).

Interesting comments, both. I like Nathan's because it establishes the notion that the names we use to describe master data are essentially irrelevant, as are the systems we employ to manage it. However, one might not benefit the organization by ignoring the existence of master data.

On the other hand, Charlie, when I spoke with Phil about his MDM study, he told me that a large part of the master data being managed was financial data (chart of accounts, items, etc.). Also, I have had conversations with folks whose intention is to integrate the results of analytics as part of their master data repository (e.g., customer profiles are attributes of the master customer records). So perhaps using the "operational" distinction may still be a fuzzy line.

Respected Mr. Loshin,
I have one question for you. What do You think about MDM classification. I`m writting work about MDM products market, I hope You would be so kind to answer me.

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