A panel of master data management experts at Information Management’s MDM & Data Governance Summit in New York provided tips on how organizations can successfully implement master data management to ensure that their enterprise data is accurate and uniform.

The panelists – Frank Guastafeste, head of global customer data at Elsevier; Christine McClary, customer data architect at National Instruments; Shrikant Palkar, enterprise architect at Costco Wholesale; Pushpak Sarkar, corporate vice president and head of data architecture and analytics at New York Life; and John Yelle, vice president of data services at  the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. – talked about the need to approach MDM as a business problem, the importance of finding a project “owner” and necessity of rallying the troops.

New York Life’s Sarkar told the session’s attendees that they shouldn’t build a solution and expect business people to just come on board. Companies, he said, need a compelling business case for MDM.

DTCC’s Yelle agreed. MDM projects, he said, must align with the business. And business managers must be part of the development discussion. Too often, MDM is looked at as an IT project or challenge. But, as Yelle said, “it’s not a technology problem.” The business side may challenge IT on MDM, but, he said, being questioned by the business gives MDM teams the discipline to look at MDM through the eyes of management.

Panelists also agreed on the importance of having an owner for MDM projects. Costco’s Palkar said a point person is needed to resolve the conflicts that will come up and to be the final decision-maker.

The question then becomes: Who should be the owner? Some panelists said their companies have tapped data governance committees or data stewards.

Others, however, said their companies have taken the bigger step of appointing a chief data officer, an executive within the organization who is responsible for enterprise data – from governance and administration to data analytics. The CDO can come from any number of departments, such as marketing or sales, but, Sarkar said, he or she should come from the business side of the house.

But even with a CDO, master data management and governance projects won’t succeed without the support of an organization’s staff.

The way to rally the troops, the panelists said, was to tout the business benefits of such projects.

If there’s a good business case, Sarkar said, the business will get behind it.

Elsevier’s Guastafeste added that it still comes down to people. People have to lead, he said. And to be successful, an organization needs to identify individuals capable of taking on the management tasks that come with MDM and finding ways to reward them. The good news? Guastafeste said there are pockets of those people around most organizations.