Slowly Changing Hierarchies

The term “slowly changing dimensions” is known from building data warehouses and attempting to make sense of data with business intelligence using reference data.

family treeThe fact that the world is changing all the time is also present when we look at Master Data Management and the essential hierarchy building taking place when structuring these data.

Company family trees are a common hierarchy structure in Master Data. One source of information about company family trees is the D&B Worldbase – a database operated by Dun & Bradstreet holding over 150 million business entities from all over the world.

I used to have Dun & Bradstreet as a customer. I don’t have that anymore – but I’m still working with the very same project. Because since I started this assignment US based Dun & Bradstreet handed over the operation in a range of European countries to the Swedish publishing group Bonnier. They later handed it over to Swedish company Bisnode. I started the project when I worked for Swedish consultancy group Sigma, continued in my Danish sole proprietorship and now serve Bisnode through German data quality tool vendor Omikron. Slowly changing relationships indeed.

As with many other activities in the realm of data quality establishing the “golden view”, “the single version of the truth” is only the beginning. If that “golden view” is not put into an ongoing maintenance the shiny gold will fade – slowly but steady.

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4 thoughts on “Slowly Changing Hierarchies

  1. Jim Harris 4th November 2009 / 17:02

    Wow, perhaps we should use Dun & Bradstreet instead of Kevin Bacon as a game to play for illustrating the concept of six degrees of separation…

    I have always struggled with the concept of a “Single Version of the Truth” – not only is ongoing maintenance required to maintain a “golden view”, but data can have so many uses, who’s to say which is the single version of the truth or the golden view?

    At the very least, can we add a “Silver View” and a “Bronze View” to the podium?

    I agree that maintaining an up-to-date representation of the real-world entities that the enterprise does business with is necessary and that is a Version or View we should use as a shared starting point for our specific data needs.

    Perhaps then, it is about obtaining a “Shared Version of the Truth” or the “Shared View”?

  2. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 4th November 2009 / 17:14

    Thanks for commenting Jim.

    In fact, I share your view and always try to keep “golden” and “single version” in double quotes.

  3. Mark Horseman 2nd March 2011 / 15:47

    We face an interesting related problem here. We’ve got three separate enterprise systems, all with their own company hierarchy, and they don’t match each other 1:1.

    Makes things fun 🙂

  4. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 2nd March 2011 / 15:53

    I know it’s fun Mark 🙂

    We need to maintain “golden records” in a “golden copy” with “golden relations”.

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