Let business drivers, data volatility and project scope determine your approach and deployment style for master data management.
An Enterprise MDM Approach
To align the approach, architecture, and design of MDM solutions to your business requirements, apply these three guidelines:
• The primary business drivers determine the methods of use
• The data volatility determines the implementation styles
• The scope determines the number of domains.
METHODS OF USE
Collaborative MDM (CMDM) is aligned with the business process layer. It is used to manage entities whose attributes are owned and maintained by a diverse, yet interlinked, group of users. Although often associated with the product domain alone and deployed to track the evolution of products, from definition through engineering and market launch, CMDM can and should be used to manage the master data of other entities, such as customers, for the appropriate life cycle activities such as prospecting, acquisition, delivery, and support, etc.
Architecturally, CMDM needs the support of enabling technologies such as Business Process Management (BPM), workflow, role-based security, etc. It is through CMDM that new records of master data get created.
Operational MDM (OMDM) is more closely aligned with the services layer and works closely with the SOA stack. OMDM needs to be built to support core business systems as they handle transactions with customers, suppliers, etc. These transactions could be generated from any customer-facing business channel, such as interactive voice response (IVR), phones, Web, ATMs, RFID, and wired/unwired devices. OMDM supports access to master data for the purposes of validation, and incidental updates to master data attributes as necessary.
Analytical MDM (AMDM) works on the side, with business intelligence (BI) applications to push out changes related to master data integrity. It also receives summary level metrics from BI applications and to make them persistent in master data, as needed, to make certain key statistics available centrally. Entity (or Identity) analytics is a specialized area with AMDM that deals with customer/citizen background checks and name services.
The Registry Style is a rudimentary implementation style that is more concerned with managing the master data records, as opposed to managing a comprehensive set of all the related attributes. It provides read-only access to master data for the purposes of restoring uniqueness and validation.
There are two other styles where master data is more of a database with full support for all the attributes and differing approaches to data synchronization with the application systems. In a relatively non-volatile environment, the Coexistence Style (or Convergent consistency) will suffice to keep the master data refreshed periodically. In a real-time environment however, the Transaction Style (or Absolute consistency) is used. Needless to say, Transaction Style requires robust support for SOA, messaging, and transactional monitoring to ensure that the master data is always in sync with transactional systems.
MDM solutions have been steadily expanding beyond the traditional turf of customers and products. As the scope grows to include multiple domains, as listed earlier, the architecture needs to incorporate additional services such as identity analytics, event management, etc. and products which specialize in newer domains and niche verticals (support for 'patients' could be very different from support for generic 'customers,' for example).
Reference Architecture and Vendors
Although the influencing criteria listed above might appear like options to pick and choose among, realize that these represent a set of mutually inclusive technical requirements that need to be considered as a sum in determining the overall conceptual architecture for an MDM system.
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MDM Meets Enterprise Architecture
For example, operational MDM needed by the manufacturing division may be an immediate priority for an automotive OEM. But the solution may soon be required to support collaborative needs if the engineering division also jumps on the bandwagon. Likewise, a registry style of MDM might be a good place to start for a hospital that is interested in building a patient-master for operational needs; but it would have to move up to coexistence/transaction-style MDM to support compliance for regulations such as Meaningful Use.
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Click on the "Reference Architecture," above right, to see a holistic view that shows how MDM fits in with the key components of enterprise architecture. The table at left lists leading MDM vendors and details on their products and technologies.
The Future of MDM
Business expansion, the drive for efficiencies and compliance demands will continue to drive MDM growth. Multi-domain MDMs is definitely drawing interest from product and service providers.
By its very nature, MDM is a services-heavy deployment, and the projects tend to be multi-year, requiring a combination of upfront consulting (on data governance strategy) and architecture and downstream development services (involving data quality and integration services).
The optimization efforts that, for many years, have been slanted toward infrastructure, process logic, and user interfaces, have to be realigned. Renewed focus on data will restore much-needed balance. It's time to deliver on the promises of industrialized IT and to live up to the service-level agreements of IT as a Service. Not the least of these promises is access to a single source of truth. The road to get there goes through MDM.
Sreedhar Kajeepeta is Global VP & CTO of Technology Consulting Practices for the Global Business Solutions & Services division of CSC. He previously worked for Convansys (now merged with CSC), Cambridge Technology Partners, and Tata Consultancy Services. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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