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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!

A lot has been written about master data management (MDM) over the last few months on the Business Intelligence Network. Although there are some differences of opinion about how to implement MDM, I think everyone agrees that MDM is associated with both business transaction and BI application processing. Given that many companies have master data managed by both types of application where is the best place to start an MDM project?

In the business transaction processing area most attempts at integrating master data have been based on custom built IT applications. The application package vendors are beginning to offer packaged solutions for MDM, but many of them are focused primarily on integrating master data from their various business transaction application packages. To be successful these packaged MDM solutions must also provide support for master data from legacy and third-party application packages.

The data warehousing area of IT has often done the best job in many companies in understanding, documenting, cleansing and integrating operational data. When discussing MDM and data warehousing, however, it is important to separate operational processing from BI processing. I would argue that using an operational data store or a data hub to consolidate and propagate business transaction data and master data is operational processing, not BI processing. Of course, the integrated master data system of record created by this processing is an ideal data source for BI processing applications and their underling data warehouses and data marts.

Some analysts and vendors are arguing that data from operational data stores, data warehouses and master data stores should be integrated into a single data warehousing environment. To me this is backward thinking and will cause even more operational processing to be brought into the BI environment. We should be looking for ways of reducing the operational work being done in the BI environment, not increasing it.

Master data processing needs to be separated from both the business transaction and BI environments and integrated into a single MDM system. This MDM system should be used to supply data to business transaction and BI applications, not the reverse. It will take time to move such an MDM environment, and meanwhile there are tactical MDM approaches that can leverage existing master data in both business transaction and BI applications. It not be forgotten, however, that in the longer term the objective is to separate and integrate master data into its own environment.

I will discuss this topic in more detail in my October newsletter article on the BI Network.

Posted September 26, 2006 12:53 PM
Permalink | 2 Comments |



I think the master data flow can start either at a single point of entry for the master data or, more likely, especially in the short-term, at the operational systems where the data is generated. It would flow to operational systems and the DW/BI environment. So, I agree with you - it's PRE data warehouse operations.

As for the perspective of "Are the Data Warehouse architects the PEOPLE to start an MDM Project?" I would say yes.


If master data management is done tool/technology that is separate from the DW, my experience has always shown that MDM precedes the DW. But interestingly, there have been some recent developments from data warehousing vendors where the notion of MDM within a DW has been revived. It would be interesting to see how this approach compares with the traditional approach.

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