Master data management (MDM) has gained a poor reputation over the years. This largely stems from traditional MDM projects taking a long time to produce a return on investment. As a technical and procedural discipline, however, MDM is immensely valuable. Master data technologies enable the entire enterprise to work from a single canonical database that hosts the “single source of truth” about multiple data types. The ability to centralize data and keep it current is powerful in an age of fast-growing data volumes.
The canonical database created from master data management empowers brands with consistent information about consumers across organizational silos. Working from this single optimized record means that each customer can receive the right message through the right channel. In the age of the always-on customer, having and maintaining this kind of high-quality central database makes a difference. Dun & Bradstreet recently found that companies that regularly maintain their database can see 66 percent higher conversion rates than those that don’t.
A high-quality database also leads to being able to recognize consumers across channels, in real time. Acxiom recently found that 70 percent of marketers can’t recognize their customers like this, which is a problem in an era where customer experience is a strong point of brand differentiation. The canonical database that MDM projects create enable this responsiveness, but only if the right tools are in place and the data is accessible where it needs to be.
Because IT has historically led the drive toward canonical data, the traditional start point for an MDM initiative is to pick a small dataset and use it as proof of concept. This small dataset is often not the most valuable to the business at large, and beginning the process this way means it will take a significant amount of time before IT reaches datasets that are more valuable.
The slow pace tends to foster a poor opinion of MDM among executives, despite its substantial value to the enterprise. How then to speed up the creation of the canonical database and make it accessible to the wider enterprise? For the process problems, I advise adopting an agile approach, which pushes the MDM technology out to the edge, not the center of the organization. This is a fundamental change in the approach and role that MDM plays in an organization.
It’s also a vital one. Moving master data management technology to the edge of the organization increases access to the unified customer profile that MDM creates. This empowers business users, such as in marketing, to leverage master data in their customer engagement. All without needing to make requests of IT, which frees up data managers to focus on other tasks. By doing this, MDM becomes more central to day-to-day operations. This centrality would go a long way toward rehabilitating the perception of MDM in the business, which is why an agile approach is so powerful.
Master data management technology positioned at the edge of the organization is more focused on the direct needs of the business. This is a good thing. By emphasizing the needs of the business, agile MDM projects highlight the data that is most valuable to the larger enterprise. For marketers, this means cleansed and centralized customer data. With customer data organized, cleansed, matched, and accessible, marketers can react to customer behaviors more readily. Marketers that react to customer behaviors more readily drive better business results – and that helps everyone.
Agile master data management has a broad day-to-day impact because of its openness and accessibility. With MDM more accessible at the edges of the organization, more departments are able to make better decisions because they have the opportunity to curate the data to their business specifications. As the use of agile MDM grows throughout the organization, a virtuous cycle is created that further proves the value of MDM to the organization at large.
As data volumes increase and data types change, it becomes more necessary to change how MDM functions in the enterprise. MDM technologies must be shifted from a centralized approach to the edges of the business to be valuable. And that can only be done with an agile approach to the solution. Brands that adopt an agile approach stand to gain a canonical customer record faster, and can maintain it more easily, versus the traditional MDM pathway.
Moreover, an agile approach means that master data is curated to the needs of the business. This empowers business users to leverage the data they need when they need it, and focuses the attention of data managers on the most valuable data assets first. In this way, taking an agile approach to MDM empowers enterprises to be where preparation meets the opportunity to succeed.