Best Practices on the road to Enterprise-wide MDM

I recently had an interesting discussion with Ravi Shankar, Director of Product Marketing at Siperian, about emerging best practices for enterprise-wide MDM initiatives.  Siperian provides MDM hubs for large companies across a number of industries.  Now, I have noted before that MDM is a complex undertaking that needs to be thought about at a strategic level.  An enterprise-wide MDM deployment is not going to happen all at once.  Here are three points related to the idea of strategic enterprise-wide MDM that I found worth noting:

Business-Centric vs. Entity-Centric MDM

Siperian is seeing a growing number of companies entering into MDM in  response to a particular business solution area and asking what entities are needed for that solution, rather than the other way around.  Let’s call this a business-centric approach to MDM rather than an entity-centric approach.  The entity-centric approach addresses entities- the products data, account data, the contracts, etc. – one at a time.  It is technical in nature.  The business-centric approach addresses a specific business problem – such as processing benefits and payroll or processing sales leads – and examines all of the entities needed to support the initiative.  The business-centric approach to MDM provides a complete solution to the business problem and illustrates the value of MDM in a tangible way.

A solution-based evolutionary approach to enterprise-wide MDM

Companies viewing MDM at a strategic level are adopting a well-planned evolutionary approach.  This might consist of starting with a single MDM implementation for a particular business solution, with a single hub, multiple entities, certain architectural style (coexistence, transactional, or registry) and a mix of operational or analytical usages.  As a company develops more business solutions, each with its own hub, with multiple, potentially overlapping entities, and perhaps different architectural and usage styles these solutions need to be linked together.  For example, a company might have separate masters, with some overlapping entities, one for a certain business solution and another for a different business solution.  Siperian is seeing companies use a federated MDM approach to link these hubs together.

Local to enterprise-level Data Governance

Data governance is obviously a huge part of the development effort.  In the first hub, usually local data governance will suffice.  However, once multiple hubs are deployed, each utilizing some of the same entities, a cross-functional data governance approach is required.  This can involve local data stewards working cross-functionally with an enterprise data governance council.

Of course, the business side of the house needs to be involved with all of this.  They need to own the business solution.  They are central to the governance effort.  They need to fund the federated hub.  Once divisions in a company can get past the politics and perceived bureaucracy of MDM an enterprise-wide MDM deployment is doable, as evidenced by the growing number of companies that have actually accomplished this.

MDM without boiling the ocean

I was thinking about Master Data Management (MDM) last night. There’s been a lot of hype over the past few years about MDM. At its simplest level, MDM is about handling common data, such as customer or product data, in a way that enables disparate IT systems and business groups to reuse the data. The concept is certainly not new. I remember working at a company twenty years ago where consultants were hired to try to get a single view of certain core information – in this case a single view of business customers.

MDM is Complex

MDM is a complex undertaking that needs to be thought about at a strategic level. A complete MDM deployment is not going to happen all at once. There are numerous technical, operational, and organizational challenges that need to be addressed when implementing an MDM solution. These include data governance, other organizational issues such as resistance to change, determining the MDM architecture, dealing with data quality issues, and the list goes on. No wonder many of the larger platform companies and system integrators have gotten into the act.


So, given this reality is there room for smaller players, say those that have a pragmatic approach to support and supplement MDM as well as offer an alternative to the single view challenge? I think so.


I recently had an interesting conversation with Robert Eve, the VP of Marketing, from Composite Software. For those of you who don’t know, Composite Software provides data integration by virtualizing data silos. The software accesses data from disparate data sources and creates a virtual data layer that can be used by various enterprise applications. Composite has done a good job in transforming itself over the past few years from providing composite views to EII and now data virtualization/real time data integration.

I wanted to understand how Composite Software supports MDM. Robert and I spoke about the various approaches to MDM including custom coding, ETL, messaging, and data virtualization. Composite provides solutions in the last category and it has positioned its software to support MDM initiatives in three ways:

  • Creating “multiple” single views, combining how ever many columns in the core data master hub with potentially thousands of columns of related data, depending on depending on “user” role and “business” requirement.
  • Helping to create the hub via better data access, especially from complex systems such as SAP or Siebel.
  • Enable data quality processes by teaming with data quality vendors.

MDM light?

While Composite is positioning itself as a complement to MDM. it does provide what can be termed “MDM light”. A popular use case (sans MDM) for the company is creating a single view of something across several data silos. This single view might be a single view of a physician, sales manager, or employee. While this isn’t an MDM hub with all of the bells and whistles it does provide a practical way for companies to get at the single view issue on a smaller scale.


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