Organizations that have created effective master data management programs have achieved a wide range of benefits that include: improved and accurate reporting; the ability to monitor and analyze activities throughout business processes; a single and comprehensive view of customers, products and supplies; and reduced errors and expenses. Effective master data management programs contain process and technology discipline to define, manage and share master data across the enterprise. This article addresses how and why it is important to link reference data between information systems to achieve a higher level of information quality and the ability to analyze activities across business functions.

The ability to analyze data across business functions and business processes is dependent upon linking data from disparate systems, applications and external sources. This ability to effectively link data from disparate sources is dependent upon master data. Master data is the controlling set of data values for reference data, which is a category of data that describes and defines transactions. Five primary data categories (each of these categories corresponds to a particular set of data) are part of most information systems environments (see Figure 1):

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