Before You Take the MDM Journey

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Jeff Schaffzin. Jeff is an independent consultant with over 15 years of experience in high tech. He’s worked with a number of leading software vendors in roles such as product marketing, professional services and information technology. Specializing in data management, Jeff has spent the last three years focusing on Customer Data Integration and Master Data Management and has worked with a number of high profile companies in the United States and abroad.

Since I’m a consultant, I have the chance to meet with a wide variety of people at different companies in various industries. About a month ago, I talked with someone I worked with a number of years ago who wanted to know more about Master Data Management. Since he’s worked more as a “functional” person for most of his career (as opposed to a “technical” one), he asked me exactly what an MDM solution would provide his company.

MDM, I told him, is not simply a software application that you ‘buy’ from a software vendor like you might with a CRM or ERP solution. You can’t just decide one day that you want to buy a “customer hub” or a “product information manager” because you heard from your IT Director (or even CIO) that it will save your company millions and cure world hunger. It’s vital to understand why your company might need an MDM solution.

You need to look at your company and do some good old-fashioned detective work. Before you take that journey, take the time to understand how your company works and more importantly, why it isn’t as efficient as it could be. Perhaps management wants to know more about your customers, but can’t do it because customer data is stored in three different applications, and even then it takes two or three months to get an out-of-date report. Maybe your company is paying too much in commissions with multiple reps getting paid for the same deal. Has your company grown so fast that you have multiple purchasing and inventory management systems and hundreds of Excel spreadsheets that have all the answers – if only you could piece them together?

Perhaps you have a more urgent need to understand your customers. If you’re a pharmaceutical company, you need to follow strict spend management guidelines related to marketing to your customers. If you’re a financial services provider, you need to comply with capital management standards like Basel II and to understand your clients as mandated by federal Anti-Money Laundering legislation. Perhaps you’re a publicly held company and need to ensure that you comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. In any case, failure to comply with such legislation can lead to fines, damaged reputations or even imprisonment of top executives.

These all are commonly found reasons for pursuing an MDM solution. Take a moment – what reasons do you have for exploring MDM? If your company is like most that I talk to, you’ve got the problems that master data management can help solve.

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2 Comments on “Before You Take the MDM Journey”

  1. Hoo 04/03/2010 at 6:02 am #

    Hi , May i know are them difference between Meta Data Management and Master Data Management?

    I was just in this industry for about 3 years. I was doing something like score card in olap for 1 and half years and moved to data warehouse project for 1 and half years. Recently, I have joined a financial company and my manager has asked me to come out a plan for data managemen. I hope i can get some advices from you as a junior. Thanks.

    In additional, i’ve bought a book called ” Universal Meta Data Models” and ” Master Data Management and customer Data Integration for a Global Enterprise”. I found it’s very useful in “Universal Meta Data Model” but i get myself confused between meta data managemetn and master data managemetn.

    Can you help?

  2. Dan Power 04/05/2010 at 2:55 pm #


    Yes, there are differences between metadata management and master data management (even though they sound very similar).

    We have an article on this exact topic at Basically, metadata management applies to any database application and involves managing information about the information. Master data management involves managing data about the “core entities” that your transactions depend on: your customers, suppliers, products, locations, employees, etc. without which you cannot transact business.

    So if you need to learn about MDM, please join the MDM Community at – and ask questions there using the Forums feature. And continue to read this blog (and ask questions here via the comments).

    But remember, Master Data Management has to do with managing the underlying master data entities that all of your transaction activities reference, and metadata management is basically the art and science of managing information about information systems.

    Good luck!

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