Master Data Management Best Practice #9 – Don’t Underestimate the Complexity

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein, who said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

This is very true in master data management (MDM) – where you’ll inevitably come under pressure to oversimplify. It’s not uncommon to have 20-30 source systems (or more) that have to be integrated with the MDM hub. And tackling other initiatives in the enterprise at the same time (like service-oriented architecture or major ERP or CRM upgrades) can increase the pressure. MDM can help with those other initiatives but doing several things at once may increase the overall degree of difficulty.

Remember, if you oversimplify or underestimate, you’ll be under pressure to cut functionality later. Satisfying important requirements will be postponed to later phases, and the business will be disappointed.

So watch out for the temptation to oversimplify. I had a client once who was setting up a customer hub with about five very complex mainframe-based source systems. They were oversimplifying by making the integration from the source systems to the hub one-way only. So new customer records would flow to the hub, but any updates or data quality improvements made in the hub would not flow back to the source systems.

I asked them what the plan was for those updates, and their answer was “manual integration” (which, of course, is no integration at all – just data stewards manually entering the changes a second time back into the source systems). We all know how that turns out – a great opportunity to synchronize updates and data quality improvements from the hub back to the source systems goes untapped.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that data governance can be disruptive to the business unless the business itself is driving the data governance program and it has been well-planned. Then, any disruption seems to be overlooked, much as you’d be willing to overlook a bit of mess from a home renovation when you were living in the house, as long as you got your dream house at the end of the process. But if someone else (IT, for example) tries to impose governance on the business, that’s a different story. Then, any disruption tends to be bitterly resented, since it’s being imposed from the outside.

Please let us know – in the comments here or in the forums on the MDM Community – what you think of this tendency to underestimate the complexity of MDM projects. And I mean it this time – let’s have your comments and “war stories”!

The next article in the series is: MDM Best Practice #10 – Use a Balanced, Holistic Approach

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  1. Master Data Management Best Practice #8 – Resist the Urge to Customize « Hub Designs Blog - 10/22/2010

    […] The next article in the series is: MDM Best Practice #9 – Don’t Underestimate the Complexity […]

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