MDM building blocks from Gartner: governance, metrics key to success

Before embarking on a master data management (MDM) initiative, organizations must lay the foundation for success, including developing data governance rules and business-centric metrics to measure results.

In this portion of the MDM Buyer's Guide, find out why it's important for organizations to develop effective data...

governance rules and business-centric metrics if they want their master data management initiatives to be true successes.

MDM Buyer's Guide Table of Contents:
 Choosing MDM software and understanding master data management
 Focus on business benefits to sell MDM to executives
 Evaluating and selecting an MDM vendor
 As MDM project deployments grow more complex, ‘drama’ could follow
 MDM building blocks from Gartner – governance, metrics key to success

By now, most organizations understand the concept of master data management (MDM). After all, vendors like IBM, Siperian and others have been pushing the MDM message for years.

What most organizations don't understand, however, is how exactly to get the initiative under way, according to John Radcliffe, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

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 "They sort of get the idea of MDM in terms of the need to get more consistency in the data … but then they struggle with two things," Radcliffe said. The first is building a sustainable business case for MDM, and the second is laying a sustainable foundation for the initiative.

Without both elements, most MDM initiatives are bound to fail. If the business doesn't recognize the benefit of MDM -- and without comprehensive data governance and an accurate and transparent way to measure MDM effectiveness -- support and funding will inevitably dwindle, Radcliffe said.

For organizations to avoid this fate, Radcliffe has devised a framework of MDM building blocks, published in a recent report, which he says should serve as the foundation of a successful MDM initiative.


  • Develop an MDM vision. Every organization has a business vision, but they also need to develop a related MDM vision that clearly articulates its business benefits, Radcliffe said. At a bank that strives to offer the lowest prices, for example, the MDM visions should explain how consistent master data will help achieve that goal. "It's not some esoteric IT infrastructure plumbing thing," Radcliffe said. "It's really hardwired into achieving your business goals."
  • Document the MDM strategy. If the MDM vision explains the "what" and "why" of MDM, the next building block – an MDM strategy – answers the question of "how," according to Radcliffe. An MDM strategy should explain which master data domains and use cases will be addressed, when and how, he said.
  • Determine business-related MDM metrics. Linking MDM to business value is key to success, Radcliffe said, and so is developing a set of metrics to measure and illustrate MDM's impact on the organization. Such metrics should be business focused, not IT focused, he said. For example, metrics which show that MDM helped increase the accuracy of customer data by 10% aren't likely to impress management, but metrics which show that customer retention or cross-selling rates increased as a result of MDM will. "Those are the things that keep [executives] up at night," Radcliffe said.
  • Create MDM and data ownership-related rules. Most MDM initiatives that fail do so for data governance and organization-related reasons, Radcliffe said. That's because, at its heart, MDM is about people sharing data. At the early stages of the MDM processes, then, establishing rules among stakeholders as to who makes what decisions, who is responsible for what data, and who will consume the data is a must. "If you don't have something like that, you might get some pitched battles internally," Radcliffe said. Or worse, certain people or departments might refuse to share their data, defeating the whole purpose of MDM.
  • Prioritize MDM-related processes. Once governance and organizational rules are established, the processes to create and actually consume master data should be articulated. "There must be a step-wise, prioritized focus on different data domain areas, source systems and consuming communities," Radcliffe wrote in the report. "Prioritization is vital to determining which processes are 'nice to have' and which are 'must have.'"
  • Determine the MDM technology strategy. Finally -- after the MDM vision, metrics, governance and processes have been determined -- comes the technology. Organizations have the option to buy MDM-enabling technology, build their own, or do some combination of both, Radcliffe said. The important thing is not necessarily which approach an organization takes but that it supports the other building blocks of the MDM initiative. "[Because, in the end,] if [MDM] was just IT led and concentrated purely on technology, it would never get off the ground," he said.

Radcliffe urged organizations to keep their eye on the MDM big picture and not to artificially overemphasize one element of the initiative over the other. Each MDM building block he has identified has an important role to play, he said.

"Striking the right balance between technology and governance," he wrote, "as well as ensuring that the MDM strategy aligns with the business vision and can be measured via a set of metrics, is key to success."

MDM Buyer's Guide Table of Contents:
 Choosing MDM software and understanding master data management
 Focus on business benefits to sell MDM to executives
 Evaluating and selecting an MDM vendor
 As MDM project deployments grow more complex, ‘drama’ could follow
 MDM building blocks from Gartner – governance, metrics key to success


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