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MDM Is Not Only About Aligning “Business” and “IT” (Part 1)

Business and IT alignment is a topic repeated ad nauseam. There seems to be a belief that the Holy Grail of IT is achieved once that alignment is in place. This belief applies strongly to Master Data Management (MDM) as well.

Our experience, however, is that sticking to the truism of the need for “business & IT alignment” is an oversimplification at best and utterly misleading at worst. The chasm to bridge is often really not between “business” and “IT”.  It is also very much within business and within IT:

  • Different business units / processes / functions refuse to see Master Data from the perspective of others: a salesman and a delivery person have different views on customer data; purchasing organization and manufacturing look at material data from very different perspectives;
  • Professionals from different IT areas have varying viewpoints on Master Data Management: people with data warehousing and Extract/Transform/Load background do not talk the same language as Data Quality and MDM tool professionals.

The fundamental challenge in Master Data Management and Data Governance lies in the above situations, in real boundary-spanning cooperation between different parts of the organization.

Of course such cooperation is also needed when implementing enterprise systems like ERP as well, but in the case of MDM, an extra twist of difficulty is added. It is not just about making interfaces between processes and the organization work. It is about more profound boundary-spanning. It is about practicing true systems thinking.

Crossing the ChasmApproach

So, what to do? The central tenet of Data Governance and Master Data Management, managing data as a critical asset across the entire organization, often doesn’t happen for the above discussed reasons.  Elegant jumps over the gaps are rarely possible. Turf wars abound, within business and within IT.

The answer is that a serious practitioner should learn from how boundary-spanning leadership is done and reflect them in his or her approach to overcoming Data Governance and MDM challenges. Quoting the Drucker Exchange:

“Our world is more interconnected than ever before, but what sorts of boundaries still keeps an organization divided within, thereby undercutting its chances for success?” the Drucker Exchange

In our next article, we’ll discuss how these boundaries can be recognized and managed in MDM and Data Governance programs.

Kimmo Kontra and Pertti Karhu are co-founders of a Finnish Data Management consulting company, Datpro. Both Kimmo and Pertti can be reached via their company’s web site,  Kimmo tweets as @kimmokontra and occasionally blogs about topics that interest him in

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