Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MDM isn't about data quality its about collaboration

I'm going to state a sacrilegious position for a moment: the quality of data isn't a primary goal in Master Data Management

Now before the perfectly correct 'Garbage In, Garbage Out' statement let me explain.  Data Quality is certainly something that MDM can help with but its not actually the primary aim of MDM.

MDM is about enabling collaboration, collaboration is about the cross-reference

Why do you do an MDM project?  The answer is to join information between multiple systems and multiple parts of the organisation.  Its so the customer in SFDC is the same as the customer in SAP and in Oracle Financials and when that customer hits the website you know who they are.  Its so the sales person can see all the invoices, orders and other elements related to their customer.  Its so you can see how a product goes through the various parts of the R&D and supply chain processes and track it all the way.

If everything was in one big system with a single database then you wouldn't really need MDM you'd just need data quality to make sure the single record was a good one.  You need MDM because you are attempting to join across systems and business units.  So the real value from MDM is that cross reference that tells you who the customer is and where all the information about them lives in the various systems... even if you never clean any of it.

So this is how you sell MDM to the business, not about data quality which is a secondary benefit, but as something that will enable the business to better collaborate and function more effectively.

Sometimes Quality doesn't count

The reality is that total quality isn't always what the business wants, they know some data is dodgy so the question is how dodgy and knowing that when you use it to make decisions.  Lots of social media is amazingly poor quality, but taken in volume trends can be seen.  What makes it more valuable though is when you can enable that cross-reference between the high-quality and the lower quality so you can see the trends of your customers and products not just trends in noise.

Focus on collaboration, focus on the cross reference, quality will follow

So having said that Data Quality isn't a primary focus it is actually how you enable that pesky cross reference, but you do so only on the information that matters, the core information required for the cross reference.  Thus you get a higher quality core identification of the customer and everyone understands why they are doing it, the quality enables the cross reference which enables the collaboration.

If the business don't care about quality why do you?
Now once you have that quality core, a minimum set of attributes required to uniquely identify the customer, then often you want to expand that quality to more attributes but stop and think.  Have the business asked me? That is quite an important point.  You might think its an absolute disaster that a given attribute isn't used in a standard way, but it could be that no-one in the business gives a stuff, so tell them about the issue but let them decide if they want to spend the money making it better.  If they don't document that they don't so if they come back you can say 'great so lets re-prioritise it' which is much better than 'oh so I spent money doing something that doesn't matter'.

The more you federate the more collaboration matters
The reason that MDM matters is that more and more business is about collaboration, both internal and external, this means that the business value of MDM has really shifted from being about the data quality in reports to being an integral part of how a business works.  Data Quality isn't irrelevant in this world but its turned from being the goal of MDM to being a tool that helps enable the primary goal which is collaboration.  As the need to digitally collaborate with partners and customers increases so the business value of that MDM cross reference increases both in operations and as the bit that helps you link up all of those big data sources to create a global view.

MDM is the Rosetta Stone that enables people to collaborate, so focus on collaboration not quality. 

No comments: