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Master Data Management Checklist #2: Organizational Preparation

Originally published June 25, 2009

Master data management (MDM) is a very appealing concept when presented to business clients in the abstract, especially when considering the cost and effort savings when reducing the complexity ofredundant data through data consolidation and redundant functionality through service consolidation. However, the desire to transition to a master data environment should not trigger the procurementprocess for an MDM tool. Despite the availability of many good products supporting an MDM environment, acquiring an MDM system should be the culmination of preparatory steps taken once theorganization is prepared to make the hard decisions regarding business process modifications, application retirement, application migration, and data governance. Purchasing decisions madeprematurely, or starting the implementation and transition to a master data environment before the organization is ready to take on the challenge, may lead to roadblocks and stonewalling that willimpact the success of the program.

The first checklist focused on identifying the business processes whose success was impeded by the absence of a unified view ofmaster data, or that could be significantly improved by master data consolidation. This checklist centers on readying the organization for MDM and socializing the concepts that accompany a transitionto centrally managed corporate information resources, such as:

  • Organizational oversight of the information asset providing maximal benefit to all stakeholders

  • Addressing organizational shortcomings exposed during the analysis phase

  • Planning for incremental migration and verification to ensure data coherence during the transition

  • A transition plan recognizing that applications may have to perform “double duty” until the MDM repository is in place and validated
Recall that for each checklist, we provide some description and a number of questions, and an assessment would score the organization as follows:
  • If key stakeholders are aware of the item, questions like the examples provided have been asked, answered, and a satisfactory result has been reviewed and approved by all the stakeholders, score GREEN.

  • If, despite the fact that you are already installing software, no one is aware of the item, or there is limited awareness but few or none of the questions have been asked or answered, score RED.

  • Limited awareness by varying degrees of stakeholders with some questions answered is scored with varying shades of AMBER.
MDM can be an effective technique for organizing and aligning enterprise-wide information and service use. Understanding the business process models, the core information concepts, and theability of the organization to continuously maintain measurably high quality information are not only beneficial for a master data management program, but provide insight into the de factoorganizational application infrastructure for any future application migration or renovation project. Here are some samples of questions that should be asked and answered:
  1. What business processes will need to change in order to exploit a master data environment?

  2. What business processes will need to change to accommodate a master data environment?

  3. What business processes will be eliminated or overhauled as a result of the transition?

  4. Is there an existing enterprise architecture?

  5. Is there a planned future enterprise architecture?

  6. Does the organization have enterprise architects tasked with overseeing the architectural changes to accommodate the transition to a master data environment?

  7. Does the organization employ a well-defined system development lifecycle (SDLC) process for application development?

  8. Have the enterprise architects considered what modifications must be made to the SDLC process to accommodate the use of master data instead of silo data?

  9. Have the enterprise architects considered the level of effort for making modifications to the SDLC process to accommodate the use of master data instead of silo data?

  10. Is there a process for identifying enterprise application dependence on newly created data?

  11. Is there a process for capturing business requirements for use of master data?

  12. Is there a business application inventory?

  13. Within the business application inventory, are the referenced data elements catalogued?

  14. Has there been a determination of those data elements that are shared by multiple business applications?

  15. Do those data elements have clear definitions? If so, are there variations in the definitions for data elements that are shared between business applications?

  16. Is there a process for determining application dependency on shared data elements?

  17. Has there been an assessment of data life cycle functionality for each business application? Which applications create, read, modify, or retire shared data instances?

  18. Are the data life cycle events documented for each business application?

  19. Are there proprietary applications that cannot be modified to use a master data asset?

  20. If so, what plan is there to synchronize data between proprietary applications and the master repository?

  21. Are there potential synchronization issues for real-time business application use of shared master data? How will these be addressed?

  22. Are there defined functions or services layered on top of the data life cycle functions? Are these shared by different applications?

  23. Is there a plan to devise validation/verification of data migration to a master environment?

  24. What is the strategy for migrating existing business applications?

  25. What existing applications will be rendered obsolete by a migration to a master repository?

  26. What is the level of effort to migrate the selected business applications to using the master environment?

  27. What is the level of effort and technology investment to replace selected business applications that cannot use the master environment?

  28. Is there a satisfactory plan for the migration?

  29. Have staff members been made aware of the ways that business process performance can be improved by master data management?

  30. Have staff members been trained in how business processes will change as a result of the transition?
Reviewing this checklist may trigger thoughts about specifics within your own organization, and recognizing that MDM may trigger a (perhaps necessary) overhaul of the enterprise architectureshould introduce some caution before calling vendors for their dog-and-pony shows. Instead, begin with an assessment of the existing (either well-engineered or de facto) enterprise architecture toevaluate the dependence on data entities that might be conformed into the master repository to determine the potential impact to existing services, applications, and most importantly, businessprocesses. Then, weigh the level of effort to transition to MDM against the existing technology investment as well as a proposed green-field reengineering to determine which best suits theorganization’s short-and long-term strategies. Develop the road map, add up the costs, and, if they do not outweigh the benefits, then it may be time to take the next step.

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