Information Management Enlightenment
These different perspectives cause a complex web of differing classifications and semantics to occur for products in a large enterprise, and it is similar story for other terms like "customer", where again the key points of interest varies dramatically if you are a salesman from if you are trying to deliver a consignment to that customer, to whether you are trying to collect a payment from them. This is not just of academic interest: according to a Reuters survey, 30% of operational errors (e.g. incorrect deliveries) can be traced back to poor quality data. Those who have ever had the joy of trying to change your address on your bank or savings account will be familiar with the issue that your details do not just occur in one system only in many banks.
Trying to manage the various types of data in a large company is a mammoth task, and one which is on an uncertain footing since brands and customer details do not stay constant forever. This underlying patern of change means that initiative which seek to standardize (say) product codes "once and for all" are doomed to failure, because the things themselves are changing. However progress is possible. The first stage is to gain an understanding of the data across the company, then to describe the processes used to update this master data, and finally to bring automation to these processes. There is no single technology silver bullet since business processes are just as important as integration technology, but there a number of technologies do help matters e.g. data quality tools to help identify issues, emerging master data management products to assist with process automation, data warehouse technology to help understand and classify reference data, and EAI technology to actually link up and automate processes once they are under control. "Think big, start small" is the mantra, starting with a manageable scope and going through this process: identify data -> capture the processes -> automate the processes. Modern technologies that are better able to deal with change, along with universal access to the internet and so to applications that can automate workflow, are starting to make it possible to begin this enterprise information management journey. Confuscious said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", and companies can set about this journey with more confidence than ever before.