Data Science And "Closed-Loop" Analytics Changes Master Data Strategy

I had a conversation recently with Brian Lent, founder, chairman, and CTO of Medio. If you don’t know Brian, he has worked with companies such as Google and Amazon to build and hone their algorithms and is currently taking predictive analytics to mobile engagement. The perspective he brings as a data scientist not only has ramifications for big data analytics, but drastically shifts the paradigm for how we architect our master data and ensure quality.
 
We discussed big data analytics in the context of behavior and engagement. Think shopping carts and search. At the core, analytics is about the “closed loop.” It is, as Brian says, a rinse and repeat cycle. You gain insight for relevant engagement with a customer, you engage, then you take the results of that engagement and put them back into the analysis.
 
Sounds simple, but think about what that means for data management. Brian provided two principles:
  • Context is more important than source.
  • You need to know the customer.
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Make Story-Telling The Goal Of Customer MDM

It is easy to get caught up in the source and target paradigm when implementing master data management. The logical model looms large to identify where master data resides for linkage and makes the project -- well -- logical.

If this is the first step in your customer MDM endeavor and creating a master data definition based on identifying relevant data elements, STOP!

The first step is to articulate the story that customer MDM will support. This is the customer MDM blueprint.  

For example, if the driving business strategy is to create a winning customer experience, customer MDM puts the customer definition at the center of what the customer experience looks like. The customer experience is the story. You need to understand and have data points for elements such as preferences, sentiment, lifestyle, and friends/relationships. These elements may be available within your CRM system, in social networks, with partners, and third-party data providers. The elements may be discrete or derived from analytics. If you only look for name, address, phone, and email, there is nothing about this definition that helps determine how you place that contact into context of engagement.

Ultimately, isn’t that what the business is asking for when they want the promised 360-degree view of the customer? Demands for complete, relevant, and timely are not grounded in the databases, data dictionaries, and integration/transformation processes of your warehouses and applications; they are grounded in the story. 

So, don’t start with the data. Start with the story you want to tell.

Cross-fit Data Program

I’ve been presenting research on big data and data governance for the past several months where I show a slide of a businesswoman doing a backbend to access data in her laptop. The point I make is that data management has to be hyper-flexible to meet a wider range of analytic and consumption demands than ever before. Translated, you need to cross-train for data management to have cross-fit data.

The challenge is that traditional data management takes a one-size fits-all approach. Data systems are purpose built. If organizations want to reuse a finance warehouse for marketing and sales purposes, it often isn’t a match and a new warehouse is built. If you want to get out of this cycle and go from data couch potato to data athlete, a cross-fit data training program should focus on:

Context first. Understanding how data is used and will provide value drives platform design. Context indicates more than where data is sourced from and where it will be delivered. Context answers: operations or analytics, structured or unstructured, persistent or disposable? These guide decisions around performance, scale, sourcing, cost, and governance.

Data governance zones. Command and control data governance creates a culture of “no” that stifles innovation and can cause the business to go around IT for data needs. The solution is to create policies and processes that give permission as well as mitigate risk. Loosen quality and security standards in projects and scenarios that are in contained environments. Tighten rules and create gates when called for by regulation, where there are ethical conflicts, or when data quality or access exposes the business to significant financial risk.

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MDM Is About Golden Profiles

There is a shift underway with master data management (MDM) that can't be ignored. It is no longer good enough to master domains in a silo and think of MDM as an integration tool. First-generation implementations have provided success to companies seeking to manage duplication, establishing a master definition, and consolidating data into a data warehouse. All good things. However, as organizations embrace federated environments and put big data architectures into wider use, these built-for-purpose MDM implementations are too narrowly focused and at times as rigid as the traditional data management platforms they support.

Yet, it doesn't have to be that way. By nature, MDM is meant to provide flexibility and elasticity to managing both single and multiple master domains. First, MDM has to be redefined from a data integration tool to a data modeling tool. Then, MDM is better aligned to business patterns and information needs, as it is designed by business context.

Enter The Golden Profile

When the business wants to put master data to use it is about how to have a view of a domain. The business doesn't think in terms of records, it thinks about using the data to improve customer relationships, grow the business, improve processes, or any host of other business tasks and objectives. A golden profile fits this need by providing the definition and framework that flexes to deliver master data based on context. It can do so because it is driven by data relationships.  

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Big Data: The Big Divide Between IT and Business

 

I met with a group of clients recently on the evolution of data management and big data.  One retailer asked, “Are you seeing the business going to external sources to do Big Data?”

My first reaction was, “NO!” Yet, as I thought about it more and went back to my own roots as an analyst, the answer is most likely, “YES!”

Ignoring nomenclature, the reality is that the business is not only going to external sources for big data, but they have been doing it for years.  Think about it; organizations that have considered data a strategic tool have invested heavily in big data going back to when mainframes came into vogue.  More recently, banking, retail, consumer packaged goods, and logistics have marquis case studies on what sophisticated data use can do. 

Before Hadoop, before massive parallel processing, where did the business turn?  Many have had relationships with market research organizations, consultancies, and agencies to get them the sophisticated analysis that they need. 

Think about the fact, too, that at the beginning of social media, it was PR agencies that developed the first big data analysis and visualization of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook influence.  In a past life, I worked at ComScore Networks, an aggregator and market research firm analyzing and trending online behavior.  When I joined, they had the largest and fastest growing private cloud to collect web traffic globally. Now, that was big data.

Today, the data paints a split picture.  When surveying IT across various surveys, social media and online analysis is a small percentage of business intelligence and analytics that is supported.  However, when we look to the marketing and strategy clients at Forrester, there is a completely opposite picture. 

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Without Data Management Standards – Anarchy!

 

When I posted a blog on Don’t Establish Data Management Standards (it was also on Information Management's website as Data Management Standards are a Barrier) I expected some resistance.  I mean, why post a blog and not have the courage to be provocative, right?  However, I have to say I was surprised at the level of resistance.  Although, I also have to point out that this blog was also one of the most syndicated and recommended I have had.  I will assume that there is a bit of an agreement with it as well as I didn't see any qualifiers in tweets that I was completely crazy.  Anyway, here are just a few dissenter comments:

“This article would be funny if it wasn't so sad...you can't do *anything* in IT (especially innovate) without standing on the shoulders of some standard.” – John O

“Show me data management without standards and good process to review and update them and I'll show you the mortgage crisis which developed during 2007.” – Jim F 

“This article is alarmingly naive, detrimental, and counterproductive. Let me count the ways…” – Cynthia H

"No control leads to caos... I would be amused to watch the reaction of the ISO engineer while reading this article :)." - Eduardo G  (I would too!)

After wiping the rotten tomatoes from my face from that, here are some points made that get to the nuance I was hoping to create a discussion on:

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Avoiding Big Data Sand Traps

Data management history has shown, it is not what you buy; it is how you are able to use it that makes a difference. According to survey results from the Q4 2012 Forrsights BI/Big Data Survey, this is a story that is again ringing true as big data changes the data management landscape. 

Overall . . .

  • Big technology adoption across various capabilities ranges from 8% to just over 25%.
  • Plans to implement big data technology across various capabilities is as high as 31%.
  • Pilot projects are the preferred method to get started.

However . . .

  • High-performing organizations (15%-plus annual growth) are expanding big data investments by one to two times in many big data areas compared with other organizations.

The key takeaway . . . 

  • For most organizations, big data projects aren't leaving the pilot stage and aren't failing to attain strong return on investment (ROI).
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Don't Establish Data Management Standards

A recent survey of Enterprise Architects showed a lack of standards for data management.* Best practices has always been about the creation of standards for IT, which would lead us to think that lack of standards for data management is a gap.

Not so fast.

Standards can help control cost. Standards can help reduce complexity. But, in an age when a data management architecture needs to flex and meet the business need for agility, standards are a barrier. The emphasis on standards is what keeps IT in a mode of constant foundation building, playing the role of deli counter, and focused on cost management.

In contrast, when companies throw off the straight jacket of data management standards the are no longer challenged by the foundation. These organizations are challenged by ceilings. Top performing organizations, those that have had annual growth above 15%, are working to keep the dam open and letting more data in and managing more variety. They are pushing the envelope on the technology that is available.

Think about this. Overall, organizations have made similar data management technology purchases. What has separated top performers from the rest of organizations is by not being constrained. Top performers maximize and master the technology they invest in. They are now better positioned to do more, expand their architecture, and ultimately grow data value. For big data, they have or are getting ready to step out of the sandbox. Other organizations have not seen enough value to invest more. They are in the sand trap.

Standards can help structure decisions and strategy, but they should never be barriers to innovation.

 

*203 Enterprise Architecture Professionals, State of Enterprise Architecture Global Survey Month,2012

**Top performer organization analysis based on data from Forrsights Strategy Spotlight BI And Big Data, Q4 2012

Don't Establish Data Management Standards

A recent survey of Enterprise Architects showed a lack of standards for data management.* Best practices has always been about the creation of standards for IT, which would lead us to think that lack of standards for data management is a gap.

Not so fast.

Standards can help control cost. Standards can help reduce complexity. But, in an age when a data management architecture needs to flex and meet the business need for agility, standards are a barrier. The emphasis on standards is what keeps IT in a mode of constant foundation building, playing the role of deli counter, and focused on cost management.

In contrast, when companies throw off the straight jacket of data management standards the are no longer challenged by the foundation. These organizations are challenged by ceilings. Top performing organizations, those that have had annual growth above 15%, are working to keep the dam open and letting more data in and managing more variety. They are pushing the envelope on the technology that is available.

Think about this. Overall, organizations have made similar data management technology purchases. What has separated top performers from the rest of organizations is by not being constrained. Top performers maximize and master the technology they invest in. They are now better positioned to do more, expand their architecture, and ultimately grow data value. For big data, they have or are getting ready to step out of the sandbox. Other organizations have not seen enough value to invest more. They are in the sand trap.

Standards can help structure decisions and strategy, but they should never be barriers to innovation.

 

*203 Enterprise Architecture Professionals, State of Enterprise Architecture Global Survey Month,2012

**Top performer organization analysis based on data from Forrsights Strategy Spotlight BI And Big Data, Q4 2012

What Master Data Management Metrics Matter?

I recently had a client ask about MDM measurement for their customer master.  In many cases, the discussions I have about measurement is how to show that MDM has "solved world hunger" for the organization.  In fact, a lot of the research and content out there focused on just that.  Great to create a business case for investment.  Not so good in helping with the daily management of master data and data governance.  This client question is more practical, touching upon:

  • what about the data do you measure?
  • how do you calculate?
  • how frequently do you report and show trends?
  • how do you link the calculation to something the business understands?
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