How master data management drives business success

Sep 20, 2019
  • people
  • IT
  • automotive
  • chemicals

Increasing data volumes and the complexity of managing master data has significantly raised the bar for companies in terms of responsiveness. A highly competitive environment and increased customer expectations require ever-shorter times to market. The ability to keep up with the current pace entirely depends on your company’s control over its own master data. From both an operational and a strategic perspective, effective master data management is what differentiates successful companies from those who might eventually fall behind. 

The irony is that managing data – including master data, which mostly concerns product and customer information – is becoming increasingly difficult. “There are numerous reasons for this,” says Edel Boone, head of delaware’s Data Management team. “First off, companies themselves are using a wide range of tools and platforms to manage their data. This adds to the difficulties that exist already when master data is managed in a single system, with often ad-hoc creation and update processes. And secondly, the past few years have been marked by a rise in mergers and acquisitions. As many CIOs will undoubtedly recognize, integrating new organizations within an existing IT environment or at least a common governance for master data comes with its own unique share of challenges.”

Laying the groundwork for greatness

For Edel, however, there’s no doubt that striving for efficient master data management is worthwhile: “It’s the only way to establish a solid enough foundation to streamline processes and keep up with the current pace without being caught off guard.”

Edel describes two main approaches to master data management optimization for companies: operationally and strategically.

1. Operational: bringing it all together

“Key operational processes, like product development, often involve lots of people who all require their own specific sets of data attributes to get their job done. This data ranges from technical information and logistics parameters to marketing and sales figures. Unfortunately, most of this data is currently managed by different divisions in the company and sometimes even stored in separate (local) information solutions. This lack of transparency is a breeding ground for issues. For example, if product design data isn’t properly inputted in the development phase, it can cause major problems for the logistics department. This ultimately leads to costly delays in time to market, risking a major competitive disadvantage for the company.”

“Solving this issue starts with the realization that data from one department can impact operational efficiency in another. Centralizing the master data in MDM tools is just part of the job; the current way of working needs to be questioned and the appropriate data governance processes need to be put in place as well.”

2. Strategic: creating an unambiguous customer experience across all channels

From a strategic perspective, data management is key for companies to reach their customers in an unambiguous way in an increasingly fragmented (digital) environment. “Customers expect your brand to talk to them in a singular voice across all channels, whether that’s a printed brochure, a newsletter, a website or via social media,” Edel explains. “The only way to make this possible is to ensure that there is a ‘single source of truth’: a single data repository where all the information about products and clients is stored and managed.” 

Good master data management also provides an excellent base for companies looking to digitalize their processes and venture into data analytics. “Companies that want valuable insights into how their products are doing on the market and how their customers react to certain changes need to be able to analyze their data. Today, however, data scientists are often spending more than 80% of their time gathering and cleaning up data, instead of analyzing it. With a solid master data management foundation in place, they can focus on what’s really adding value: analyzing the data and turning it into business insights.”

What makes master data management so difficult?

Most business leaders realize the importance of efficient master data management on some level. However, many still struggle to successfully implement the approach in their own organizations. Edel: “Master data management isn’t just about IT: it’s a way of life in your organization with significant impacts on the company culture. It often requires businesses to implement new information systems, add new processes and create new roles.”

Introducing new information systems already poses a significant hurdle. “There are numerous tools available today that cater to different needs and include different functionalities. Choosing the right tool for your business goals requires a thorough understanding of what those goals are and what role master data management plays in reaching them.”

Data, architecture and governance

To help businesses to get started, Edel’s team at delaware has developed a unique approach that focuses on three main aspects of master data management: data, architecture and governance (people and processes).

“First, we define what we mean by ‘master data’ in a specific company and context. Secondly, we draw an architectural map of where that data is stored and how it is made available to stakeholders. Next, we take a governance perspective: which business processes create what data, and how can this flow be improved. Based on these insights, we determine how the architectural map should be redrawn. This also allows us to determine whether the organization really needs a completely new tool, or whether, for instance, a few new interfaces could suffice.”

Are you struggling with master data management? Reach out to Edel and his team and discover how their unique approach can help you get started.