Storing a Single Version of the Truth

An ever recurring subject in the data quality and master data management (MDM) realms is whether we can establish a single version of the truth.

The most prominent example is whether an enterprise can implement and maintain a single version of the truth about business partners being customers, prospects, suppliers and so on.

In the quest for establishing that (fully reachable or not) single version of the truth we use identity resolution techniques as data matching and we are exploiting ever increasing sources of external reference data.

However I am often met with the challenge that despite what is possible in aiming for that (fully reachable or not) single version of the truth, I am often limited by the practical possibilities for storing it.

In storing party master data (and other kind of data) we may consider these three different ways:

Flat files

This “Keep It Simple, Stupid” way of storing data has been on an ongoing retreat – however still common, as well as new inventions of big flat file structures of data are emerging.

Also many external sources of reference data is still flat file like and the overwhelming choice of exchanging reference and master data is doing it by flat files.

Despite lots of work around solutions for storing the complex links of the real world in flat files we basically ends up with using very simplified representations of the real world (and the truth derived) in those flat files.  

Relational databases

Most Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are based on a relational data model, however mostly quite basic regarding master data structures making it not straight forward to reflect the most common hierarchical structures of the real world as company family trees, contacts working for several accounts and individuals forming a household.  

Master Data Management hubs are of course built for storing exactly these hierarchical kinds of structures. Common challenges here are that there often is no point in doing that as long as the surrounding applications can’t follow and that you often may restrict your use to a simplified model anyway like an industry model.   

Neural networks

The relations between parties in the real world are in fact not truly hierarchical. That is why we look into the inspiration from the network of biological neurons.

Doing that has been an option I have heard about for many years but still waits to meet as a concrete choice when delivering a single version of the truth.   

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2 thoughts on “Storing a Single Version of the Truth

  1. Tony O'Brien 1st December 2010 / 11:14

    From my perspective working within an ERP environment with multi-operation companies with a single finance comnpany getting commonality especially around items can be a nightmare. You can run all sort of software but its down to the correct ‘processes’ with trained, and enlightend ‘people’, who appreciate the importance and relevance of their work

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 1st December 2010 / 15:53

      Thanks Tony. Indeed, without trained and enlightened people establishing a single version of the truth doesn’t work at all.

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