New York – We’ve just wrapped up our annual MDM & Data Governance Summit here in midtown Manhattan, and based on the case studies and updates it was our best show ever. The professionalism and dedication of many of these attendees are reflected in scars and restarts and dollars spent and lessons learned that are going to give new MDM adopters faster starts and drive vendors to deliver better products.

Some of these companies have at last come all the way back to the customer or product challenges that led them here in the first place, and some are even sniffing around new territory, in unstructured data feeds or innovative applications and services. These are things that are only possible with real governance and repeatable processes that are programs, not projects or onetime events. 

When you watch experienced MDM adopters explain how they dig into deployment models or the nuances of registries, it’s easy to forget that most companies -- by far -- are only kicking the tires on MDM.

That’s the real point of this story. Judging by the looks and questions, you come away from this conference realizing that most companies explore MDM only to find they are not nearly ready for it. That is reason enough to show up, to remember it’s the same silver bullet mentality that has always come from listening to product marketers, who frankly, are just doing their job.

The real eye-opener is that MDM and governance, like few categories, reveals how much organizations and processes need to have the elements of data and information management under their belt before they adopt all the work they witness here (and you'll find all the nuts and bolts searching our website).

It’s never been more important for companies to understand their competencies and potential when embarking on the “transformations” they like to talk about. What you come to realize is that many expect to do this while paying no more than lip service attention to the roles and processes that must be in place to make it happen.

One of the best presentations at our conference came today from CSL Behring, a $4 billion (Australian) company that uses human plasma to treat rare diseases. The story was a familiar one in data management, a global business facing an SAP consolidation of multiple ERP systems, and a simultaneous desire to create reliable, high quality data with streamlined processes across the organization so as to advance decision-making.

That’s where a lot of these stories get on the drawing board before they’re either hijacked or dead ended. Bruce Beatty was the guy at CSL working in supply chain who’d eventually become the dedicated global data officer. The consulting partner was an SAP friendly outfit called Utopia, and the liaison there was John Ferraioli, who presented with Beatty.

What made what they did so textbook impressive is that they didn’t try to start at the end. They started by looking at their roadmap based on data lifecycles, the business drivers that called for the end state, followed it back to the current state and worked from there.

Ferraioli talked about the core components, the architecture, data standards, governance, data quality, metrics and deployment the end state called for. But the process that started in January of 2009 was straight out of the enterprise data/information management handbook, began with the real transformation, the job responsibilities, the organizational risk/readiness and stakeholder analysis, all the EIM best practices that come before MDM hits the ground.

It wasn’t just data governance or management working in a vacuum, it involved the end stakeholders and called on interviews from around the world that mapped the business drivers to an infrastructure that could support their goals.

It was working at the roots of the organization with the end in mind. “The tool is 20 percent of the architecture, when you build a house you build in a good architect and a good contractor,” Ferraioli said. "Spend a lot of time on business drivers and goals.”

In accounting for a good foundation, they got off the ground to enterprise data management, information management and to a first MDM win in a couple years and months. Their first MDM rollout is a vendor master that will lead to the next leg up in their plan.

It’s such a simple lesson, that enterprise data and information management is the collection and application of the orchestrated processes -- not the onetime events -- of best practices to come to the best possible operational and analytical benefit to the company. Keep coming back to that, and you have a chance to stay on course.

That’s the mission that’s always been at the core of our business and it turns up every time we see companies getting better at it.