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Issue Date: March 2007

The real MDM

1 March 2007
Paul van Aswegen, GM of Informatica SA

Corporate IT and business executives may be forgiven for thinking that master data management (MDM) is another buzz phrase operating in the murky realms of marketing gobbledegook. There are many interpretations of MDM and most companies simply do not have the capability to deliver the underlying technologies to support the MDM methodology.
Consider a bank with e-banking, back-office and remote branch office facilities. Each requires a different system to operate and there is no single MDM technology to satisfy all of those needs. And we have not even stepped beyond the single organisation yet.
Many companies are selling what they call an MDM product to try to create a unique selling point or product differentiator where none exists.
You will see this in the BI market where vendors plug in a module and call it MDM. MDM is not a module or a technology. It is a methodology that requires a technology support base.
ERP vendors are infamous for attempting to dupe the world into believing their software is a one-size-fits-all example of wizardry. In one case, the CEO of a large ERP vendor admits that the company's software fulfils a maximum of 70% of customer requirements. No well-adjusted person can suggest that an ERP application is going to perform an adequate data profiling job.
MDM technology is designed to do the job and goes beyond creating a master lookup table. What typically happens is that companies have multiple master lookup tables. That arises from cases such as one company that had 20 000 products listed in stores across the entire organisation when in fact it only sold 5000. MDM is about ensuring that wherever data is held and however it is touched, that the process comes under the data quality and control banner. Beyond that is the necessity of integrating the various data stores and tables. Without that the picture once more becomes murky.
But many companies do not embrace the problem. They will not admit that they may have 20 000 products listed in various data stores throughout the global operation when in fact they only sell 5000 products. If you put garbage in you will get garbage out.
And that encapsulates why MDM is a methodology and not a technology. Without admitting to the problem and embracing a change culture that seeks resolution, no MDM programme will succeed, regardless of which vendor says they have the real MDM. MDM is a business best practice, it is not a product fix; it is a philosophy that needs to be embraced and adopted.
Companies should seek MDM vendors and their services partners who bring a technology stack to enable whatever business processes and projects need to be undertaken to achieve data management that delivers ROI. Any vendor who makes the customer shoehorn the business into a pre-existing package is looking for a quick buck, not a long-term solution.
For more information contact Paul van Aswegen, Informatica SA, +27 (0)11 462 9676,

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