I once told an executive of a very large company who asked me about MDM tools that, “Most MDM tools are scams!” Ok, I may have made some people unhappy with that statement, but what I mean as I explained further to him was that, MDM is not a tool, it is a program based on disciplines. It is true that many vendors may like to introduce MDM as a tool, nicely packaged in box, that once installed can solve all of your master data problems. Actually my beef is with that group of vendors, because in my view saying MDM is a tool oversimplifies it.
The problem comes when some poor soul in some data management organization is trying very hard (and for all the right reasons) to sell their executives the idea of MDM. At that point their executives are then bombarded by calls from sales guys from MDM “tool” vendors that tell them they have their magic pill ready to swallow. These solutions normally mean an entire degutting of what they already have – whether it is necessary or not- and replacing it with a fancy MDM tool. The executive who asked me that question was actually in the same dilemma. He has been approached by large vendors that have been pushing hard to implement an MDM tool as a solution to their MDM problems.
It is very important to know the difference between several concepts when it comes to MDM solutions. Let’s start by introducing you to them. Master Data – represents information about objects (things) that exist independent of transactions and can play different roles in a number of processes within or between organizations. (I left systems out intentionally) Master Data Management- includes all processes, standards, methodologies, policies, roles, and tools that are used to ensure master data quality, consistency, uniqueness, and performance for all impacted stakeholders including but not limited to business transactions, reporting, and integration.
A Master Data Management Platform*- is a solution that facilitates Master Data Management implementation by providing integrated and orchestrated functionalities, capabilities, and technologies for master data architecture, quality, governance, integration, services, and System of Record. (*Platform does not imply a tool; it implies a solution.) A Master Data Management Tool- is a solution provided by a vendor which combines several components of a Master Data Management Platform and usually is designed for specific master data objects (Oracle PIM, SAP MDM, Siperian MDM, and many more). Therefore, there is a clear distinction between MDM as a program, MDM as a platform, and MDM as a tool.
What most companies need first is a program and not a tool. An MDM program will address more fundamental questions in the business and IT landscape of a company than just what is, where master data should reside, or how it should be entered. It also becomes deeply rooted into an overall Information and Solution Architecture of a company as well as processes and culture.
So, what is in the scope of an MDM Program? In general, I break the MDM scope into four parts: 1. Framework 2. Architecture 3. Process 4. Governance Each of these is divided into their own sub items that further describe how an MDM program should be established which is a little beyond this blog. But the idea is that a program to manage master data in a company is multi-dimensional where each dimension deserves thoughtful planning, execution, and an ongoing operation. In my next blog, I will begin to describe the components of an MDM platform and solution. As you can guess by now, platform solution definition comes before choosing a tool!