It’s the Time to Master Your Master Data

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A recent blog post CRM for the Finance and Banking Industry – Part 1 by Gabriel Gheorghiu touched on a pain point of many of today’s enterprise IT environments. Due to the inconsistency of customer data amongst different systems in use, the bank employee “asked three or four of her co-workers for help, and took about 15 minutes” to simply change the address of one customer. As a matter of fact, the bank that Gabriel mentioned is not the only one in this situation. Recently at the Gartner Master Data Management Summit 2009, I learned from a case study that prior to the master data management (MDM) initiative, a large Canadian retailer had over 45 million domestic customers recorded in its various systems, even though the entire country has a population of less than 34 million.

Nowadays, many companies are able to automate transactional activities thanks to solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and supply chain management (SCM). However, due to the barriers among various software systems that companies have implemented along the way, and multiple operation locations that require complicated data storage mechanisms, inconsistent master data becomes a critical issue that hampers effective and efficient business operations.

For customer-facing operations, when a customer receives two phone calls from a company–a delivery notification made by a shipment clerk working with a SCM system, and a service follow-up handled by a customer care representative using a CRM system, the customer wants to be addressed as the same person. More importantly, as a company, you don’t want the two departments to contact the same customer as if they were talking with two individuals. What you want is the single version of the truth with respect to your customers.

Besides managing customer master data, product master data is another major area of MDM. The accuracy of product master data needs to be maintained consistently across various departments and branches. This way, when different people refer to a product, they talk about the same thing, with the same information. Without the consistency of product master data, a salesperson may sell a product with a feature that is no longer available due to a design change. This situation is not only embarrassing but also revenue-losing.

The management of product master data is also called product information management (PIM). If you are looking for a PIM solution, you may find Technology Evaluation Centers’ PIM Request for Proposal (RFP) Template helpful (click here to download a free sample).

Although urgent MDM needs mostly come from customer data and product data, MDM initiatives in material master data, supplier master data, and even human resources (HR) master data are also seen.

As to the future of MDM, my humble opinion is that, one day, today’s MDM may disappear if every piece of data is stored only once but can be accessed conveniently, efficiently, and securely from anywhere by anyone who has the access rights to do it. However, this ideal situation is not coming soon. Or, will it even come?
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