Business capability model helps data pros sell MDM, Gartner says

Data management pros need business buy-in to get funding for MDM initiatives. Modeling business capabilities can help, according to a Gartner analyst.

Like other important IT initiatives, master data management needs business-side buy-in, and MDM project leaders can turn to business capability modeling techniques for help in prioritizing. These techniques can also help sell the business on MDM efforts, according to Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm Gartner Inc.

It's not about technology. It's a lot about people.

Harold Trammel,
vice president for applications and data services, ASPCA

"How do you get your MDM projects funded?" Gartner analyst Betsy Burton asked at last week's Gartner MDM Summit in Dallas. "You talk about them in terms of the value," she answered. The discussion about value can be based on a business capability model, she believes. In her view, capability modeling helps IT present MDM in terms of business goals, not technology jargon. Business capability modeling also helps IT pros align MDM with new profit opportunities and gives them guidelines to use to measure results.

Business capability modeling, or mapping, has arisen in recent years, along with new enterprise architecture practices, as a way to help ensure that IT efforts help meet business objectives. The model describes what a business does, providing a foundation for planning and technology implementation. More than that, it provides a basis for common dialog. Interest in business capability planning is not limited to Gartner: The Business Architecture Guild, Cutter Consortium, Forrester Research and other analyst firms have discussed such practices in recent years.

The business capability map need not be too complex, and could fit onto a mere placard, according to Burton. "It should be simple. You should be able to laminate it," she said.

Business capability model plays Rosetta Stone role

For data management professionals who work for public companies, the strategy objectives disclosed in a company's Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-K filings can help provide a basis for a business modeling effort. Connecting data assets and the benefits of master data management to corporate goals is a good way to help fund MDM projects, Burton said.

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"It's like a Rosetta Stone," she said, referring to the tablet engraved with Egyptian, Greek and Demotic writing that opened up our understanding of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The business capability model helps you learn the business' language, restructure your thinking, reframe the dialog between the business and data stewards, unclutter the message, and focus on the long term, she said, noting that all these things were important to the MDM journey.

The good news is that Burton sees data now attaining a higher value in the business's view. It is more associated with innovation than was previously the case. That should help the MDM effort.

The importance of business buy-in for MDM was repeated throughout the case studies at the Gartner conference.

Business capability modeling helps IT leaders succeed

The business capability model could be worthwhile for MDM efforts, said Harold Trammel, vice president for applications and data services at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in Urbana, Ill. On hand for the Gartner MDM Summit, he is working on a "business intelligence-slash-data warehouse initiative" that will need data governance and, possibly, MDM.

It could take special research to apply business capability methods to a nonprofit organization such as the ASPCA, Trammel noted. Business capability modeling helps IT leaders "talk to business leaders in their language," he said. "It's not about technology. It's a lot about people," he added, echoing analyst Burton's comment that much project work can be like "family counseling."

For IT veterans like Trammel, the adaptation of business capability models has a bit of a familiar ring to it. For example, the venerable Zachman framework for enterprise architecture, which was introduced in the late 1980s, somewhat resembles elements of the business capability approach. "We've seen similar things over the years, but this has been retweaked to a place where I hope we can better communicate to the business," he said.

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