Data Quality Reboot Series For Big Data: Part 1 Master Data

What data do you trust? Increasingly, business stakeholders and data scientists trust the information hidden in the bowels of big data. Yet, how data is mined mostly circumvents existing data governance and data architecture due to speed of insight required and support data discovery over repeatable reporting.

The key to this challenge is a data quality reboot: rethink what matters, and rethink data governance.

Part 1 of our Data Quality Reboot Series is to rethink master data management (MDM) in a big data world.

Current thinking: Master data as a single data entity. A common theme I hear from clients is that master data is about the linked data elements for a single record. No duplication or variation exists to drive consistency and uniqueness. Master data in the current thinking represents a defined, named entity (customer, supplier, product, etc.). This is a very static view of master data and does not account for the various dimensions required for what is important within a particular use case. We typically see this approach tied tightly to an application (customer resource management, enterprise resource management) for a particular business unit (marketing, finance, product management, etc.). It may have been the entry point for MDM initiatives, and it allowed for smaller scope tangible wins. But, it is difficult to expand that master data to other processes, analysis, and distribution points. Master data as a static entity only takes you so far, regardless of whether big data is incorporated into the discussion or not.

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Is Duct Tape Holding Together Your Data Architecture?

Let’s face it: managing data is not an easy task. The business certainly wishes, and may even think, that this is the case. So, we cut corners on fulfilling data requirements to meet short-term demands. We lay aside more strategic investment that would best support our strategies, have a wider value across the business, and build toward a proper foundation for the long term.

Today, our data architecture gets held together with duct tape. Even if we have used the new “pretty” duct tape that comes in colors, camouflage, and animal patterns, it is still duct tape.

What we are now faced with is more data silos, inconsistency in data quality, and challenges to provide a single view of your business. Investments made to provide a strong data foundation have either withered behind business as usual or have been collecting cobwebs from lack of use. I call this data technical debt, and it is holding your business back both in getting information the business needs and allowing for agility to meet the increasing variety of use cases.

To move forward, what are things we can do?

1.      Make sure there is a strong vision for a desired state.

2.     Recognize milestones needed to achieve the desired state.

3.     Continuously align project requests to milestones to ensure progress is made on the vision.

4.     Align and consolidate projects with similar milestone contributions to expand the value of vision widely and faster.

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Forrester Wave For Master Data Management — Enterprise, Big Data, Data Governance

As the new analyst on the block at Forrester, the first question everyone is asking is, “What research do you have planned?” Just to show that I’m up for the task, rather than keeping it simple with a thoughtful report on data quality best practices or a maturity assessment on data management, I thought I’d go for broke and dive into the master data management (MDM) landscape. Some might call me crazy, but this is more than just the adrenaline rush that comes from doing such a project. In over 20 inquiries with clients in the past month, questions show increased sophistication in how managing master data can strategically contribute to the business.

What do I mean by this?

Number 1: Clients want to know how to bring together transitional data (structured) and content (semi-structured and unstructured) to understand the customer experience, improve customer engagement, and maximize the value of the customer. Understanding customer touch points across social media, e-commerce, customer service, and content consumption provides a single customer view that lets you customize your interactions and be highly relevant to your customer. MDM is at the heart of bringing this view together.

Number 2: Clients have begun to analyze big data within side projects as a way to identify opportunities for the business. This intelligence has reached the point that clients are now exploring how to distribute and operationalize these insights throughout the organization. MDM is the point that will align discoveries within the governance of master data for context and use.

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