Organisations are increasingly data dependent, but being confident in your data is easier said than done. Al Turnbull explains how a Master Data Management approach can help.
From remote sensors to social media, GPS trackers to Open Government, the sheer volume of data available to all of us – and crucially the decisions we make on the basis of that data – continues to grow. Data increasingly underpins decisions from recruitment to marketing, customer service to operations, pricing to strategy. Data-driven decisions can therefore have fundamental impacts on an organisation’s customers, employees and shareholders.
We need to be confident the data we’re relying on for critical decisions is solid. Analysis of the data must be accurate, transparent and robust, but more fundamentally we need confidence that the source data itself is reliable.
Different people use the same data for different reasons, often altering, storing and moving it in different ways. The result is that one part of an organisation can see zebra whilst just next door they are looking at a horse.
The route to data confidence
A Master Data Management (MDM) approach safeguards an organisation’s core data, delivering it to users ‘clean’ and ready to be analysed.
The first step is to identify the data that is fundamental to an organisation. Enterprise Data Modelling is an effective means of mapping out an organisation’s data landscape and differentiating core data from the less relevant. It is important to take a value based approach in doing so: there is little point in defining all data to the nth degree, but if you are a zebra management company then having a shared definition of a zebra (or zebra types) will provide a firm foundation on which data confidence can be built.
There is a fantastic range of effective MDM tools out there that organisations can use to master their core data. But MDM is much more than technology. To grow confidence in data, organisations need to view MDM as a business change initiative.
Core data needs to be owned. Owners need to be passionate that their data is accurate, be robust in protecting it from misinterpretation and be empowered to keep its quality at the right level. When programmes plan to use data, the relevant data owners needs provide guidance and have authority over its use. Data owners need to care profoundly that a zebra is always seen as a zebra.
Master Data Management and better business decisions
People tend to find a way to make it happen. If they need to run a report they will find a way to do the best with what is available to them. If the application they are building needs a data feed they will build it in a way that makes sense to their programme. If they are trying to drive a KPI they will see what clues the data contains and then exercise their judgement. The problem here is one of perspective – everyone has a different one.
An MDM approach will set up data users across an organisation to be successful. MDM data is clearly defined, of reliable quality and its use is managed. People stop expending energy trying to understand core data. Their focus shifts to analysing it and making the best possible decisions for their organisation. MDM will not turn a poor decision maker into an insight guru, but it will lift the fog of inaccurate core data and thereby allow organisations to focus on better decision making.
To repeat, data increasingly underpins decisions from recruitment to marketing, customer service to operations, pricing to strategy. Organisations need confidence in their core data so they can focus on better decision making.
Master Data Management is a key foundation stone to making this a reality.
About the author
Al Turnbull is an Account Director at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence