Taking MDM to the next frontier

What does the future hold for master data management? Find out what those in the trenches are talking about when it comes to MDM.

By Evan Levy, Vice President of Data Management Programs at SAS

The idea of mastering data management and establishing a single view of a business subject area is anything but missionary work. The concepts are known, the ideology is accepted and the discipline is well understood. But in the realm of master data management (MDM), many new concepts and evolutionary approaches are challenging the methods most of us have come to accept as best practices.

At the technology conferences I attend, the best MDM nuggets come from those talking about the real-world design, implementation and usage issues they’ve encountered. There are some who want to talk about MDM’s evolutionary steps (toward cloud-based hubs, big data mastering, multiple domains and mobile application support.) But there’s a larger audience that wants to attack the obstacles that stand in the way of simplifying the access to and usage of all the data hidden within their company’s technology infrastructure. Let me share five of the most frequent discussion topics about the next frontier for MDM.

We don't need a central repository. We need a centralized delivery system that can retrieve and deliver the required data without the user having to know the storage location, the format and all the related details.

What's in store for MDM

  • Source data index
    It’s not uncommon for developers and users to spend 40 percent of their time searching for the data they need. Data sources aren’t limited to the core, in-house transactional applications. Data sources also include cloud-based applications, third-party data sets, syndicated data content and even internally generated content (like spreadsheets). While existing MDM products do an adequate job of providing details to subject-area master elements, they don’t support the other 95 percent of the elements contained across numerous operational and analytical systems. Expanding the MDM platform to track and identify (but not store) the various locations of additional data details would be invaluable.
  • Data glossary (and business metadata content)
    The motivation for MDM is to provide access to a subject area master record along with the details of the contributing sources. What folks really want is a single centralized location for metadata content. Developers and users are desperate to understand the data’s origins, definitions, meanings and rules. Most MDM products contain those details for mastered elements – so it makes sense to expand the MDM hub to support metadata services to store, retain and share metadata for all of the elements associated with a subject area.
  • Data provisioning and access
    Our companies have an overwhelming quantity of data sources and repositories. While the idea of loading data into a central repository is popular, the idea of loading all data into a central repository is impractical. Most new data today isn’t applicable to a widespread enterprise audience: Most new sources have a short-term shelf life, and much of the content is only useful to a small audience. While it makes sense to centrally manage data that’s relevant to the majority of enterprise users, it makes little sense to load dozens (or hundreds) of data sources when each source is only needed by a few users (possibly for a short period of time). We don’t need a central repository. We need a centralized delivery system that can retrieve and deliver the required data without the user having to know the storage location, the format and all the related details. The MDM hub already contains those details for on-boarded sources; it makes sense to expand its repertoire to deliver all related data source content.
  • Data policy and security management
    Data security has often been relegated to individual applications. Unfortunately, such an approach has created highly inconsistent and disparate methods of achieving data security. In an era where 10 to 12 downstream systems require access to operational data, attribute-level security is a necessity – and it needs to be independent of an individual application. Security rules and data policies should be coupled to the data content and centrally managed. The MDM hub supports this capability for on-boarded subject area elements. It only makes sense to elevate the functionality of an MDM hub to support distributed, attribute-level data security. This would allow the various applications and database systems to use centralized security in much the same way file servers and application systems use today’s network-based, distributed access security.
  • Enterprise data services
    The idea of web services and software as a service isn’t new – it’s been around for more than 10 years. The power of web services is that it can deploy consistent processing, rules and policies across a highly distributed environment. Every MDM product is built using a web services framework and provides access to the various create, read, update, delete (CRUD) capabilities via a web services interface. The MDM hub also employs lower-level services to address the numerous data manipulation activities required for mastering data (standardization, matching, correction, cleansing, etc.). It only makes sense to position the MDM hub as a production data services hub. Of course, enterprise data services are a bit more complex than application-centric processing services. Data services must support the combination of data processing, business rules and information policy management (for example, data cleansing, householding and hierarchies). Fortunately, MDM already supports this combination.

    The next frontier of MDM is just beginning

    There’s no question about the merits of delivering on the promise of master data management. Indeed, MDM projects have tackled challenges like multisource onboarding, matching and identification, rule processing, bulk and transactional loading, and data remediation. But we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to simplifying data management and access for IT and business users while improving data’s value and usability via an MDM hub.

    In this era of big data, third-party data providers, hundreds of data sources and exploding data diversity and volume, maybe it’s time to evolve MDM. The next frontier of MDM should be about using its strengths to address bigger enterprise data challenges – and addressing the data management obstacles that get in the way of people using data to make decisions.

    Evan Levy

    Evan Levy is an acknowledged speaker and writer in the areas of enterprise data strategy, data management and systems integration. With business experiencing exponential growth in data volumes, sources and systems, Levy advises clients on strategies to address business challenges using their existing data and technology assets coupled with new and creative methods and practices.

    Back to Top