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So what does "Good" look like then?

We're often asked this question. In the past we answered by saying that we're usually brought into organisations to sort Master Data out not admire how well things are being done. However, that's a bit unfair we have worked with clients who get things right just not many who are getting everything right. So, what are the considerations in achieving 'World class' Master Data, the following are a few of our key must haves:

  • Senior management support - we are sure everyone has heard this before yet still we work in organisations where the Senior Management team don't care, don't get it, are far too focused on the sexy projects that get the bonuses or the prestige. In a few organisations we've seen the Senior exec team really lead by example. Master Data is so important in an organisation it enables most business processes (and in turn contributes to those bonuses and prestige) where this is embraced Master Data Management programmes gain much better traction, after all if the CEO will put his or her name to something then in most cases people listen and take note. In some tricky organisations it's about finding the most senior person who has the most influence and getting them on board.

  • A joined up strategy for Master Data - we've often worked in organisations where they tackle Master data piece meal or want to tackle everything in one go. Most successful programmes are like a good story they have a beginning, middle and end and therefore everyone knows where they are going and what they need/ want to achieve. Master Data is a vast topic and touches almost every part of a business, in our opinion it is better to do a smaller piece of work do it well, build a repeatable model and gain confidence in the business community - rather than try and do it all, do it badly and risk being unable to engage the business community into the future. A classic example of a bad strategy is investing a lot of time and money in cleansing Master data but spending no time looking at the reasons behind the poor quality data and putting procedures / tools in place to prevent repetition.

  • Training provision and policy - it never ceases to amaze me that organisations spend time training their employees on core business processes, but the people involved in Master data management / Maintenance rarely get any training at all. New starters are given a whole heap of business training and inductions but nothing as to the companies' policy on Master data in their area and what their responsibilities / involvement might be. It's not just new starters it's quite common for people to move roles so this needs to be taken into consideration too. Master Data is a business enabler, and its success depends heavily on the people involved, so it should at least be treated in the same way as other key business principles. You can't blame your business users for maintaining poor quality data if you've never explained to them what that means!!!

  • Recruitment of appropriate resources - master data management is NOT the same as data administration - see our previous blog

  • Consider the practical implications of Master Data Management during the project phase - by this we mean that the tools a project team uses for data migration might not be the best tools for the business to use post go live. Think about how the Master Data will be maintained and by whom, especially when it comes to changing master data. Think about the types of business process you need the Master Data to support, if your product development timeline line allows 48hrs to create get new Materials ready to raise PO's then you need a Master data process that supports this. If it's critical that certain pieces of Master Data are created together e.g. Material, Source list and Purchase Info record consider how practically that could happen.

  • Understanding how master data enables key business processes - there shouldn't be a piece of master data maintained that you don't know how that information relates back to a business process or system requirement. Whether that be its key for reporting, required to be printed on a label, forms part of a calculation etc. This is much harder when you're looking at an established environment where inevitably knowledge in some areas has dwindled or its been customised to within an inch of its life ! This is invaluable information however when assessing risk for changes, upgrading your system or troubleshooting issues. This information can form part of your Master Data Definitions documentation.

  • Sharing and Communicating documentation such as SOPs, process flows etc - most organisations have some sort of Document management or Web service system where important information is stored, updated and shared. You wouldn't keep the company Health and Safety policy in somebody's top drawer ! Wherever possible utilise these same tools for Master Data documentation, Master Data is business information too. It's also important to communicate this information, we know of organisations that have developed new strategies, processes and documented everything but then been reluctant to share the information with the wider business community or have changed processes but done nothing more than updated the documentation.

  • Master data is for life not just for a fancy named project - so often we hear Master data Management spoken about as if it's a one off exercise we'll cleanse some data, bang a few processes together, assign ownership to some business users, implement some software and bish bash bosh that's it job done ! Well no, a bit like a crash diet, as soon as you go back to 'normal' the weight piles back on. Master Data Management is a 'lifestyle' not a 'crash diet' as unless something is horribly wrong, your business doesn't stand still it develops and grows, there will be legislative changes, technological changes and cultural changes. This is often where the concept of Master Data Stewards can become useful, not people wandering around with a clipboard looking for someone doing something wrong, but the eyes and ears on the ground ensuring Master Data processes and standards keep up with an ever changing business world.

  • Master Data Quality Benchmarks exist for each Master Data object - we've all heard it "The master data's rubbish" " Project X failed because our Master Data Quality just wasn't up to scratch". Start asking business users how should the Master data be then? You'll face a raft of blank looks and "oh that's not my responsibility" or "well the document says just to put a 3 in there, but I don't know why". It's impossible to achieve consistent and accurate Master Data if no one has defined what that actually means. When you have a set of quality standards there's no shirking the truth it's there in black and white. It's then possible to define meaningful KPIs and start identifying key problem areas to address. Such information is also invaluable when undertaking Data audits, clean ups or significant changes. However, like all things Master Data these will not remain static and someone will need to take ownership to keep information up to date and relevant across all Master data objects.

  • Clear Master Data Ownership with true accountability - no one really wants to own Master Data, do they? No one really wants to spend hours doing a lot of tasks that are just an acceptable part of a role. The point is someone has to, someone has to make decisions about Master Data, approve policies and procedures take responsibility for the Master Data or in reality nothing will change, if you really want "World class" Master Data then you have to change the way you think about Master data (See a previous blog we wrote on this). We like to think of this is terms of Strategic Accountability and Operational Responsibility. So ultimately your CEO is accountable for your Master Data but let's be realistic from a practical point he or she is not going to write the policies or debate the latest conflict that's arisen, unless it's a small organisation. Strategically Senior Management take 'accountability' for Master Data that sits within their remit (and by this very nature they also form the Master Data Council) , then operationally business users take 'responsibility' for the finer day to day detail (to what extent will depend on their role). In some organisations this is much more straight forward than others to define (and is definitely a blog for another day) In organisations with an 'accountability' mindset they include at least one Master Data target as part of everyone's objectives. After all the quality of your Master data impacts on the organisations ability to meet its business goals, so why wouldn't you?

The above is NOT an exhaustive list and we have only scratched the surface for each topic so please feel free to contact MMZER01 should you require any further information or have any queries. Please add your own comments or if you found this useful then please share with colleagues.