How to Get Started With Master Data Management

December 05, 2019

Contributor: Susan Moore

MDM is a complex undertaking. Organizations should make an informed decision on readiness before adopting.

Travelling from Christchurch to London, you’d never expect a stopover of 413,786 hours in Bangkok. Or a return flight that left prior to your departure date. A rather surprised traveler was offered both by an online travel portal in 2016. The story quickly went viral, demonstrating the impact that poor data quality can have.

Poor data quality is the unintended consequence of data silos and a lack of data and analytics governance. It results in suboptimal decision making and poor organizational performance. 

“ Technology alone is insufficient to solve the bigger problem of data and analytics governance”

A Gartner survey found that organizations believe poor data quality cost them an average of $11.8 million in 2018.

Many organizations are considering master data management (MDM) as a solution, attracted by the promise of an enterprisewide trusted view of critical data about customers, citizens, employees, patients or products.

“Enterprise MDM software is no silver bullet,” says Sally Parker, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “Technology alone is insufficient to solve the bigger problem of data and analytics governance, which involves people, process and technology across the enterprise.”

Enterprises often underestimate the complexity, cost and level of collaboration required for a successful MDM program. Consider these three important factors when assessing whether MDM is the best approach to your current problem and your organization’s readiness.

Assess organizational readiness

MDM initiatives often fail when organizations don’t ensure organizational readiness before starting. Many also confuse what is and isn’t master data. They treat all data as equal and fail to identify and prioritize their master data.

“Be realistic about your readiness to adopt an enterprise MDM solution,” Parker says. “Ask first if you have the type of culture, data and analytics maturity, and the right level of executive support required for cross-organizational collaboration.”

Determine the rightsized response

Establish whether MDM is the right response to the problem at the current time — and whether it’s a technology-related problem at all. The solution may be to reengineer existing business processes or improve governance practices. 

Also consider whether enterprise MDM is the optimal fit for the problem in the current cultural climate or whether a solution with narrower scope, such as application data management or customer data platforms, is appropriate.

In the absence of confidence in organizational readiness to adopt now, the best fit is a rightsized response supportive of a longer-term vision.

Keep the big prize in mind

MDM is inevitable, regardless of when and how you approach it. It’s quickly becoming a strategic necessity for digital business. Start to lay the foundation for a successful enterprisewide MDM program now, even if you’re not ready to adopt today. 

The rewards can include:

  • A shared, trusted, single view of customer data for marketing, sales and service purposes
  • Improved lead times to launch new products
  • Synchronized product and location data across the supply chain 
  • Improved business operations for more effective decision making 

“MDM offers the biggest reward when done correctly, but requires the biggest effort,” says Parker. “Think big, start small, be prepared.”

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