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Zen and Master Data Management

MDM’s promise is in addressing poor data quality

Data quality is as important as ever; how MDM's promise can turn into benefits for your organization

“Why does it take us so long to get all these emerging technologies right?” asked my friend and erstwhile client as we tucked into a hearty New York lunch at the Longwood Gourmet.

“Maybe we’re supposed to sit with it,” I said. “Learn it before we do anything Big with it.”

“Don’t go Zen on me,” he said, and bit into his Number 29 (Grilled Chicken with Mozzarella and Basil on a Hoagie).

But he’s right. Once management approves the investment and we write our favorite vendor the check, there’s a built-in expectation of quick delivery. The proof-of-concept has become a given with most technology acquisitions, irrespective of its appropriateness. But then what? Often, it’s business as usual.

My friend had a point. His company needed MDM and he had the budget for it. He realized that MDM was a disruptive technology, would be perceived as a threat by some of his IT colleagues, and that it would require changes to both organization and infrastructure. He knew that MDM would help his company in its M&A frenzy: as it gobbled up smaller competitors, the myriad newfound customer lists languished on various servers. Lost cross-selling opportunities were costing the company untold revenues.

My friend also understood MDM’s promise in addressing poor data quality, a corporate phenomenon that had actually pervaded the culture. He was also hoping that he could use MDM to justify the role of data steward for corporate customer information, and that he could start formalizing data management development processes.

Unlike many of my clients who face off with colleagues, their business cases their weapons, and IT budget the spoils, my friend had the funding. He had a vision for what could be accomplished, the battles that could be fought and won for the greater good of the firm. He had the artillery, he just needed a few more weapons in the salvo. It was just that his leadership, namely IT management, refused to fall on its sword for change.

About the Author

Jill Dyché is an acknowledged speaker, author, and blogger on the topic of aligning IT with business solutions. As the vice president of SAS Best Practices, she speaks, writes, and blogs about the business value of analytics and information.

Prior to being acquired by SAS in 2011, Jill was a partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting, where she combined the roles of best practices expert, industry gadfly, key client adviser, and all-around thought leader. At both firms, she has led client strategies and market analysis in the areas of data governance, business intelligence, master data management (MDM), CRM, and big data.

Jill’s first book, e-Data (Addison Wesley), has been published in eight languages. Her book The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley) is the bestseller on the topic. With Evan Levy, Customer Data Integration (John Wiley and Sons) was the first book on the topic of MDM and discussed managing data as a strategic asset. Jill has contributed to a range of other books and her work has been featured in leading publications including Computerworld, CIO Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Harvard Business Review blog,, and Her latest book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders Enable Business Strategy in the Digital Age, profiles executives from companies including Comerica, Brooks Brothers, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Canadian Tire, Union Bank, Mandalay Resort Group, Men’s Wearhouse, and Toyota Financial Services, highlighting the roles they played in transforming IT and driving strategy.

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