Wednesday, May 24, 2006

But how do I explain MDM to a business user?

There is an excellent article today by Ventana analyst Dave Waddington on how to tell if you have a master data management problem in your company. He sets out no fewer than 17 symptoms that would indicate that your master data is not fully under control. The beauty of this article is that it takes a business viewpoint and lists a series of different issues that will resonate with business executives; so many articles on MDM are written by people who have a pure technology problem, but Dave is that rare breed: someone is an expert in technology who worked for many years at Unilever, so has excellent business grasp. Dave also happens to have an unusually sharp mind.

His checklist is an excellent way of engaging with business people to try and put across the concepts of master data management in language that they will understand, rather than discussing hubs and metadata repositories. There has been much written on how difficult it is to justify master data initiatives, and yet if you run through this list of potential issues it should be possible to at least estimate a dollar cost associated with these problems, which is the first step to justifying a project that the business will support. The sorts of issues listed e.g.

"You struggle to determine total product sales to global customers"

is exactly the kind of problem that I recall the business struggling with when I worked at Shell. Shell sold products to Ford motor company, which of course in reality trades under multiple subsidiaries, and moreover different IT systems have different codes to describe "Ford". This is not just an abstract issue: an account can be lost if the customer does not feel that you are able to deal with them consistently on a global basis, yet doing so is a major challenge for most companies. Working out the loss of revenue if a major global account defected to a rival should rapidly justify an MDM initiative.

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