Big data is making its way into master data management strategies. A growing number of leading edge organizations are already connecting these dots, but this is just the beginning. Before the end of 2013, big data will be driving an essential part of the requirements for MDM programs as new types of data become full constituents of the enterprise information architecture. Both big data and MDM are used to provide a complete view of entities such as customers, albeit in different ways. Big data, for example, leverages unstructured and semi-structured data, such as that from social media, to provide supplemental information that could help uncover new user tendencies and interests. However, all of this can’t be done without an MDM program in place first.

So then the question becomes, where does “big” fit into master data management? Big master data management? Master big data management? It does not matter, really. What matters is that MDM is opening to big data.

Big data technology provides access to “new data”: new types of information that are coming from outside the firewall, from unsuspected data sources or from sources that were simply not accessible before. These new data types are becoming necessary constituents of an MDM infrastructure – either by being managed in the MDM hub itself or linked from the MDM hub in a federated approach. They also provide a renewed access to enterprise “dark data.”

Gartner defines master data management as “a technology-enabled discipline in which business and IT work together to ensure the uniformity, accuracy, stewardship, semantic consistency and accountability of the enterprise’s official shared master data assets.” There is nothing in this definition – or in others I have seen – that restricts it to the consistency of the structured information stored in relational databases and applications. Rather, MDM also needs to include the wealth of “new” data that big data technologies provide access to.

Adding “big” to MDM does not mean that the master data hub will be stored in Hadoop (although NoSQL could enable this sooner than one thinks), nor does it mean that its size will grow exponentially in a short time frame. Rather, it means that some of the big data (or new data) will be managed in the MDM hub itself, linked from the MDM hub in a federated approach, or will simply benefit from the consistency and resolution services that MDM brings to the table.

Master data should not be restricted to “traditional,” structured information. Big data makes MDM richer and more powerful. 

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