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Got MDM?  You know EDM Better than you think

(By guest Blogger, Gib Bassett)

The EDMBlog recently passed a milestone of sorts in terms of subscribers, an event I attribute to the fact I recently joined the group of Blog participants (only half kidding, maybe a quarter kidding).  While that may be partially amusing, more so was the reply to my observation I received from EDMBlog Moderator James Taylor, who just "KNEW" that I would say this.  He knows me better than I thought, which brings me to the focus of this post – commonalities between Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) and Master Data Management (MDM).

For some time now, I have recognized analogies between Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) and Master Data Management (EDM).  They both share attributes such as the separation/abstraction of "inputs" from operational or analytical systems and recognition of these inputs as assets to be managed and available for reuse across the enterprise.  It's interesting to note also that both have impacts on analytical and operational systems, yet originated from different points of view.  In the case of EDM, high volume operational decisions have historically been the focus, while MDM stems from problems in managing consistency in data warehouses.

I felt I was on to something when I read this April, 2007 Robert Blasum article in DM Review, in which he said:

"…marketing and sales needs to apply the same business logic for its reports as customer service does. This can be achieved by a central repository of business rules that every department can review, understand and use for their own reports.

Related to this last point is the growing interest in master data management (MDM). At present, an increasing number of organizations believe a central MDM is essential to their business in order to have a consistent definition across individual departments. The awareness has grown that master data heavily influences the interpretation of data across different IT systems and that this interpretation should be consistent throughout the whole enterprise. Master data encodes business logic. As such, master data can be seen as a simple and specialized version of business rules."

Business Rules Management Systems (BRMS) are a foundational technology component in EDM solutions.  As described by Mr. Blasum, BRMS can be viewed as a superset of the capabilities offered by MDM.  For vendors in the EDM space, this comparison has immense value.  Take up of MDM offerings and mindshare of the problems it solves has been very strong over the past few years.  By explaining the value of EDM within the context of MDM, providers of EDM technologies can quickly get over the hurdles typically encountered when trying to describe a new technical approach to old problems.  For customers, there is even greater value, as it illustrates further the importance of abstraction when talking about both fields of data or the decisions executed by operational systems and real human beings based on that data.

Then, on June 28 (2007), I saw this newsbit on DM Review's website: "New Research Finds Master Data Management Instrumental to Business Intelligence and Performance Management Success".  The way MDM's value is described again parallels that of EDM:

"Surveying an audience of business and IT users, the study showed that companies are looking to use MDM to resolve both analytical and operational functions. At the analytical level, 34 percent of respondents said their top priority was to improve the accuracy and consistency of reporting followed by gaining control over the information needed to effectively market and sell products. At the operational level, the top priority for 70 percent of respondents was to create a centralized data hub that can be used to synchronize data across a multitude of application systems and data warehouses. With a focus on improving functions that involve the customer, the survey found that a top business priority is to create a golden record of customer data and to produce a correlating enterprise-wide view of the customer."

"…the research also recognized that a solid data governance strategy is needed to ensure business success, as respondents claimed that data governance and the processes needed to govern master data was almost as important as the technology itself. Consequently, most companies have instituted a data governance board to oversee these initiatives and as a result have adopted best practices that include, according to participants, senior representation from both business and IT."

Key concepts in these quotes, such as accuracy, consistency, control, "golden record," and governance are all shared by EDM.  The distinction, as pointed out by Mr. Blasum, is that MDM is a very specific application of the EDM approach.  So, when someone asks you about EDM, and they are accustomed to MDM, just say you know EDM better than you think.

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