Tough Questions About MDM

This week I had the pleasure of speaking in Copenhagen at an event about The Evolution of MDM. The best speaking experiences is when there are questions and responses from the attendees. At this event, such lovely interuptions took us around some of the tough questions about Master Data Management (MDM), like

  • Is the single source of truth really achievable?
  • Does MDM belong within IT in the organization?
  • Is blockchain technology useful within MDM?

Single source of truth

Many seasoned MDM practitioners has experienced attempts to implement a single source of truth for a given MDM domain within a given organization and seen the attempt failed miserably. The obstacles are plentiful including business units with different goals and IT landscapes with heterogenic capabilities.

MDM Stage 3
Single place of trust

I think there is a common sentiment in the data management realm about to lower that bar a bit. Perhaps a single place of trust is a more realistic goal as examined in the post Three Stages of MDM Maturity.


We all know that MDM should belong to the business part of the organization and anchoring MDM (and BI and CRM and so many other disciplines) in the IT part of the organization is a misunderstanding. However, we often see that MDM is placed in the IT department because IT already spans the needs of marketing, sales, logistics, finance and so on.

My take is that the actual vision, goals and holistic business involvement trumps the formal organizational anchoring. Currently I work with two MDM programmes, one anchored in IT and one in finance. As an MDM practitioner, you have to deal with business and IT anyway.


Blockchain is a new technology disrupting business these days. Recently Andrew White of Gartner blogged about how blockchain thinking could go where traditional single view of master data approaches haven’t been able to go. The blog post is called Why not Blockchain Data Synchronization? As Andrew states: “The next year could be very interesting, and very disrupted.”

PS: My slides from the event are available here: MDM before, now and in the future.

4 thoughts on “Tough Questions About MDM

  1. Larry Dubov 7th February 2016 / 21:35

    Hi Henrik – a great discussion. In my opinion, if the notion of “single source” assumes a single physical source, e.g. a database, such a state is not achievable in a large or even mid size mature enterprise. The goal of MDM is to properly define a holistic view of a customer that calls for function specific instances of the holistic view. For example, a customer view for a marketing department may be different from a view required by a department responsible for loans or shipments. One of the reasons is that these departments have different tolerance for false negatives and positives. There are many other reasons why multiple customer views are required for a large mature enterprise.
    The art of MDM and governance for MDM is in proper definition of these views and ensuring the organization is trained to use the customer views properly and consistently in a standardized fashion
    Cheers – Larry

    • Henrik Liliendahl 8th February 2016 / 07:53

      Thanks for adding in Larry. Agreed, the physical implementation can be done in multiple ways and doesn’t have to be a technological form of centralization. When establishing the common view I strongly advocate for looking outside the company walls for inspiration and actual on-boarding of structures and master data.

  2. Sheriff 18th February 2016 / 05:39

    I personally think “single” has been misplaced in MDM context for a long time now and has led to a lot of misery. MDM goal should be “Unified views of a single customer” rather than single customer view.

    • Richard Branch 18th February 2016 / 12:07

      I feel there’s a tendency to overthink the use or words and expressions, the computer industry is famous for it. It is generally understood what is meant by a single view of a customer, even if it may need a brief clarification at the beginning of a conversation. Taking the example above (and not picking on you Sherrif, honestly) “Unified views of a single customer” the alternative would be “Unified views of a several customers” and that’s not what were talking about. Therefore in the first statement the word single is superfluous, it’s either a unified view of many customers or a unified view of a customer. Resolving this term further leads us to a debate on whether unified and single mean the same thing? I would suggest they are similar enough for our purposes, so for me, a single view of a customer carries enough meaning for it still to work. Others may disagree!

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