What is a Golden Record?

The term golden record is a core concept within Master Data Management (MDM) and Data Quality Management (DQM). A golden record is a representation of a real world entity that may be compiled from multiple different representations of that entity in a single or in multiple different databases within the enterprise system landscape.

A golden record is optimized towards meeting data quality dimensions as:

  • Being a unique representation of the real world entity described
  • Having a complete description of that entity covering all purposes of use in the enterprise
  • Holding the most current and accurate data values for the entity described

In Multidomain MDM we work with a range of different entity types as party (with customer, supplier, employee and other roles), location, product and asset. The golden record concept applies to all of these entity types, but in slightly different ways.

Party Golden Record

Having a golden record that facilitates a single view of customer is probably the most known example of using the golden record concept. Managing customer records and dealing with duplicates of those is the most frequent data quality issue around.

If you are not able to prevent duplicate records from entering your MDM world, which is the best approach, then you have to apply data matching capabilities. When identifying a duplicate you must be able to intelligently merge any conflicting views into a golden record as examined in the post Three Master Data Survivorship Approaches.

In lesser degree we see the same challenges in getting a single view of suppliers and, which is one of my favourite subjects, you ultimately will want to have a single view on any business partner, also where the same real world entity have both customer, supplier and other roles to your organization.

Location Golden Record

Having the same location only represented once in a golden record and applying any party, product and asset record, and ultimately golden record, to that record may be seen as quite academic. Nevertheless, striving for that concept will solve many data quality conundrums.

Location management have different meanings and importance for different industries. One example is that a brewery makes business with the legal entity (party) that owns a bar, café, restaurant. However, even though the owner of that place changes, which happens a lot, the brewery is still interested in being the brand served at that place. Also, the brewery wants to keep records of logistics around that place and the historic volumes delivered to that place. Utility and insurance are other examples of industries where the location golden record (should) matter a lot.

Knowing the properties of a location also supports the party deduplication process. For example, if you have two records with the name “John Smith” on the same address, the probability of that being the same real world entity is dependent on whether that location is a single-family house or a nursing home.

Golden RecordsProduct Golden Record

Product Information Management (PIM) solutions became popular with the raise of multi-channel where having the same representation of a product in offline and online channels is essential. The self-service approach in online sales also drew the requirements of managing a lot more product attributes than seen before, which again points to a solution of handling the product entity centralized.

In large organizations that have many business units around the world you struggle with having a local view and a global view of products. A given product may be a finished product to one unit but a raw material to another unit. Even a global SAP rollout will usually not clarify this – rather the contrary.

While third party reference data helps a lot with handling golden records for party and location, this is lesser the case for product master data. Classification systems and data pools do exist, but will certainly not take you all the way. With product master data we must, in my eyes, rely more on second party master data meaning sharing product master data within the business ecosystems where you operate.

Asset (or Thing) Golden Record

In asset master data management you also have different purposes where having a single view of a real world asset helps a lot. There are namely financial purposes and logistic purposes that have to aligned, but also a lot of others purposes depending on the industry and the type of asset.

With the raise of the Internet of Things (IoT) we will have to manage a lot more assets (or things) than we usually have considered. When a thing (a machine, a vehicle, an appliance) becomes intelligent and now produces big data, master data management and indeed multi-domain master data management becomes imperative.

You will want to know a lot about the product model of the thing in order to make sense of the produced big data. For that, you need the product (model) golden record. You will want to have deep knowledge of the location in time of the thing. You cannot do that without the location golden records. You will want to know the different party roles in time related to the thing. The owner, the operator, the maintainer. If you want to avoid chaos, you need party golden records.

Master Data Survivorship

A Master Data initiative is often described as making a “golden view” of all Master Data records held by an organization in various databases used by different applications serving a range of business units.

In doing that (either in the initial consolidation or the ongoing insertion and update) you will time and again encounter situations where two versions of the same element must be merged into one version of the truth.

In some MDM hub styles the decision is to be taken at consolidation time, in other styles the decision is prolonged until the data (links) is consumed in a given context.

In the following I will talk about Party Master Data being the most common entity in Master Data initiatives.

mergeThis spring Jim Harris made a brilliant series of articles on DataQualityPro on the subject of identifying duplicate customers ending with part number 5 dealing with survivorship. Here Jim describes all the basic considerations on how some data elements survives a merge/purge and others will be forgotten and gives good examples with US consumer/citizens.

Taking it from there Master Data projects may have the following additional challenges and opportunities:

  • Global Data adds diversity into the rule set of consolidation data on record level as well as field level. You will have to comprise on simple global rules versus complex optimized rules (and supporting knowledge data) for each country/culture.
  • Multiple types of Party Master Data must be handled when Business Partners includes business entities having departments and employees and not at least when they are present together with consumers/citizens.
  • External Reference Data is becoming more and more common as part of MDM solutions adding valid, accurate and complete information about Business Partners. Here you have to set rules (on field level) of whether they override internal data, fills in the blanks or only supplements internal data.
  • Hierarchy building is closely related to survivorship. Rules may be set for whether two entities goes into two hierarchies with surviving parts from both or merges as one with survivorship. Even an original entity may be split into two hierarchies with surviving parts.

What is essential in survivorship is not loosing any valuable information while not creating information redundancy.

An example of complex survivorship processing may be this:

A membership database holds the following record (Name, Address, City):

  • Margaret & John Smith, 1 Main Street, Anytown

An eShop system has the following accounts (Name, Address, Place):

  • Mrs Margaret Smith, 1 Main Str, Anytown
  • Peggy Smith, 1 Main Street, Anytown
  • Local Charity c/o Margaret Smith, 1 Main Str, Anytown

A complex process of consolidation including survivorship may take place. As part of this example the company Local Charity is matched with an external source telling it has a new name being Anytown Angels. The result may be this “golden view”:

ADDRESS in Anytown on Main Street no 1 having
• HOUSEHOLD having
– CONSUMER Mrs. Margaret Smith aka Peggy
– CONSUMER Mr. John Smith
• BUSINESS Anytown Angels having
– EMPLOYEE Mrs. Margaret Smith aka Peggy

Observe that everything survives in a global applicable structure in a fit hierarchy reflecting local rules handling multiple types of party entities using external reference data.

But OK, we didn’t have funny names, dirt, misplaced data…..

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