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Is master data management really a one-size-fits-all solution?

Jasmine Cosgrove

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Master Data Management (MDM) & Data Governance Summit in New York City.  The Summit was located in the same hotel as one of the presidential candidate’s election night parties, which provided plenty of excitement.  Excitement aside, there was a lot to learn: gauging the pulse of the institute, getting to know the attendees, and understanding their corporate concerns.

As I attended sessions and learned about the focus of the MDM and Data Governance Summit, I was struck by the recurring themes of ongoing return on investment and access/usability of the business user community.  MDM is no longer a single department’s sole responsibility.  While data governance is being defined and isolated within an organization, MDM casts a much wider net.  The business community has a strong voice on how things are progressing and it is now a more collective conversation across business units, rather than being considered strictly an IT issue.  Given the cost of some of the top tier solutions, however, the need to prove value quarter after quarter, year after year can be a heavy burden to bear. While some companies can easily justify the spend, others are left trying to figure out how to guarantee results without breaking the bank.

I attended a session presented by a customer who was having great success not only with the technology provided by a single MDM solution, but also with the collaboration within his organization. After the session, I turned to the woman next to me and asked her thoughts.  She agreed that it sounded like the organization was extremely successful, but she also confided that even with the same suite of technology, her financial organization was not experiencing the same success.  She asked my thoughts, and I explained that MDM is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution for every organization.  Don’t get me wrong, MDM can certainly work as a one-stop answer for some. Some organizations are structured in such a way that a single MDM solution can be very successful. But organizations are run very differently. With different business models, organizational structures,  and preferred modes of communication, it stands to reason that an all-in-one solution may not be the answer for every business. 

I told my new acquaintance that I work for a company that currently works on one side of the problem—data quality—and then I used an analogy of the makeup counter at Saks to explain how I view MDM.  One rarely walks up and takes the entire Chanel line. Instead, you’re much more likely bounce from counter to counter: Chanel for the perfect lipstick, Armani for foundation that makes your skin glow, and then maybe you head to the CVS across the street for  a drug store product or two, because they’re a little more affordable and sometimes the products that work best for you (and your budget) don’t all come from a common line. 

She was very excited about the analogy and agreed that there is more room for an amalgamation of different products that suit the individual needs of a corporation rather than the one trick pony that can work well for certain businesses, but not for others.  Understanding and keeping abreast of the vendors in the space, the value and ROI that they can provide your corporation, as well as the usability the solution provides to the growing group of business users, is key in a successful MDM and data governance expansion. 

Has your corporation implemented a single MDM solution or series of solutions? Let us know what challenges and successes you’ve had. 

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