Taking MDM to the next level

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, SAS, Business Consulting

I’ve attended the Gartner Master Data Management conference during the past few years and always come away learning something new and feeling intrigued at the issues that are discussed as well as the issues that seem to escape the podium’s attention.

The Gartner conference is one of the more popular activities for the Master Data Management (MDM) world. There’s lots of customer discussion, numerous analyst opinions and invaluable backroom and between-meeting conversations. I often find the most valuable learnings come from the discussions that occur during and after the presentations. This year was no different.

The one area that reflected the diversity of content between analyst remarks and between-meeting discussions was the Next Level of MDM. The presentations consistently referred to multi-domain MDM as the next level of MDM (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, multi-domain MDM is the concept of a single MDM hub platform supporting the mastering of multiple subject areas).

The attendee discussions I participated in reflected a more advanced view of the desired direction that the MDM industry should take. The discussions weren’t focused on multi-domain MDM; they were focused on expanding MDM to address the obstacles that most companies are experiencing in managing and deploying the exploding breadth and volume of data that exists within their companies.

I spend a fair amount of my professional time meeting with customers to discuss their views on data strategy and data management. The details discussed between-meetings at the most recent Gartner conference are fairly consistent with the customer discussions I’ve had over the past few months. I thought I’d share some of the more common discussion topics regarding future MDM functions and capabilities.

I often find the most valuable learnings come from the discussions that occur during and after the presentations.

What's in store for MDM

  • Data directory services
    There’s no greater consumer of time than searching for data within the enterprise. It’s not uncommon for developers and end users to spend 40 percent of their time searching for the data they need to analyze or include in a new application (and that reflects the existence of data marts, reporting tools, data warehouses and analytic systems). While existing MDM products do an adequate job of providing details to the subject area master elements, they don’t support the other 90 percent of the elements contained across the company’s numerous operational and analytical systems. Expanding the MDM platform to track and identify (but not store) the various locations of additional subject area details would be invaluable.
  • Centralized metadata
    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 end-users are desperate to understand the data’s origins, definitions, meanings and rules. Most MDM products contain those details for mastered elements – 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.
  • A data provisioning platform
    Since the MDM hub knows the various source systems where the subject area details reside, why not position the MDM hub to retrieve the data? To be fair, the idea isn’t to support query processing and joins, just data provisioning. If an application wants to retrieve all the descriptive details for a customer, why is database (or system) location and access details required? The MDM hub knows where the data is; let it go and retrieve the data and deliver it to the requestor.
  • Centralized data security
    Most IT organizations (and product vendors) realized years ago that implementing user access security for individual applications and systems was too cumbersome and problematic. Centralized application and system access control has been around to address this problem. Unfortunately, such a capability doesn’t exist for data. MDM hubs can already store and retain CRUD (create, read, update, delete) for their own purposes – why not centralize all data security within the MDM hub? Rather than every database and application rely upon their own data security method, centralize data level security details within the MDM hub.
  • Supporting enterprise data services
    Every MDM product relies on web services as an application interface mechanism. While the most visible services include subject area CRUD processing, most MDM hubs require the creation of numerous “lower level” services (data correction, value standardization, database access, etc.) to address the breadth of functionality necessary for production deployment. These services should be positioned as enterprise-level data services for all IT systems. Unfortunately, most MDM products don’t include the necessary tools and functions to integrate into a larger SOA and enterprise data services paradigm.

    Master data management has proven to be a highly valuable component for many IT organizations. The existence of a central platform to manage subject area master details has dramatically simplified data access and improved data quality for application systems.

    While I won’t argue with the merits of multi-domain MDM (I’ll save that for later), the concept of multi-domain hubs has been discussed for nearly eight years and lots of folks have already implemented them. There’s a lot more we can accomplish with MDM technology.

    We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to simplifying data management and access for our IT and business user stakeholders. In the 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 to leverage its strengths to address bigger enterprise data problems. The next level of MDM should be about leveraging its strengths to address the data management obstacles that continue to steal 40 percent of everyone’s time.


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