Happy Uniqueness

When making the baseline for customer data in a new master data management hub you often involve heavy data matching in order to de-duplicate the current stock of customer master data, so you so to speak start with a cleansed duplicate free set of data.

I have been involved in such a process many times, and the result has never been free of duplicates. For two reasons:

  • Even with the best data matching tool and the best external reference data available you obviously can’t settle all real world alignments with the confidence needed and manual verification is costly and slowly.
  • In order to make data fit for the business purposes duplicates are required for a lot of good reasons.

Being able to store the full story from the result of the data matching efforts is what makes me, and the database, most happy.

The notion of a “golden record” is often not in fact a single record but a hierarchical structure that reflects both the real world entity as far as we can get and the instances of this real world entity in a form that are suitable for different business processes.

Some of the tricky constructions that exist in the real world and are usual suspects for multiple instances of the same real world entity are described in the blog posts:

The reasons for having business rules leading to multiple versions of the truth are discussed in the posts:

I’m looking forward to yet a party master data hub migration next week under the above conditions.

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Top 5 Reasons for Downstream Cleansing

I guess every data and information quality professional agrees that when fighting bad data upstream prevention is better than downstream cleansing.

Nevertheless most work in fighting bad data quality is done as downstream cleansing and not at least the deployment of data quality tools is made downstream were tools outperforms manual work in heavy duty data profiling and data matching as explained in the post Data Quality Tools Revealed.

In my experience the top 5 reasons for doing downstream cleansing are:

1) Upstream prevention wasn’t done

This is an obvious one. At the time you decide to do something about bad data quality the right way by finding the root causes, improving business processes, affect people’s attitude, building a data quality firewall and all that jazz you have to do something about the bad data already in the databases.

2) New purposes show up

Data quality is said to be about data being fit for purpose and meeting the business requirements. But new purposes will show up and new requirements have to be met in an ever changing business environment.  Therefore you will have to deal with Unpredictable Inaccuracy.

3) Dealing with external born data

Upstream isn’t necessary in your company as data in many cases is entered Outside Your Jurisdiction.

4) A merger/acquisition strikes

When data from two organizations having had different requirements and data governance maturity is to be merged something has to be done.  Some of the challenges are explained in the post Merging Customer Master Data.

5) Migration happens

Moving data from an old system to a new system is a good chance to do something about poor data quality and start all over the right way and oftentimes you even can’t migrate some data without improving the data quality. You only have to figure out when to cleanse in data migration.

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Merging Customer Master Data

One of the most frequent assignments I have had within data matching is merging customer databases after two companies have been merged.

This is one of the occasions where it doesn’t help saying the usual data quality mantras like:

  • Prevention and root cause analysis is a better option
  • Change management is a critical factor in ensuring long-term data quality success
  • Tools are not important

It is often essential for the new merged company to have a 360 degree view of business partners as soon as possible in order to maximize synergies from the merger. If the volumes are above just a few thousand entities it is not possible to obtain that using human resources alone. Automated matching is the only realistic option.

The types of entities to be matched may be:

  • Private customers – individuals and households (B2C)
  • Business customers (B2B) on account level, enterprises, legal entities and branches
  • Contacts for these accounts

I have developed a slightly extended version of this typification here.

One of the most common challenges in merging customer databases is that hierarchy management may have been done very different in the past within the merging bodies. When aligning different perceptions I have found that a real world approach often fulfils the different reasoning.

The fuzziness needed for the matching is basically dependent on the common unique keys available in the two databases. These are keys as citizen ID’s (whatever labeled around the world) and public company ID’s (the same applies). Matching both databases with an external source (per entity type) is an option. “Duns Numbering” is probably the most common known type of such an approach. Maintaining a solution for assigning Duns Numbers to customer files from the D&B WorldBase is by the way one of my other assignments as described here.

The automated matching process may be divided into these three steps:

During my many years of practice in doing this I have found that the result from the automated process may vary considerable in quality and speed depending on the tools used.

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Process of consolidating Master Data


In my previous blog post “Multi-Purpose Data Quality” we examined a business challenge where we have multiple purposes with party master data.

The comments suggested some form of consolidation should be done with the data.

How do we do that?

I have made a PowerPoint show “Example process of consolidating master data” with a suggested way of doing that.

The process uses the party master data types explained here.

The next questions in solving our business challenge will include:

  • Is it necessary to have master data in optimal shape real time – or is it OK to make periodic consolidation?
  • How do we design processes for maintaining the master data when:
    • New members and customers are inserted?
    • We update existing members and customers?
    • External reference data changes?   
  • What changes must be made with the existing applications handling the member database and the eShop?

Also the question of what style of Master Data Hub is suitable is indeed very common in these kinds of implementations.

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When to cleanse in Data Migration?

About a year ago I posted a question on DataMigrationPro about when it is the best time for executing data cleansing in a migration project. Is it:

  • Before the migration?
  • During the migration?
  • After the migration?

In a recent excellent blog post by Dalton Cervo he explains some of the points considered to this question in a particular MDM migration project.

As I am going to prepare a speech including this subject I will be very pleased to receive additional considerations made on this matter. Please comment here or on DataMigrationPro.


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