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What does Master Data Management have to do with LEGO® and LINCOLN LOGS?

Data Provides Structure for Your MDM Success - A Fireside Chat with Dun & Bradstreet and Informatica

What is the purpose and place of data in Master Data Management? It’s an important topic on the minds of many. At the heart of your business growth, we believe master data is the most important data about your business relationships. 

To borrow a phrase from our friends at Informatica, “Data drives business.” 

This was the theme at the recent Informatica World Tour NY event. Scott Taylor, Market Development & Innovation, D&B Master Data, took to the stage with Michelle Blackmer, Senior Director, Customer Advocacy, at Informatica to chat about the role data plays in MDM. Here are some excerpts from a lively conversation, touching on rows & columns, Lego sorting and The Internet of Things.

Michelle Blackmer, Informatica: The first obvious question is: What's the difference between Informatica MDM and D&B MDM?

Scott Taylor, D&B: Perfect question because Dun & Bradstreet doesn't have MDM. We are the master data content that fits into an MDM environment.

Informatica: OK good because that would have been awkward.  [chuckles from the audience]

Taylor D&B: Yes, definitely we don't want any awkwardness in this relationship! But it's a natural way to frame our partnership. We have master data. You have MDM. All software needs data, all data needs software. You’re the car, we're the gas. You’re the kitchen, we're the food. You’re the plumbing, we're the water. You need us. We need you. All of them [pointing to audience] need both of us. We're the content part of it versus the software part of it.

Blackmer Informatica: That makes a lot of sense.

Taylor D&B: Dun & Bradstreet does MDM internally, that's how we make our product, which is our data. But in terms of customers accessing our content, the way we think of master data is as pre-mastered commercial content delivered natively in the Informatica environment.

Blackmer Informatica: Perfect. People in specific segments and verticals have issues particular to their industries, but are there common threads we can think about in the MDM space?

Taylor D&B: We see everything. We’ve been around since the 40’s - the 1840s - so we have seen everything out there. People show us their customer master problems and they come from insurance, financial services, automotive and all these very specific categories and segmentations. But we kind of think of ourselves as doctors, we have seen it all. And when you have a problem you come to a doctor and you think your problem is very personal. In the case of data problems, it’s like ‘Ugh, I have so many duplicates. I have the sales view and, ouch, it isn’t the same as my finance view.’ It's basically the same issues everywhere.

Blackmer Informatica: We all have those same problems.

Taylor D&B: That's it. What we see in the master data space is if you're trying to master your customer or partner records, your issues and challenges are much more the same than they are different.

Blackmer Informatica: Yes I see that in the healthcare or retail space where customers could be patients or shoppers, but the challenges are very much the same.

Taylor D&B: And in the commercial space there's a layer that is really foundational: I have a thing, do know what it is? Is it unique? What kind of thing is it? Do I know who owns it? Do I know where it is? Just think about the confusion that would go away across your organization if you had that kind of basic structure on your entire file.

Blackmer Informatica: Well, yes. It's a very complicated space, Master Data Management. Has Dun & Bradstreet found ways to simplify it?

It's not just about delivery of that new source. It's about the integratability of the data. The structure of it. We keep coming back to structure, structure, structure.
Scott Taylor, Market Development & Strategy Leader, Dun & Bradstreet

Taylor D&B: We're trying to make it simple. Simple doesn't mean easy, but it does mean more straightforward. A simple way to talk about it is people are really good at columns, but they're not good at rows. It’s easy to add another column, which is another source, another system, another silo. But it's really hard on the row side of it. And that's where the arguments are. I want to roll entities up to this geography or this segment or my top 10 customers. That's the row side of the business. People get challenged all the time to take new data sources in and we counsel them, you should talk to that data source provider and say, ‘I have a row structure here.’  That it’s not just about delivery of that new source. It's about the integratability of the data. The structure of it. We keep coming back to structure, structure, structure. You want to do something in a market? Ok how do you define a market? Is it a geography? Sales market? Media market? There are all these different confusing pieces. It's like a big Lego barrel. You can make all those things connect in the right way if there is a standardized structure in that Lego barrel.


Blackmer Informatica: Right, the pieces are meant to go together.

Taylor D&B: I might be hardwired for this space because my parents told me when I was a kid, instead of building with Lego pieces, I sorted them. So I must have taxonomies in my brain.

Blackmer Informatica: Did you just sort them or did you eventually build with them?

Taylor D&B: No, I sorted them. I needed a business user.

Blackmer Informatica: Do people really think of their data that way? [To audience] Some of you are data builders and some of you are data sorters? Did anyone else do that?

Taylor D&B: Do you have kids who are Lego sorters in the audience? [Clapping] Ok, they are going to be in the data business.

Blackmer Informatica: You lead innovation for master data at Dun & Bradstreet.  With lots of Big Data and data-related trends, what's something cool you're thinking about relative to MDM?

Taylor D&B: We have our very famous D-U-N-S® Number, our corporate hierarchies and standardized structures across 300 million records. Right now our geography is limited to Earth. Once Elon Musk sets up business on Mars, it will have a D-U-N-S Number and roll up to what we'll call the Galactic Ultimate 

Blackmer Informatica: Total relationship and hierarchy?

Taylor D&B: Yes, so watch for that. But the biggest thing out there is the Internet of Things. Everything needs to be connected to everything else when it should.  That's my one-line business requirement for the IoT. That connection is going to take trust, it’s going to take search and it’s going to take a lot of metadata infrastructure. So we're looking at new ways to connect to other taxonomies. Brands for example. Marketing activity for brands happens at the brand level. So we're going to evaluate partners that have brand taxonomies. They've got Lincoln Logs and we're going to connect them with Lego somehow. It's a different kind of approach for us. How can we start to connect to those things? Whether they are proprietary internally to somebody's structure or they are a syndicated taxonomy in a very specific space or a standards body that fits in a vertical. It’s very cool. It’s like another string of Christmas tree lights you plug-in and then all of a sudden you can have all this other data that lights up and connects.

Blackmer Informatica: Alright, I'm excited to learn more about that!


Dun & Bradstreet and Informatica are excited about MDM and the role data plays role plays in driving a business’s strategic imperative. Data is what empowers an organization to transform. It is the building block that enables strategic decisions for your next masterpiece.

Informatica and Dun & Bradstreet have partnered to bring the power of D&B’s business data and insights to Informatica’s enterprise applications, data management tools, business data enrichment services, and master data management solutions.  By natively integrating D&B business data into Informatica products, the two partners deliver the most valuable and current business insights -- when, how, and where they are needed -- to identify risk and opportunity across the enterprise.

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