Episode 23: What is Master Data Management?

What is Master Data Management?

Dive into the world of master data management (MDM) with data expert Earin Persson from D3Clarity in a fresh episode of Talk Tech with Data Dave. They simplify the complex universe of MDM, showing why it’s crucial for any business looking to get smarter about their data. From saving big bucks with smarter mailing strategies to defining what a “customer” really means, this episode is packed with insights and real-world examples that’ll have you rethinking your data strategy. Whether you’re a data newbie or a seasoned pro, tune in to discover how mastering your master data can transform your business decisions. Get ready for a data deep-dive that’s as informative as it is entertaining!

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Published:

April 30, 2024

Duration:

00:18:03

Transcript

Alexis
Hi everyone, welcome to Talk Tech with Data Dave, I’m Alexis, your host of Talk Tech with Data Dave, and today, we’re doing an expert episode!   

What does that mean, Alexis? That means we have brought on one of our data experts, the Director of our Data Engineering team, Earin, to join us to talk about one of our specialties at D3Clarity, Master data Management. Hey Dave. Hey. Earin, welcome to the podcast. Super excited to have you? 

Earin Persson
Good morning, Alexis. Glad to be here. 

Alexis
Like I said, master data management is one of the D3Clarity specialties, and we thought it would be awesome to bring Earin on as an expert because she runs the entire data team, including Dave sometimes. So, even though he’s the CTO, she’s kind of the boss still, which I always enjoy. 

Data Dave
Dave most of the time”, actually. She does run the team, and I work for Earin. 

Earin Persson
We complement each other very well. 

Data Dave
So, good morning, Earin. Welcome to Talk Tech with Data Dave, but we’ll drill straight into master data management as Alexis so introduced. 

Alexis
I do want to remind our listeners that they can submit a question to us anytime at talktech@d3clarity.com. We love to answer listener questions on the podcast. Sorry, Earin didn’t mean to cut you off. All right, master data management. Let’s start there. What is master data management? 

Earin Persson
Do you want to take that, Dave or you want me to? 

Data Dave
To me, master data management, is…  I’m gonna split master data management into two things, and I split it into master data and then management and data management. Master data, to me, is the data that describes the primary entities around an organization. So, often customers, often employees, often people, and things that exist whether you are trading with them or whether they are yours or not. An organization that could be a customer exists whether they are a customer of yours or not.  

The big important thing there is that they do exist, and this is about the management of your data that describes them, not necessarily them themselves. Cause you don’t have management authority over them. You only have management authority over your data that describes them. 

I’m gonna kick it off with that. And then the master data management piece becomes the mechanism that you use to manage the data that describes these entities, these things. 

Alexis
One of our early episodes, Dave, we talked about critical data elements. Now, we’re talking about master data, and the way you’re explaining master data is pretty similar to how we talked about critical data elements. So same thing? Different things? Same word? Or different words? Same thing? What’s the conversion rate there? 

Earin Persson
For master data, think of the bigger noun. It’s a person, place, or thing. Your critical data elements are the pieces or in the data world, the elements or attributes that make up that people, place, or thing.  

So, if we’re mastering a customer, there’s a name, and address, and phone number. Those are the critical data elements. Not all of them are critical, but the ones that you need to truly kind of make those unique kind of describe that noun or that business entity that is your master data. 

Alexis
Got it. Master data: big picture. Critical data elements: the important little parts of that potentially. 

Data Dave
Exactly. 

Earin Persson
Correct. And then master data management, as Dave said, is-  you’ve got master data, you really need the curation and the management of that master data to make sure that that data is high quality but also fit for purpose for however you’re going to use that data. That approach, or that discipline around that approach is what’s called master data management. So, it’s really kind of the whole process around looking at your individual critical data elements to describe your master data with the approach of master data management. 

Data Dave
Earin, you’ve been doing this for quite a long time. Why do you think master data is particularly important to manage? 

Earin Persson
A lot of it describes kind of the business entity from which transactions come off of. So, you’ve got a customer and product that will end up on a receipt or order. The two go together. Master data doesn’t have anything to do with the transaction. How e-commerce is done, how cash changes hands, but it feeds into that and makes your data cleaner. That’s a very commercial sense. Now when you start looking at health care. You’ve got life or death things if you get the wrong blood type wrong for your patient of master data, there could be some dire consequences for that. Then from a financial side, it’s really what drives your business. It’s that critical data that is the basis for everything else that happens around your organization. 

Data Dave
Why do people find it so difficult? Why do we need this particular term for managing master data as opposed to managing other data? And why do people seem to find it difficult? 

Earin Persson
There’s a whole debate on kind on “What’s master data versus transactional data versus reference data?”. Really you can kind of call it whatever you want to, but master data is really those key elements that support your business. We’re reference data kind of augments it. In terms of your address, your augmented data could be the color of your house. It doesn’t have anything to do with your address, but it kind of helps if you’re given directions, “Come to the two-story Blue house,” right, or whatever you want to say.  

People have a hard time of looking at what the definition is, and it’s much easier, especially when we get involved, of looking at use cases. Let’s go through, “What is the pain point?”. It usually goes back to a certain area or a certain type of data, and then that’s where we drill into and they may have different terms for it. But in the end it comes down to master data. 

Data Dave
Talk a little bit about ambiguity and the importance there with master data in particular. 

Earin Persson 

The biggest ambiguity we see is on definitions. Look at even D3Clarity. Alexis, if I asked you, “Tell me what a definition of the D3Clarity customer is.” You may have a definition. I don’t know if that be the same definition as what Dave would have, or I would have, for instance, would you include prospect as a customer? 

Alexis
I wouldn’t, but I’m pretty sure that you do. 

Earin Persson
I would because it’s the same requirements, it’s just a different part of the sales cycle, so it’s it’s really… The ambiguity is in the definition, and that’s usually the hardest part we have is, ”Let’s agree on the definition that works for the business unit or enterprise, and then we can go from there.” And once you have that definition, it takes away a lot of that ambiguity because essentially you’re following a rule. It either is the rule, or it’s not the rule. 

Alexis
Whenever we talked about critical data elements and specifically, “My data is everywhere; how do I get it all in one place?” One of the things that Dave and I talked about was master data management, MDM. Not to be confused with metadata management or mobile data management, which by the way, Dave totally doing an MDM versus MDM versus MDM episode. Cannot wait. Different episodes, different time.  

When we talked about those things, we talked a little bit about that transactional data versus the reference data versus the master data versus the critical data elements. And one of the things that Dave said was perspective: What a critical data element to me is, is maybe not a critical data element to you. Do we ever have that issue with master data or is the point of master data management to avoid that like altogether? 

Earin Persson
Because master data is bigger than the critical data elements, right? So, your critical data elements make up your master data, so your master data is kind of the bigger thing and so that everybody can kind of agree, “A product is a product”. The definition of that product or the definition of that customer is where you get a little bit of disagreement. It may be different words, but once you get the agreement, it’s fine. But it’s that collection of stuff, so we don’t really have that problem unless Dave, you’ve seen it differently. 

Data Dave
I see it’s a little bit where the master data entity is usually an organization or product, something tangible, something big, something that describes. Now, a marketeer might have a slightly different perspective on an organization than a salesperson does, and therefore slightly different critical data elements play a bigger or lesser role in those area. There’s that side of it.  

The other point is duplication. We find a lot of people spend a lot of time focused on transactions. “I want to do the sale. I want to do whatever”, and it’s fairly recent that people want to know, “What is the sales history for a particular organization?” 

So, now we’ve got duplication. Often of customer where people are focused exclusively on the transaction. “Did I make this sale? Did I do this? And the fact that I recorded this person twice? Ohh, doesn’t matter. I made the sale.” This has changed in recent years with people wanting to know, “Well, what did I buy last week? How do I cross-sell? How do I upsell? How do I do different transactions with these organizations?” And you want to see that buying history or that trend. And so, we’re seeing more of a focus on the master data that now describes me as an individual or an organization as an organization, and these are the transactions that this organization has engaged in.  

Earin mentioned healthcare a few minutes ago. Think of a patient as an item of master data. The patient is the key. Now, all the incidents of care that that patient received are all relevant to that patient. They are not different patients. And so master data draws out this idea that the patient is the master and the patient participated in all these incidents. And while the incidents are interesting transactions, the patient is also interesting as an entity.  

Earin Persson
Well, if you put it in commercial terms, it’s really kind of that 360 view that you can do. So, the customer is a customer, but maybe you want to know, “What products has this customer purchased? What risk does this customer purchase? Because I ,Earin Pearson, have an account, but I also am related to somebody else who has a business.” So, you can kind of start looking at that history. It’s still the same entity, to your point Dave, it’s just a different way of pulling that out and showing that. But it’s the same critical master data. 

Alexis 

If listeners hop on the D3Clarity website, one of the things that they’re going to see is that master data management is like one of our options. By design, one of the things that we do really, really well and we offer to our clients often and regularly and we do it a lot. Because we’re good at it. 

Data Dave
Absolutely. 

Alexis
So, Earin, can you talk to us a little bit about how we use master data management with our clients. Or maybe give us a good success story that would kind of explain what we do if one of our listeners out there is listening and thinking ohh, I could maybe use some help with master data management. 

Earin Persson 

Sure. So, we are vendor agnostic, and we do partner with various different master data management software vendors because they bring the software, they bring the tool. We bring the implementation and the expertise of how to not only implement your tool, but how do you use it in your organization, what’s the best way to architect that solution. Because it’s not like word, right? Where you can just install and go. You usually have different sources coming in. “How do we understand which sources that is? How do we map your sources to the vendor software? How do we manage that? And then how do we get it in? And then how do you use it or when you steward it? So, it’s really that whole end-to-end process, and we go through an extensive discovery period with our customers and really line that up with the implementation, and then a lot of our clients just decide, “Hey, I’ve got so much on my plate as my day-to-day job. Can you provide post-solution support?” We absolutely can. In terms of just pay after we go live, let us manage it for you, kind of advantage services. And that way you can focus on what you guys do best, which is getting your business done. 

Alexis
We’ll not just help people get things rolling, but we also offer opportunity for us to manage it after the fact. Is that the long and short of it? 

Earin Persson
Absolutely. And if you really want to extend it, we’d be happy to host the infrastructure and manage the infrastructure and have the whole turnkey solution support for clients that are looking for that option. 

Data Dave
We’ve also done a number of episodes on change management and people as it comes to Master Data Management. Can you talk a little bit about that, Earin? 

Earin Persson
One of the things that we’ve done is… An organization comes in and they, let’s just say… I’m a manufacturing and I’ve got suppliers. All of my suppliers should be treated the same way. Once we get into the implementation, we realize that, “Okay, your distributor, so you’ve got suppliers that buy and suppliers that sell into the different products. Those are two different processes. They need to be managed differently. That whole change management. So, let’s implement two different ways. And then how you start looking at that data and managing that data going forward should be differently.  

So, it’s really kind of… there’s a management change of, “How does it affect your day-to-day?” But then also, “Okay your data is not telling you this. I know you want it to, but it really doesn’t. So how do we make this system work for you the way your data is being driven and telling you the story within your organization?” 

Alexis
I think that clears it up quite a bit for me. I’m looking for a real-life example, though. Is there a real-life example or a good story that would help our listeners understand master data management a little bit better? I’m an anecdotal learner and so it’s good for me to hear things and apply things, I’m hoping some of our listeners might need that too, and I know you’ve some good ones. Earin, so I’d love to share one of those on the podcast. 

Earin Persson
There’s lots of different ones. So, just one that just always sticks out to me is that there’s a large financial organization. They have a lot of commercials, usually with Jennifer Gardner on them. And basically, they were the largest customer of the US postal service. 

They did so many different mailings because if you think about it, they’re a financial. So they have all kinds of banking information, savings. Maybe you want your auto or your motorcycle, whatever, into that… they would send out mail across for every single account that you may have to everybody in that household or that area. Which could be a lot of mail. 

So, they are the customer of the US mail. By using that location kind of as your master data, that address. They were able to cut their mailings, which you think about just the stamps of savings drastically by saying, “Oh, okay, Alexis and Drew live in the same household. Maybe you only need to send one piece of mail that talks about all the different accounts versus five to Alexis. Five to Drew. Five to whoever else in that household.”  

So, it’s just that’s a very tangible one. There’s all kinds of different ones from compliance to healthcare to just knowing your customer. Lots of customers want to know, “Hey, I want to send a Christmas card. Who are my top 25 different customers?” Great. Is that the top 25 in this region? Is that for this product? How do I even know who my customers are? Right? There’s all different kinds of stories that we’ve been involved in in terms of helping for master data. 

Alexis
So, for our listeners out there who are looking for a simple definition of master data management, I feel like Dave, you gave us a little bit of a definition. Earin, you gave us a little bit of a definition. Let’s sum it all up to close this podcast.  

What would be a simple definition of master data management for a person out there who’s like Googling it? What is master data management? Well, would you guys say maybe each of you, as a simple definition? 

Data Dave
Earin, I’ll let you lead out. 

Earin Persson
It’s the thing, the noun, that describes a business entity that you’re working off of. 

Data Dave
Yeah, I’d largely agree with that. I would probably add a little bit. Master data management is the process of managing the nouns that are most critical to your business and then clearly that leads into what is master data, which is the nouns which describe the elements that are most critical to your business customers, products, things that you trade with. 

Alexis
That’s perfect. I love that short and sweet answer. That is a perfect way to close this podcast. Earin, thank you so much for getting on with us and being our master data management expert today and for being our master data management expert at D3Clarity. It’s so nice to have more faces on the podcast. It’s so nice to talk to different people from different perspectives. 

On that note, if you are interested in joining us for an episode of Talk Tech with Data Dave or an episode of Data Dave Dives Deeper, we would love to have you join us to talk about your perspective of these sort of option. You can always send us an e-mail at look talktech@d3clarity.com. 

Otherwise Dave, Earin, it’s been an absolute pleasure today. Thanks for hopping on and answering my question. 

Data Dave
And thank you, Alexis. Thank you for hosting us. 

Earin Persson
Anytime. Thank you. 

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