What is Agile Master Data Management?


agile data managementMaster data management (MDM) projects tend to fail. The primary reason is speed; MDM initiatives often move too slowly to be valuable. It’s not uncommon to start an MDM project and then 12 months later IT still hasn’t delivered a master data file that business users find valuable. What follows then are the inevitable recriminations and executives wondering why they ever approved the project in the first place.

This is unfortunate because MDM is immeasurably valuable, especially in an age of constantly increasing data volumes. IDC recently estimated that the “digital universe” will increase to 40 zettabytes of information by 2020; Northeastern University research pegged the amount of data generated every day at 2.5 exabytes. For context, 2.5 exabytes is the equivalent of the storage space in 150 million iPhones – and that is generated every day.

Consumers generate a substantial amount of this information, and the master databases that result from MDM projects are transformative in understanding the connected customers’ buying journey and providing contextually relevant interactions. But the slow pace of traditional master data management means that often the customer data is outdated by the time it’s unified. This is untenable for business users who need to engage at the speed of their customers. How then to access the benefits of MDM at the pace your business needs? The answer lies in agile.

The Rise of Agile Master Data Management In Business Activities

In a traditional MDM project, the IT team defines the scope and starts building toward a “perfect record.” The idea of a perfect record, while laudable, isn’t a static state because the data your business collects is always changing. The best you can hope for is data that is the most up to date. More to the point, the process that IT goes through is often done asynchronously to the needs of the business. Because of this, MDM projects are often slow, onerous, and don’t produce value for months or years.

This is a substantial problem. MDM has tremendous value from the perspective of ensuring everyone works from the same canonical data, but canonical data isn’t useful if it is already outdated by the time it’s released. An MDM project that takes months or years to complete is practically worthless because the data has already changed by the time the project ends. This approach becomes doubly problematic when you consider that the modern omnichannel customer generates too much data at too fast of a pace for most enterprises to keep up. Now imagine that your data won’t be deduplicated and matched until weeks or months later. See the problem?

Agile master data management is different. As a discipline, agile MDM takes its cues from agile software development. Instead of working within a project-based silo, the MDM project team focuses on quick wins that are fit for the business purpose at hand. If customer data is most important to your business users, then your agile MDM project should focus on customer information first. The emphasis here is not on achieving the “perfect record” initially, but rather on quick and targeted activity that emphasizes the goals of business users.

Because of this, adopting agile data management enables enterprises to create a unified customer profile, or “golden record,” far faster than in classic MDM. The golden record is then updated more often, which makes canonical data more flexible and adaptable to the constantly changing flow of customer inputs. Where traditional MDM processes involve updating information only in large batches, agile MDM solutions and processes enable the master record to be updated with streaming data and kept more current. This ability to keep the master record more up to date can have a dramatic positive impact on an increasingly omnichannel customer base.

Agile Master Data Management and the Omnichannel Customer

The modern omnichannel consumer has certain expectations. They want a consistent brand experience that considers their interaction history as well as their behaviors and preferences. They want brands to understand them, and they expect the same experience regardless of channel. Presenting a consistent experience across channels is a substantial challenge for most brands; not surprisingly, DZone recently reported that 92 percent of organizations have 16 to 20 data sources with data spread across multiple locations in multiple formats. The CMO Council also recently found that only seven percent of marketers can deliver real-time, data-driven engagements across both digital and physical touchpoints.

The high number of data sources makes MDM functionality a necessity, and customer expectations for contextually aware interactions emphasize the need for those processes to be agile and responsive. Propagating a single source of truth for customer data across the enterprise is a key step to remaining competitive in the era of the connected consumer. Especially because the volume of data is only going to increase; 95 percent of respondents in a recent 451 Research report said they expected the number of data sources and data volumes to increase in the coming year.

Put simply, agile MDM enables your organization to be nimble in unifying data. By emphasizing the priorities of business users and keeping iterations short and focused, you can achieve business value faster than in a traditional MDM project. In an age where consumers are unlikely to suffer through impersonal communications, that ability to reach value faster can make a significant difference between you and the competition.

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