MDM Adoption = engaging Business Users

In a large enterprise, often an MDM implementation is a bigger political challenge than it is a technical challenge. So at every step of the MDM journey you have to choose wisely, as it is the difference between a successful or failed MDM implementation. If you are in the middle of an MDM implementation or have just completed the first phase, then you are probably thinking what should be the next step(s):

  • Should you start looking at the daunting task of laying down Data Governance policies?
  • Tackle the beast of downstream distribution to the dozen or more downstream silos?
  • Understand the ripple effect on the integrated systems of the data consolidation that takes place in the MDM system?
  • Feed the conformed dimensions into the downstream data warehouse?

Directions to choose from after you are done with phase 1 of MDM

Choose a direction for your next MDM phase

Figure 1 – which direction to choose for increasing MDM adoption across your enterprise

Your business sponsor is probably also asking (maybe not so nicely) you when will they start to see the business value out of the multi-million dollar transformation project that you spent your last six months on.

If you want to come out of this dilemma a winner, you have to focus on the ‘Adoption of MDM” data by Business Users and establish some quick wins. You need to get the eyeballs of the business users on value of the clean and mastered data, so that they can understand, appreciate and rely on the value of the value of MDM to come back and ask for more. This way you have the business as a willing and eager participant/sponsor of your MDM master plan and help generate buy-in for the next steps of the MDM roadmap in your organization.

All this sounds great in theory but how do you actually do this in practice? … hmmm… read my bestselling book, engage me as a high paid consultant… get rid of the business users… (just kidding 😉 ).

On a serious note, how do you actually come up with a practical and convincing engagement plan? Here are 3 key pointers that will help:

  1. Listen to the business and understand their pain
  2. Listen to the business and understand their pain
  3. Listen to the business and understand their pain

The Business users are the consumers of the data in question and they interact with the data on a daily basis, through the existing functional applications such as CRM, ERP, Portals, Email clients or even smartphone extensions of your enterprise apps. They rely on the information in these systems for their day-to-day business interactions (yes, even if the data is dirty or duplicate or missing). So you have to start providing them with a comparative view of what the data looks like in the MDM system, without actually embarking on a full-blown downstream integration project. The answer is to invest in what I call the “non-Intrusive” Data Integration pattern.

Non-Intrusive Data Integration

This concept is simple and a step towards enabling MDM-aware applications in your enterprise. Here are a few steps to think about that would make your applications increasingly MDM-aware and tie MDM in the daily life of your Business Users to deliver direct and immediate value:

1. Comparative MDM views – as a first step, you need to provide your users with simple and comparative MDM views, where they can not only see the data in the native application (CRM, ERP, etc) but can also launch a URL or a window to see what additional or clean information exists in the MDM system. This does not require extensive integration but simply depends on the key identifiers in the application of choice. For example, if you are using Salesforce.com (SFDC) as the CRM application, you only need the Salesforce ID for a customer record to query it from the MDM system using appropriate MDM APIs and enforcing the visibility rules similar to the ones in SFDC to show a small browser pop-up window or an inline-SFDC widget.  The Comparative views provide the users with the view of the MDM data in the application they use when they need it.  Even a simple view of the list of all the systems that are already tied into the same Account or Contact data (list of the cross-reference systems from the MDM hub) will go a long way in providing increased visibility to the benefit of MDM.

Custom actions in CRM/ERP applications to query and display MDM data

Custom action in CRM/ERP apps to query and display data from MDM

Figure 2 – provide business users the visibility to the comparative MDM data views from their preferred applications

2. MDM-augmented capabilities – typically CRM and ERP applications lack extensive history audit capabilities and hierarchy management capabilities as compared to MDM. MDM provides extensive capabilities for maintaining an audit trail of all the data changes; including the changes that take place through the MDM GUI and the changes that are fed in from batch processes or any upstream integration. In addition, MDM also provides the ability to collate, define and manage relationship and hierarchy details that are not typically present in functional applications such as CRM and ERP.  The view to these complementary pieces of information can once again be easily provided by creating either new pop-up widgets or custom screens in the functional application to provide the business users with the additional information that can be used either for compliance visibility (enterprise level audit trail of data changes for a given record) or deeper insights (multiple hierarchies. These capabilities for visibility to such data in functional business applications are also supported by some MDM vendors for certain applications out-of-the-box. Once again the focus is not on downstream synchronization but more on providing the non-Intrusive integration visibility for your Business users, without disrupting their day to day interactions.

Embedded MDM control in CRM/ERP apps

Embedded MDM control in CRM/ERP apps

Figure 3 – Embedded view of the MDM hierarchy in CRM

3. MDM-aware applications – the advanced piece of the non-Intrusive integration is to start making your functional applications MDM-aware by not only addressing the first two categories mentioned above, but also incrementally addressing pro-active data quality in your functional applications. Once the first phase of MDM is up and running with the core data (cleansed, matched and merged), you can start leveraging this data at the point-of-data-entry in functional applications. On data entry in functional applications, provide the Business Users with recommendations of potential matches that might already exist in another part of the enterprise (via MDM services and APIs), so that they can work with existing data instead of creating entirely new and duplicate data. This will help you move from reactive data correction to proactive data governance and start to ease the burden on your data governance team by reducing data duplication at the point-of-data-entry.

Enterprise user interaction channels

Enable MDM visibility across the different interaction channels for Enterprise users

Figure 4 – leverage the “non-Intrusive” MDM integration pattern across the various interaction channels for the Business Users in your enterprise

As you start investigating the “non-Intrusive” integration pattern for MDM, you also need to think about using it across all interaction channels (old and new) for the Business Users in your enterprise. It is an investment worth considering so that you can convert your Business Users from MDM skeptics to MDM champions.  This is especially true for new interaction channels that are not tied to the legacy infrastructure and applications, such as Mobile/Smart phones.

In summary, the path to MDM adoption requires you to implement the above creative and useful steps in order to deliver the master data to the ultimate consumers (the Business Users) in the shortest possible time with the least of amount of disruption.

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