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Building the Great Master Data Pyramid

8 Foundational Steps to Keep Your Data In Motion

As data continues to grow and influence the way we do business day in and day out, master data, we submit, is the most important data you have. 

Master data is about the products you make and the services you provide. It’s the customers you sell to, the vendors you buy from, and the partners you support. Ultimately, it is the basis for your business and commercial relationships. When thinking about managing this data, a primary focus area should be your ability to define your foundational master data elements, (entities, hierarchies and types) and the data that is needed (both to be mastered and to be accessible) to meet your business objectives. 

To have any real value, your data must be in motion.  In other words it must be current, agile and available - integrated as close to the point of decision as possible. You must identify the pinch points and blockages that keep data from moving. Misidentified entities, differing taxonomies, and inconsistent nomenclature keep data separate and making mastering it quite a challenge. 

As you think about your master data management (MDM) objectives, identify how your use cases can be bucketed into one of these foundational stages within the master data value framework – what we like to refer to as the Master Data Pyramid. Think of yourself as the master builder of your data, ensuring your data seamlessly flows between processes throughout your enterprise as you construct your own framework for success. 

The master data value framework starts with the idea of wanting to relate. It's about relationships; relationships between your customers and vendors and partners. Relationships through your products and services. Everybody wants to relate. If you think of your high level business strategies, they're around building a great customer experience. They're about having a single view of the customer or being a premier supplier. All those things that are up at the strategic level, they're all about relationships. Without relationships, there is no business to be done. 

1. Disambiguate

Before you can even think about relationships, you have to start from the bottom up, and that begins at what we call the disambiguate stage. This is where you determine the uniqueness of your data. Essentially, this is where you weed out duplicates and use unique identifiers to create truly unique records. 

2. Integrate

Once you've got that common code or that common entity you want to start to integrate your disparate sources of data and enrich those entities. Pull everything you know about something into one place. 

3. Aggregate

The next step is to aggregate. Aggregating data drives most reporting. Who are my top customers? What am I doing by channel? What am I doing in these geographies? All of that is about aggregating revenue, activity and other data. It's about rolling it up across categories, geographies and family trees.

Think of yourself as the master builder of your data, ensuring your data seamlessly flows between processes throughout your enterprise as you construct your own framework for success.
Scott Taylor, Market Development & Strategy Leader, Dun & Bradstreet

4. Interoperate

Finally, rounding out your foundation is the interoperate stage – the phase about making seamless connections. How do systems and processes connect with each other seamlessly? How do machines talk to other machines? All of that needs standardized data, and if you've got separate departments or systems and silos, they need to interoperate with each other. There is no master software system. There's no common platform that goes across everything. It's all about the common data that helps move across those systems. Only data can connect systems. Master data can carry information from one system and one silo in one region to another. It powers that ability to interoperate.


5. Evaluate

Once you’ve created your foundation, you can begin to evaluate, which helps drive the right kind of analysis. Again, good decisions made on bad data are just bad decisions you don't know about yet so you want to make sure you've got that proper and well mastered data to go into that evaluation process. Most of the time when you get a wrong answer you don't blame the software. You don't blame the methodology. You blame the data because it's not mastered and it's not aligned enough to take advantage of those BI tools that you've invested so much money in.

6. Communicate

After you evaluate and get those answers, you then want to communicate. Think about the analogies and the language people use when they talk about the MDM space. They talk about getting on the same page. Do you have a common set of terminology and do you have the flexibility to be able to see it their way? You've got to have that flexibility within your hierarchy structure to be able to reconfigure that data by geography, by parent, by category, etc., to make sure your business partners can see it the same way. Only then can you communicate.

7. Relate

The final building block of the Master Data pyramid is to relate. You can make informed decisions that help grow relationships with customers, prospects, suppliers and partners because you have data you can trust.  

8. Circulate

There is one more important step which is not part of the pyramid but is ultimately set in motion when the pyramid is constructed, and that’s circulate. With these building blocks in place, your data can seamlessly flow through systems and processes. As I’ve said in the past, data in motion has value.

Now yes, if you haven't guessed already all the pieces of the pyramid rhyme.  I don’t pretend to be Dr. Seuss, but I wanted to be sure to demonstrate how mutual these steps are. When looking at your own organization, be sure to use these building blocks to construct a solid way to drive real value from your data.

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