Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quality is a side-effect not the goal in MDM

I put out a tweet the other day with this title and I think its worth elaborating on what I mean.  Lots of MDM efforts I see have the goal of 'improve data quality' and this is a mistake.  I'm not saying that data quality isn't a good thing but that in itself its not actually a goal.

What do I mean?  Well lets take an analogy or three, if you are looking to buy a diamond then do you buy the very, very best and the very very biggest?  If you are looking for diamonds to use in cutting or industrial grinding then the answer is of course 'no', the quality really wouldn't be appropriate in those uses it would be a waste of money.  What if you are looking to put a 1.6 litre engine in a car aimed at the local commuter market, do you look around for the most powerful, most expensive, built to the highest quality standards?  Well that would probably be one of the engines slated to go into a Formula 1 car next season.  Sure it generates huge power and is a quality engine but its not fit for purpose.

Now for the final analogy.  You are looking to provide translation services for the Iranian nuclear discussions.  Should you go and get the cheapest price from someone who promises they can speak 'Iranian' or do you invest from someone who actually is proven as a translator for Persian, Gilaki and Mazandarani and describes their Kurdish as 'passable'?

The point here is that in each case the goal defines the level of quality required, quality in itself is about having an acceptable level of quality to meet your goal which in some occasions might be very little indeed.

So what is the real goal of MDM?  Its about enabling business collaboration and communication the power of MDM is really in the cross-reference, the bit that means you know the customer in one division is the same as another and that the product they are buying is the same in two different countries.  If the quality is awful but the cross-reference works then in many occasions you don't need to invest more in quality unless there is a business reason to do so.  Most of the time that business reason is that you cannot achieve the collaboration without having a decent level of quality.  To match customers across business areas requires you to have an standard definition, so your customer on-boarding needs a certain level of rigour, your product definition needs to work to standards that are agreed across the business.

So in focusing on the collaboration, in focusing on where the business wants to collaborate you focus MDM and you focus where quality needs to be achieves.  Focusing on quality as a goal is a very IT centric thing, focusing on collaboration and through that enabling quality is a business thing.

And MDM is certainly a business thing. 

No comments: