New York – We’ve just wrapped up our MDM Summit at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the 13th MDM event we’ve held in the last five years with Aaron Zornes and the MDM Institute.

I left this event feeling really charged about MDM and governance and feeling this is the best event we’ve had, with all the credit going to Aaron and our conference team.

It wasn’t just the strong turnout and all the presenters, which included General Motors, Mass Mutual, Levi Strauss, Amway, American Standard, Citigroup, GE and several more. It was the individual lessons and sum of experience that lingered on enough common themes to know we have found some key pivot points for MDM.

I liked the dialogue, including a lot of war stories and boots on the ground that brought knowing nods and even room to disagree. And let’s be honest, these projects are work in progress and likely to remain so, which should surprise no one since the dynamics of master data and business evolution do not remain still.

I really enjoyed a presentation from GM’s AC Delco, talking about their auto parts catalog and the evolution of their business into retail and wholesale channels of resellers like AutoZone and Amazon. Eric Kavanagh also talked to Stephen Sigg, ebusiness manager at General Motors in a special MDM Summit version of DM Radio.

Six or eight years ago when I was covering supply chain and net markets, I can recall how manufacturers were loath to reveal detailed product information on the Web for fear of being commoditized by aftermarket and other competition. Codified standards were few.

Product standards may still be finding their way, but the power of the reseller market dictates a lot about how AC Delco is learning to protect its brand and price points. Only through well-managed use of product information can it expose the differentiation that ranks it highest in the “good, better, best” product offerings of auto chains. 

There were other examples of product and customer masters being put to creative use, but there was great commonality over the experiences of selling and maintaining momentum for MDM and governance to the business, but more importantly, through the business.

As someone said, the hard problems are still the hard problems that include funding, complexity, business requirements and lingering effects of the economic climate.

I heard several presenters who had embraced the need to fit MDM into their working culture and not invent something that had no obvious connection to business value or return on investment. With MDM, a rose by any other name would indeed smell as sweet -- if it delivers the right message. 

At AC Delco, PIM is often referred to as “the parts catalog;” elsewhere it’s called data quality or “the customer app” whether or not that is the empirically correct term.

The MDM Institute predicts the total market for customer and product hubs plus implementation services will reach $2 billion by 2012. As for the key MDM drivers in 2011, Zornes said provisioning lots of master data governance, partnering with faithful service providers and betting on a proven MDM solution are the next steps we’ll see spreading across large enterprises.

Some companies are surely well behind that curve, some may be a bit ahead, but more I see customer-level thought leaders emerging and more and more people getting the mission and the message. We can only hope it continues but I am expecting it will.