Most enterprises in the present climate recognize the transformative potential of robust Master Data Management (MDM) in the context of analytics and data lineage. However, many of them struggle with the design, construction, and operationalization of MDM tools that can be effective at the enterprise-wide level. For companies to make the most of MDM, it is imperative for them to integrate technology, scope, and people choices, all within a reliable structure of governance.

In present times, who is selling, what is selling, who is the customer, and how these customers expect to be engaged is evolving rapidly. These changes have a major bearing on both, customer experience, as well as stakeholder experience; and this is where effective MDM strategy can be a game changer.

Adapting MDM tools for business teams

For any MDM tool to be effective at an enterprise level, it must be designed and adapted to suit business teams. Why? Because the success of MDM tools relies heavily on business users who take on the role of innovators, and bridge the gap between business requirements and technology deployment. While developers take care of the implementation side of MDM, and data stewards ensure the establishment and practice of policies for consistent, accurate, and clean data, business users bear the onus of adopting these tools and ensuring they are aligned with business objectives; whether its cost control or compliance.

Building from the ground-up

Many enterprises make the mistake of thinking about MDM adaptability post-implementation stage – after a simple “lift and shift” model has been deployed. This means it is usually too late to take into account the role of the tool in the operations and overall end in mind. Whether the company is looking to compress MDM costs across the enterprise, improve compliance, increase revenue, or get combined benefits in all these areas, it is important to build with operational applicability in mind.

It is often observed that enterprises start in the right direction, aligning data domains with priorities, however, in certain situations, financial constraints push them to align all data domains towards accelerating management reporting. In turn, this leads companies to take much longer to achieve their business goals when compared to companies that keep their data domains aligned with their priorities. This is where it becomes significant to urge finance to balance enterprise priorities with reporting priorities.

Again, scoping is just as important when it comes to setting up an MDM system for success with business users. Not all data is the same, neither is its application and requirements. For example, many data fields are only relevant at local levels and not so valuable at the global value. MDM efforts need to take these variables into account when setting context (defining data consistency) and content (customized applications at local levels). Similarly, scoping of stakeholders by taking into consideration the impact of human behavioral changes on business outcomes is just as relevant. Doing so significantly boosts the chances of success.

Prioritizing operationalization

Most companies follow the traditional path approach of design – build – operate to get their MDM systems in place. However, designing in the absence of a robust feedback mechanism, or with a lack of operational granularity leads to numerous unforeseen challenges during actual implementation. Integrating MDM operations with business processes from the get go creates a valuable feedback loop that sheds light on what works and what doesn’t.

From the business user point of view, doing so also allows the enterprise to lap up low hanging fruits and quick wins. This helps increase spend visibility and credibility. Again, building for operationalization with feedback loops in mind helps business owners focus their efforts upstream on priorities that eventually trickle downstream leading to a decreased effort in data stewardship.

Agility over rigidity

MDM deployments are seldom free from unexpected events; such as acquisition of new business, system integrations that didn’t meet expectations etc. MDM teams are then forced to turn to solutions that weren’t planned for or weren’t a part of initial budget considerations. Traditional waterfall type MDM projects often don’t stand the test of volatile business environments, and hence the need for an agile approach to MDM solutions. MDM agility and adaptability for business users go hand in hand. It comes as no surprise that the above-mentioned method of designing, building, and operating at the same time is perhaps the best, most agile way to execute MDM projects.

Cross-functional design

MDM systems, when designed correctly, are build to join the dots across an enterprise. The data points could range from supply chain and finance to procurement, compliance, and risk. Many companies make the mistake of taking a blanket approach to MDM focusing on how they can maintain and use data easily. However, this approach completely ignores the unique business implications and needs of different functions across the enterprise’s end-to-end process.

For an MDM tool to be truly effective from the business user’s point of view, the right tone needs to be set from the top-down under the guidance of a cross-functional steering committee. This helps create a process that is sustainable and in the favor of different stakeholders in the process.

Intelligence over technology

A truly beneficial MDM tool that serves business users well is based on the judicious use of technology. It is pertinent to leverage MDM through strong operating models that leverage, for example, the right technology to maintain data, understand the data source, and figure out how to manipulate this data for best results. Again, apart from knowing which technology to use for particular data applications, it is equally important to eliminate the existence of siloed data ownership (covered under ‘Cross functional design’)

Designing for business users

With all the systems in place, it is still equally relevant to have the right user interface in place for business teams to make the most of MDM tools. These tools need to offer a 360° view of all business-critical data and the associations with user-specific dashboards that can be expanded and customized