Market understanding of MDM is maturing

The world of MDM is changing at a rapid pace, as more and more companies start to take the discipline seriously.

May 30, 2012

Ian Lottering, Master Data Management (MDM) practice leader at Consology, attended and presented local content at the European MDM Summit 2012, held in London from 23 to 25 April. Here are some of the key trends he spotted during the event.

The world of MDM is changing at a rapid pace, as more and more companies start to take the discipline seriously. At the European MDM summit, where hundreds of MDM professionals gathered to share ideas, it was clear that world-leading companies have embraced MDM as a business necessity.  Here are six of the major trends that I saw emerge from the presentations and the discussions I had with other delegates.

1. It’s not about the technology

Organisations that are charting a journey into MDM should start by mapping organisational strategy and data governance before they consider the tools and technologies they will use. One of the hard lessons that many companies learn in their MDM projects is that MDM is not just a piece of software, but a business discipline that impacts processes, data, customers and governance.

The biggest decisions and challenges in MDM projects are around culture, change management and data definitions rather than toolsets. This theme was the basis of my own presentation, which was based on my learning as part of a team that rolled out an MDM solution for a major South African telecommunications operator. I was not surprised that many other presentations reflected the same thinking and experience.

2. Master data governance

MDM is rapidly moving beyond data stewardship towards convergence of task management, workflow, policy management and enforcement.  For that reason, a complete MDM solution also requires rules and reference data to be applied across the customer, vendor and product data domains.

The relevant data governance tasks, workflows, and policies should be embedded into the MDM solution to enable continuous data quality improvement. We are now seeing vendors offer active data governance capabilities as part of their software.

3. Data in the cloud

We can expect to see cloud-enabled MDM offer SMEs a means to engage in MDM without committing to long-term projects and major expenses. A large portion of their customer data is already in the cloud and mobile devices are redefining how this data is created and consumed, so the move makes sense for them.

4. Big data

Data volumes are growing exponentially, and companies are likely to use their own data paired with public social media data and information from subscription databases to get a better understanding of their customers.  We are seeing early adopters of this technology making use of existing MDM solutions as a registry hub that draws on social information.

But emerging technologies are moving traditional MDM functionality, like matching and survivorship into public big data clusters. This is still a niche market with limited support from data quality tools vendors but expect this to change significantly in the next year or two.

5.  Data virtualisation

Data virtualisation technologies that offer a unified, abstracted, and encapsulated view for querying and manipulating data stored in a heterogeneous set of data stores are starting to come to the fore. In other words, end-users will have access to one big single pool of data but won’t know or care which underlying databases it comes from.

6. Real-world experience

I first attended this conference in 2008, when the audience was male, geeky and had yet to get its hands dirty with MDM implementations. This time, around, the average age of the delegates was noticeably younger and there were more female delegates.

Delegates this time had fought in the trenches and their questions were based on real-world problems. The attendees were looking for practical frameworks and implementation methodologies.  In other words, this isn’t an early adopter market any more, but a mainstream one with plenty of implementations taking place around the world.