In a world drowning in data, why is Master Data Management so important?

Date:June 27, 2023

We are drowning in a sea of data. Globally, as individuals and corporate bodies, we are constantly accumulating this valuable commodity. Yet, more data doesn’t necessarily infer better data and in fact, the risk of data breaches and poor business decisions made on incomplete or inaccurate data increases as we handle ever greater quantities of it.

Knowledge, as they say, is power and the companies that make best use of this vast quantity of data possess that knowledge and wield that power.  

At Projective Group we believe that a coherent Master Data Management strategy and implementation is fundamental to your future business success. Consider it a lifebuoy to keep you afloat.  

What is Master Data?

Master Data encompasses many different things, but put simply it is the key facts you must rely upon to classify and define information about each customer, product, vendor or employee within your business. Almost anything that is a key aspect of your organisation will be considered an element of Master Data.  

It is important to note that transactional information – for an example an invoice – is not traditionally considered Master Data, although any transaction off the back of an invoice will contain elements of Master Data, such as the customer’s name or the product that was sold to them.

Master Data Management (MDM) is the application of technology to support this data and includes Reference Data, Data Quality, Data Integration and Data Governance. The chosen MDM tool for your enterprise will provide a single source of the truth for a record.

Do we have to manage all our Master Data?

The answer should be ‘Yes’. You should be mastering everything in your organisation because all data should be valuable and underpin your business decisions. However not all data is equal, so this may not always be realistic.

You need solid business reasons for selecting the elements of Master Data you wish to manage, otherwise your proposed MDM project will fail quickly.

In an ideal world with infinite time, infinite funding and infinite resources, of course we would want all our data to be perfect. At Projective Group we understand that the real world is a very different place and companies embarking upon an MDM strategy need to first rationalise the data within their organisation.  Why bother to focus, for example, on vendor data unless there is a clear business vision to support it.  You need solid business reasons for selecting the elements of Master Data you wish to manage, otherwise your proposed MDM project will quickly fail through a lack of sponsorship and support.

Master Data Management and You

Master Data Management (MDM) is the application of technology to support the clean-up and rationalisation of your data.  It is the art of creating a golden record of a key business dimension, and it allows you to achieve a cross-silo view of key sets of data that you really care about and that are integral to your future success.

Example 1: Financial industry

You may operate in the financial sector and need to evaluate the financial risk associated with a customer across multiple parts of your business.  From a regulatory perspective, you need to understand the single risk-rating of that individual, or organisation.  Using MDM to consolidate data across the organisation into a single best view of that customer is all important and will help you to demonstrate that you have fulfilled your obligations, for example Know Your Customer (KYC) or Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations.  

Example 2: Retail

Perhaps you own a retail organisation and are sourcing products from different suppliers and locations and you need to bring the data together to understand which products are selling.  Master Data Management allows you to create a single consolidated set of records, as well as a wider set of data for each customer.

Example 3: Healthcare

Healthcare is another sector where Master Data Management has an important role to play. It can even help to save lives.  Patient records, which may previously have been held on stand-alone systems in hospitals surgeries and treatment centres, can be brought together in real-time ensuring that relevant treatments and life-threatening allergies are visible to all health-care professionals involved in a patient’s care and recovery.

Don’t forget the Reference Data  

For many organisations, other than the benefits associated with having a single consolidated view of customers for either risk management or cross-selling, a major benefit of MDM is the fact that you can bring together different operating models in the business as one reference data model.  Ironing out inconsistencies such as ‘UK’, ‘GB’ or ‘England’ when describing location is important. Using terminology that is incompatible makes a high-level view of the entire business almost impossible. You need to understand the reference information for each customer, whether by location or currency or any other descriptor.  

You never want to find yourself herding cats.  If your business uses multiple systems to identify customers and has data scattered all over the organisation, you face a huge task to align and make this data consistent.  To make good business decisions you need to be able to collaborate on data analysis, and to achieve this you need good housekeeping.  Master Data Management gives you the tools to keep everything in one place.  

Master Data Management is becoming more agile and less fragile

MDM is expensive – there is no way to sugar-coat it – and traditionally MDM solutions have needed an investment of millions of pounds.  It is costly and complex to create a single view of data gathered from multiple sources and consolidated into a standard format, for use in all applicable systems. But the good news is that emerging technologies are helping to streamline the process and reduce the costs.

Master Data Management is like a living organism that should evolve and grow with your business.

To implement Master Data Management, two key elements must be in place. The first is a solid return on investment model, and the second a readiness to manage stakeholders for the duration of the project. Brexit and Covid-19 have both illustrated the importance of being able to react to events that can change the business landscape almost overnight.  What you deliver in 12 or 18 months must match the expectations of a world that may have changed dramatically during that time.  

Who are the key players in Master Data Management?

Identify the Data Owners who are the originators of this part of the truth.  They are the source of the information, and often also the ones who input the original data. Next in line are the Data Custodians who look after that data from either an IT or data perspective, making sure that it remains secure and up to date and is shared with other parts of your organisation. Some organisations may have Data Stewards, a hybrid role where individuals act on behalf of Data Owners and ensure they meet standards set by the organisations policies. Finally, meet the Data Consumers who are those who have an interest in the data, who will subscribe to and reuse it.  

Will our MDM work ever be done?

The honest answer: No, it won’t. As a business-driven approach, as soon as you use it to successfully solve one issue another will present itself.  You may initially choose MDM to meet a regulatory requirement and then call upon it for market analysis, and so it will continue. Master Data Management is like a living organism that should evolve and grow with your business.

Keen to know more about how to implement Master Data Management in your business?  Get in touch with us today to discuss your data challenges and the solutions we can implement to help you get the most out of your data.

About Projective Group

Established in 2006, Projective Group is a leading Financial Services change specialist. With deep expertise across practices in Data, Payments, Transformation and Risk & Compliance.

We are recognised within the industry as a complete solutions provider, partnering with clients in Financial Services to provide resolutions that are both holistic and pragmatic.  We have evolved to become a trusted partner for companies that want to thrive and prosper in an ever-changing Financial Services landscape.