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For MDM, start by getting to know your enterprise data

To get to truly effective master data management (MDM), IT and business decision-makers need to get to know their enterprise data before making decisions that affect or rely upon it.

A recent article on SearchSAP.com suggests that a master data management (MDM) strategy should start with finding...

broken processes. The article summarizes the many key points important to companies pursuing MDM initiatives. The article defines MDM as "the discipline for ensuring the consistency of an organization's data, enabling a single view of product or customer data."

Good, as far as it goes. But the definition, and the article, do not go quite far enough.

Every business is arguably made up of the same two things: information (what the business knows) and process (what the business does with and does about what it knows). Archived and documented processes are themselves information. "Information" is basically "data" in an actionable context.

Therefore, MDM is much more about "the discipline for ensuring the consistency of an organization's data" than it is about "enabling a single view of product or customer data." And success with MDM is at least as much about the data, or information, and the processes governing its life and use, as it is about any other business processes -- broken or not.

Finding gaps, inconsistencies and redundancies in enterprise data

A critical challenge to any attempt to impose discipline and consistency upon enterprise data is that many enterprises know little about their data that is of real, actionable value. To be sure, business and IT decision-makers and their teams know – either intuitively or anecdotally -- that there are likely multiple, inconsistent copies of customer, partner, product and/or prospect information scattered across the enterprise.But few (if any) of these decision-makers have access to tools or processes that could help them see the gaps, inconsistencies or redundancies plaguing their information resources. This, despite the clear links between poor-quality or missing information and a company's ability to survive, let alone thrive.

How best to get to true -- and truly effective -- MDM? Well, to get anywhere, a map can be incredibly useful. So while attempting to find and fix those broken business processes, IT and business decision-makers should devote some bandwidth and resources to mapping out the information landscape at their enterprises. They'll doubtless learn at least a few interesting things, and will likely identify ways to improve operational efficiencies or reduce costs. . .maybe even both.

Many enterprises know little about their data that is of real, actionable value.
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This is particularly true for organizations seeking to consolidate disparate solutions or systems, or to migrate to new business-critical applications. Take, for instance, the international truck manufacturer that wanted to consolidate its different financial systems onto a single, consistent SAP platform. This would eliminate inconsistencies and redundancies, improving both internal operations and customer experiences.

Before moving to the SAP platform, the company implemented Exeros Discovery, a data analysis tool that performs data discovery and mapping. The truck maker claims that, in its first month of deployment, the software saved them the equivalent of 12 months of manual data analysis work! Early, accurate visibility into the true state of the data made it easier and faster to clean it up before moving it.

Whether MDM is in your company's future or not, you and your colleagues need to get to know your data before making decisions that affect or rely upon it. The more accurate, consistent, secure and timely your information, the more agile, responsive and competitive your company can be.

About the author: Michael E. Dortch is the principal analyst and managing editor of DortchOnIT.com, "an independent voice for technology-dependent people." He has been an IT industry analyst focused on translating technologies into business value for more than three decades. He can be reached at www.DortchOnIT.com or at medortch@dortchonit.com.

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