Are you a business user that feels the daily pain of poor data? Or a leader with a vision for digital transformation? If so, you may be ready to start a master data management (MDM) implementation.

Laying the right groundwork is pivotal for a successful MDM program. This includes creating a well-defined roadmap driven by a SMART goal approach (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).

In this article, we’ll share four essential steps to prepare for MDM, along with best practice advice for each stage.

#1: Analyze Your Business Problems

Bad data is a leading cause of operational issues and poor decision-making. In fact, a Gartner survey found that organizations believe poor data quality costs them an average of $11.8 million in a single year.

So, the question you must ask at the beginning of your MDM journey is, “what is poor data costing us?”

Many companies don’t realize the depth of their data quality issues until they evaluate their business problems. Therefore, one of the first steps is to clearly identify the business processes that are impacted by a lack of centralized, trusted data.

For example: Are products taking too long to launch? Are data missteps causing regulatory compliance issues? Are data errors causing an increase in product returns?

After a while, companies start to realize that data quality is the common denominator. When you can identify these business pain points, it is easier to build business cases around correcting or improving them with MDM.

Best Practice Advice: When it comes to MDM, Gartner Senior Director Analyst Sally Parker advises, “Think big, start small, be prepared.” This could also be described as crawl, walk, run. In our experience, companies can achieve a faster time to value if they begin with one domain, like Product or Customer, or start with a single region or business unit. As you’ll see later in this article, selecting the right software platform plays an important role in a phased approach.

#2: Identify Your MDM Participants and Champions

Many experts advise that MDM is more of a business endeavor than an IT initiative. So, while you’ll want to include IT, your team of MDM champions and participants should focus on executive support and business participants.

MDM implementation - blue rocket leadingFirst, it is critical to procure c-suite sponsorship. A CEO or CIO can provide the overarching vision, sponsorship, and funding that drives an MDM program ahead. They can also help clear any obstacles that come along.

Beyond c-level support, you’ll want to identify other participants and champions. Start with a small group that has specific problems, challenges, or needs that can be addressed by MDM. This group will likely include product/category managers, marketing, IT, legal, and vendors that also handle data for your company. This team is crucial to help overcome hurdles, encourage organizational change, and evangelize MDM to others in the company.

Best Practice Advice: Take a collaborative, right-sized approach. You want a team that’s big enough to make an impact, yet small enough for agile decision-making. Consider leveraging this group later on to establish an MDM steering committee that can keep your MDM program aligned with your data governance and business goals.

#3: Identify Data Needs

Early in the process, you’ll want to identify all the sources of your data. This may include identification names, parametric data, attributes, marketing copy, translations, digital assets, etc. Record the source, location, associations, and owners for each element to create a helpful index.

After you identify these data points, start to form a framework describing what constitutes “data quality” for your organization. Align your framework to regulations, company standards, marketing parameters, etc. Decide what will make your data accurate, consistent, clean, and complete.

Leverage your MDM implementation participants to help guide this task. These individuals typically work with data on a day-to-day basis, understand the pain points, and have a good sense of what’s needed to begin a data quality framework.

Best Practice Advice: Invest time and patience at this stage. It’s much easier to identify data sources (and gaps) on the front-end vs. cleaning up a mess later on.

#4: Select an MDM Software Vendor and External Service Provider

Selecting the right software platform is one of the most crucial, yet challenging, steps in an MDM journey.

As I mentioned in the first step, the type of platform you choose will affect your enterprise’s ability to evolve and meet ongoing customer needs. For that reason, your software selection should not be based on your immediate “crawl” requirements. Your business can’t think big if your solution can’t scale.

There are multiple MDM implementation styles that Gartner recommends. As you consider your options, think about how the platform can meet your strategic requirements and future goals.  Experts tend to suggest cloud vs. on-premise and subscription models vs. perpetual licensing. But again, every company is different.

Multi-domain MDM is often recommended for its holistic approach and ability to scale. According to Aberdeen Group’s report, MDM Without Limits, 69 percent of companies with a Multi-domain approach saw an improvement in decision accuracy.

Every MDM or PIM platform has its unique advantages. Some are stronger in product data management, while others cater more to customer data or the ability to work seamlessly with vendors.

This brings me to my last piece of advice – Seek help.

MDM is ‘Inevitable’ – Are You Ready?

According to Gartner, “MDM is inevitable, regardless of when and how you approach it. It’s quickly becoming a strategic necessity for digital business.”

Beginning an MDM implementation is not easy, but it’s a necessary step for any company that relies on data as an asset. Common barriers to success include a lack of MDM understanding, poor internal support, and tackling too much at once.

To succeed, you will need passion and patience, as well as guidance tailored to your company’s needs.

A 2019 Gartner Market Guide states, “engaging an external service provider (ESP) with the appropriate skills and experience is a proven way to increase the success of MDM programs or projects.”

As a leading ESP for MDM and PIM, Amplifi works tirelessly to understand your business needs and create an end-to-end roadmap to help you extract the most value from your technology investment.

Reach out to us and tell us about your challenges and goals.

No matter where you are in your MDM journey, Amplifi can help.