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Data is personal. We may not say it out loud and we may not have a vocabulary to express it, but the data within an organisation has traditionally been the purvey of a handful of people within an organisation....they don't like to let this control slip away easily. Customers are hard to get, Vendors are hard to maintain, Product are needed immediately even though it took 6 months for the Demand Plan to be created and the Production Plan to be accepted. I liken Master Data to the following analogy:

The Data Standards that a business defines are equivalent to the alphabet in the English language. 


The Master Data objects of Vendors, Customers and Products are Nouns, created by using the alphabet and based on the rules of the data standards which, in this analogy, are vowels of every word.  

i.e. Nouns such as Customer, Vendor, Product etc. 

The business processes themselves are Verbs: 

 i.e.Verbs such as Purchase, Sell, Move, Make, Pack, etc. 

The Transactions are sentences created by using Verbs against nouns.  

i.e. Sell Product to Customer this quantity at this price on this date and ship to this Location 

The Operational Reports are paragraphs that create information through a collection of sentences. (Total Orders from one or more customers) 

i.e. Total Sales to Customer Type X is $$$ during this quarter. 

The Management Reports are the distillation of the paragraphs into conclusions. They are representations of fact. 

i.e Total Sales of this product category to this Customer Type during a time period. 

The Executive Reports are the knowledge gained from the conclusions.  

i.e. “We sell as much as we can make of this product category, however, making more product will not result is a linear increase in profits. It is better to use these profits to push another category that is under-served”. 

 As the “Data Diamond” diagram represents (in another blog), any changes to data standards at the very bottom of the diagram will have a significant impact to everything above them. The frequency of changes at this level are normally very rare and only when significant change is being introduced into the operating model of the company. 

Master Data based on these standards are also extremely important to maintain by strict adherence. This does not mean that the data cannot change, however, change to existing Mater Data will have an impact on the information above that data. For instance, if you change the definition of a Customer Category which already has a significant number of customers associated to that category, the reporting above this will also change significantly and ultimately could result in changes to the financial statement (depending on the type of change, etc.). 

It is also vital to note that Master Data is called “Master” for a reason: The data in this category only exists once. The business should strive to make sure that it does not replicate master data in other systems. Other systems may have additional attributes associated with the core master data, but having to maintain the same date in more than one place is both expensive and technically difficult to implement and support. 

The real work of an Enterprise Data Architect is explaining the importance of managing the data within an organisation and how this very personal asset is really a businesses competitive advantage.
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