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Colin White

I like the various blogs associated with my many hobbies and even those to do with work. I find them very useful and I was excited when the Business Intelligence Network invited me to write my very own blog. At last I now have somewhere to park all the various tidbits that I know are useful, but I am not sure what to do with. I am interested in a wide range of information technologies and so you might find my thoughts will bounce around a bit. I hope these thoughts will provoke some interesting discussions.

About the author >

Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

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

I constantly see presentations, conferences, articles, reports, web seminars, and so forth, where CDI and MDM are often presented as being one of the same. While there is no question that CDI is a valuable technology for integrating customer data, it is important to realize that CDI is only one step in the long journey toward managing enterprise wide master data. CDI is not the only starting point in this journey either. In fact, a recent study by the business intelligence network shows that organizations often don't start with customer data. This is because many of the products are immature and because of the complexity and volume of data involved.

It is also important to realize that master data integration doesn't always equate to master data management. There are many good CDI solutions out there, but many of them don't have sound management capabilities for supporting master data hierarchies, master data versioning, historical master data, master metadata, data lineage reporting, and so on.

Many CDI deployments have evolved from customer ODS and/or customer analytics projects. My concern here is that CRM and data warehousing designers and experts are frequently driving these projects in isolation. They often don''t have the required knowledge, business transaction expertise, and enterprise perspective to move the CDI project toward true enterprise MDM, and the result will be therefore be a CDI silo.

Enterprise MDM is more than just about customer data and data warehousing. MDM involves other types of master data both for BI and business transaction processing. An MDM system is responsible for managing and supplying master data to both business transaction and BI systems. It will take time for organizations to get to full enterprise MDM. There will be many interim steps, like deploying a CDI hub, for example. It is important, therefore, to have a strategic MDM plan, even if the MDM system is built bottom up. The bottom line is think strategically, but build iteratively in a planned manner. A response to my last blog on MDM summarizes the situation nicely:

"... at BP we are managing no less than 350 different categories of master data, only two of which are product and customer. The same issues permeate large corporations, whether the data is HR related, supply chain, asset, brand, etc. Forward looking companies are taking an integrated approach to the problem rather than a siloed approach."

I totally agree. Many thanks to Andy Hayler for his comment. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts about CDI and MDM.


Posted July 31, 2006 10:43 PM
Permalink | 2 Comments |

2 Comments

I fully concur with Colin's viewpoint. This topic also raises the question of whether one solution can meet the challenges of enterprise master data management. In the industry, Master Data Management is typically associated with either customer (CDI) or product (PIM) data management, leaving out the other core master data elements such as Financial, Vendor, Location, Employee, Asset etc. that are equally important to enterprises. While CDI and PIM are inherently focussed on cleasing, matching, synchronizing and standardizing customer and product records, many of the current technologies in the market fail to adequately tackle other areas like managing master data for performance management, impact analysis, business rule enforcement and other associated functions. In addition, the control of the CDI and PIM initiatives still predominantly reside in the IT domain due to the factors that Colin alluded to - complexity, ease-of-use and volume of data.

While a "one size fits all" MDM is what everybody expects and wants, the current technologies and solutions in the market are still a few years away from fulfilling that need. The jury is still out on whether a single MDM or multiple MDMs is the best approach to solve the master data problem. The variability and the broad range of key factors such as the type of data (transactional vs analytic), latency of data, level of aggregation, volume of data and the user (business vs IT) perspectives are the fundamental considerations which need to be evaluated before choosing an appropriate MDM solution.

One of the major drivers for a MDM initiative is the quest for "a single version of the truth" to address compliance, performance management and TCO reduction requirements. In most cases, these span all types of master data and is not restricted to customer or product. In such a case, choosing either a CDI or PIM solution will solve only a part of the problem. There is a need for a tool that can handle the various types of master data in one central location and act as a layer on top of the CDI, PIM, ERP and other transactions systems in the organization. In addition, the solution should promote active business collaboration between the business and IT to leverage the expertise and knowledge that resides within each user community.
These requirements, which translate to better business performance manamgement (BPM), is met by very few MDM vendors in the market.

As technologies evolve and as the MDM usage/market matures, the eventual consolidation in the MDM space is inevitable. Future MDM solutions will probably include and address every flavor of master data management, but will they be nimble and exhaustive enough to fulfill their promise is truly a million $ question that merits further consideration. Until then, customers have to carefully choose a solution that caters to their business needs and not be carried away by the hype of the acronym.

This is a very important message to get across. MDM is evolving and will become something that can be leveraged to create a single view of all types of business objects - not just customers, but products, orders, loans, etc. MDM can also be used as a way to maintain linkages between all information related to a business object, not just as a data "hub." In other words, you could store links to related information in the MDM store, not just the master data itself (the related information stays in its native repository).

In fact, one potential direction is to start using MDM as way to create linkages between unstructured content and structured application data. This is an idea that was recently surfaced by Wayne Kernochan in an article on SearchDataManagement.com. I also just posted some additional insights on this in my blog.

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