Master Data Management

We've all been there… left the house five minutes late, rushed out of the neighborhood just to sit in traffic trying to get to the office on time. Some days it's ok, you open the sunroof, turn up the tunes and enjoy some time to yourself. Other days though, always the ones with an early morning client meeting you're trying to make, get you wound tighter than a facelift and leave you pondering all of the things that just aren't right in the world. One such commute got me thinking about master data management and all that's wrong with that world in almost every organization we work with!

Why Think About Master Data Management (MDM)?

Master data management (MDM) is your set of policies, practices and even philosophies that govern how data flows through your organization. Data is the fuel that powers decisions in almost every type of business.  When it doesn't flow smoothly, the entire business suffers. It includes data in document management, customer relationship, accounting, collaboration or any other system.

Think about the flow of data through your organization. Would you say information moves as though it's traveling a super highway, or more like a back country dirt road filled with pot holes? Likely it's more like a construction zone, with some areas of the highway flowing freely and others maneuvering through cones and barricades, causing delays. Beyond just the conditions of the road itself, you likely encounter several other obstacles on your commute like traffic, accidents, and missing directions. This is also true of master data management, let's go for a ride to take a look at what some of them might be and how to get around them.

MDM Tip 1: Better, Faster Data Capture

Today we're headed to an onsite client meeting and our first obstacle on our commute is the stop and go traffic. Creep a few feet, stop again, creep, stop. Well when it comes to having great data you have to think about how quick and easy it is for your users to get data into the system. Are there too many fields or bits of information that you're trying to collect? Are there too many required fields, or not enough? You want to ensure each user can quickly and easily get the data specific to their role and needs into the tool. We use an approach called Screen Cleaners to review various data entry screens with users to see if they're organized in a manner that allows for easily tabbing through the form. We also use reports to evaluate the various data points within the system to see if the users are actually putting data into them. If they're mostly empty, chances are they don't really need that field.

MDM Tip 2: Clean Up Inaccurate or Incomplete Data

Great… there's a wreck. So we refer to the mapping app on our phone to look for an alternate route only to find we've lost the signal. Super. This is the equivalent of having inaccurate or incomplete information when it comes to data management. When users are missing pieces of the data puzzle that are necessary to do their job, they spend valuable time asking questions, searching on their own, and recreating items from scratch. Many times this is due to inadequate collaboration between teams or departments. When examining business processes we often find there are gaps where the process or flow of information is handed off from one team to another. A lot like those interstate exchange ramps - they never seem wide enough or long enough to allow for adequate flow of traffic (information) or for the merging vehicle (person or team) to get up to speed.

MDM Tip 3: Remove Irrelevant or Outdated Information

Wish we had that cell signal but alas we don't, so we're stuck with using our dash mounted GPS with outdated maps. Hopefully there haven't been any significant construction updates since the last time we downloaded the maps! Your users often times feel the same way about data… "hope this is the latest version of this document", "hope the latest activities have been logged against this account so that I can have the most recent important information at my fingertips" or "hope I don't have to weed through 15 trivial notes about whether or not this guy's favorite team won last night to get to the outcome of the last case we processed for him". Help your employees eliminate wasted time by keeping only the most relevant, important information at the ready and archiving data that has become stale.

MDM Tip 4: Eradicate the Duplicates

By the grace of all wonderful things in the world, we've made it through the stop and go traffic, onto the freeway, around the wreck, and back off the freeway onto the busy streets on the other side of town. Now, remember the Parliament scene from European vacation, "Look kids, it's Big Ben, the Parliament!"? 

What is Master Data Management

Well that's us, stuck in a traffic circle, trying to make our way to the other side, we can see the building, we just can't get to it! Which is the equivalent of your users wading through endless amounts of redundant information. Duplicate data records or multiple copies of documents creates confusion. Users don't know which is the most recent, which is the correct one to refer to or to use. As a result they stop using the data, or worse yet they create another record or copy of the document from scratch to use for their purposes, ignoring the others.

Master Data Management Basics

Phew, we finally made it and we didn’t even spill our coffee down the front of us! So, how can we get it together so we don't have such a rough commute next time and your users are as effective and efficient as they can be?

  1. Map it out! Put a Master Data Management implementation and governance plan in place. Great data doesn’t just happen, it takes planning and effort to work through the initial set up and to keep it clean moving forward.
  2. Determine the rules of the road necessary to keep data clean. Be sure to consider concepts like duplicate detection, required versus non-required, naming conventions, retention policies, security audits, completeness and accuracy to name a few.
  3. Schedule and perform routine maintenance. Some rules can likely be automated but not all, so be sure to name a Data Steward to monitor and execute on the things that can't be completed by the system. Don't be afraid to engage the user base in the cleanup activities. If they have to clean up the mess from time to time, they may be more apt to avoid making one in the first place!

Does master data management and governance seem overwhelming? Is it just not your idea of a joy ride? Don’t have time? Contact us to talk about how we can handle it for you!