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Opinion The global expansion of master data management

Published
  • January 31 2018, 6:30am EST

Traditional conversations about master data management’s utility have centered on determining what actually constitutes MDM, how to implement data governance with it, and the balance between IT and business involvement in the continuity of MDM efforts.

Although these concerns will always remain apposite, MDM’s overarching value is projected to significantly expand in 2018 to directly create optimal user experiences—for customers and business end users. The crux of doing so is to globalize its use across traditional domains and business units for more comprehensive value.

“The big revelation that customers are having is how do we tie the data across domains, because that reference of what it means from one domain to another is really important,” Stibo Systems Chief Marketing Officer Prashant Bhatia observed.

The interconnectivity of MDM domains is invaluable not only for monetization opportunities via customer interactions, but also for streamlining internal processes across the entire organization. Oftentimes the latter facilitates the former, especially when leveraged in conjunction with contemporary opportunities related to the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.

Structured and Unstructured Data

One of the most eminent challenges facing MDM related to its expanding utility is the incorporation of both structured and unstructured data. Fueled in part by the abundance of external data besieging the enterprise from social, mobile, and cloud sources, unstructured and semi-structured data can pose difficulties to MDM schema.

After attending the recent National Retail Federation conference with over 30,000 attendees, Bhatia noted that one of the primary themes was, “Machine learning, blockchain, or IoT is not as important as how does a company deal with unstructured data in conjunction with structured data, and understand how they’re going to process that data for their enterprise. That’s the thing that companies—retailers, manufacturers, etc.—have to figure out.”

Organizations can integrate these varying data types into a single MDM platform by leveraging emerging options for schema and taxonomies with global implementations, naturally aligning these varying formats together. The competitive advantage generated from doing so is virtually illimitable.

Original equipment manufacturers and equipment asset management companies can attain real-time, semi-structured or unstructured data about failing equipment and use that to influence their product domain with attributes informing the consequences of a specific consumer’s tire, for example. The aggregation of that semi-structured data with structured data in an enterprise-spanning MDM system can influence several domains.

Organizations can reference it with customer data for either preventive maintenance or discounted purchase offers. The location domain can use it to provide these services close to the customer; integrations with lifecycle management capabilities can determine what went wrong and how to correct it. “That IoT sensor provides so much data that can tie back to various domains,” Bhatia said. “The power of the MDM platform is to tie the data for domains together. The more domains that you can reference with one another, you get exponential benefits.”

Universal Schema

Although the preceding example pertained to the IoT, it’s worth noting that it’s applicable to virtually any data source or type. MDM’s capability to create these benefits is based on its ability to integrate different data formats on the back end. A uniformity of schema, taxonomies, and data models is desirable for doing so, especially when using MDM across the enterprise.

According to Franz CEO Jans Aasman, traditionally “Master Data Management just perpetuates the difficulty of talking to databases. In general, even if you make a master data schema, you still have the problem that all the data about a customer, or a patient, or a person of interest is still spread out over thousands of tables.”

Varying approaches can address this issue; there is growing credence around leveraging machine learning to obtain master data from various stores. Another approach is to considerably decrease the complexity of MDM schema so it’s more accessible to data designated as master data. By creating schema predicated on an exhaustive list of business-driven events, organizations can reduce the complexity of myriad database schemas (or even of conventional MDM schemas) so that their “master data schema is incredibly simple and elegant, but does not lose any data,” Aasman noted.

Global Taxonomies

Whether simplifying schema based on organizational events and a list of their outcomes or using AI to retrieve master data from multiple locations, the net worth of MDM is based on the business’s ability to inform the master data’s meaning and use. The foundation of what Forrester terms “business-defined views of data” is oftentimes the taxonomies predicated on business use as opposed to that of IT. Implementing taxonomies enterprise-wide is vital for the utility of multi-domain MDM (which compounds its value) since frequently, as Aasman indicated, “the same terms can have many different meanings” based on use case and department.

The hierarchies implicit in taxonomies are infinitely utilitarian in this regard, since they enable consistency across the enterprise yet have subsets for various business domains. According to Aasman, the Financial Industry Bank Ontology can also function as a taxonomy in which, “The higher level taxonomy is global to the entire bank, but the deeper you go in a particular business you get more specific terms, but they’re all bank specific to the entire company.”

The ability of global taxonomies to link together meaning in different business domains is crucial to extracting value from cross-referencing the same master data for different applications or use cases. In many instances, taxonomies provide the basis for search and queries that are important for determining appropriate master data.

Timely Action

By expanding the scope of MDM beyond traditional domain limitations, organizations can redouble the value of master data for customers and employees. By simplifying MDM schema and broadening taxonomies across the enterprise, they increase their ability to integrate unstructured and structured data for timely action. “MDM users in a B2B or B2C market can provide a better experience for their customers if they, the retailer and manufacturer, are more aware and educated about how to help their end customers,” Bhatia said.

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Jelani Harper

Jelani Harper

Jelani Harper is a business and technology writer specializing in topics about data management, data science and analytics.