Gaining a Competitive Advantage Starts With Master Data

Gaining a Competitive Advantage Increasingly Starts With Master Data

Harmonizing your data across the enterprise brings strength, structure, and truth

More and more, companies are turning to data-inspired techniques to make smarter decisions, improve engagements with customers and partners, increase operational efficiencies, and grow revenues. And many are hoping to extend these benefits through more extensive digital transformations of their businesses. The key to success in any of these efforts is Master Data.


When many people hear Master Data, they think of master data management (MDM). While these two things are inextricably linked, they are quite distinct.

Why does Master Data play such an important role? The volume and velocity of data generated today is overwhelming. Large amounts of data that should be driving meaningful insights are just creating a lot of chaos and impeding organizations in the quest to discover truth and meaning.


Every type of enterprise faces a similar challenge: Multiple systems and workflows create disparate data sources with differing definitions that lack internal standards. The result: Data is often locked in silos used by a single application or department and not easily accessible by others. Additionally, little is known about the true quality of the data. It’s hard to know if the data is accurate, complete, or up to date.

So how does an organization find truth among all the disparate data sources and across all organizational silos? What’s needed is an organizational data structure to help pull different disparate data sources together and move the business forward efficiently.

Enter Master Data

To realize the full benefits of being a data-inspired organization in today’s marketplace, companies need to “master” their data. They need to structure and codify their foundational information on customers, vendors, partners, and prospects. This data must then be shared across all internal systems, applications, and processes to enable optimization of business processes and decisions. For example, while the operations team uses ERP systems and the procurement department uses supply chain management systems, both groups should leverage a core set of the same data that uniquely identifies with whom they do business.

When many people hear “master data,” they think of master data management (MDM). While these two things are inextricably linked, they are quite distinct. MDM is the software; Master Data is the foundational content used by an organization to fuel their MDM program. An apt analogy: Gas is to car as Master Data is to MDM. If a person has a high-performance sports car and puts in low-quality gas or the wrong type (diesel instead of unleaded) – or never fills the tank – the car will not perform up to its potential.

Requirements for Master Data

Master Data is essential to pull together disparate data sources across siloed and separate departments, regions, sales channels, and even third parties.

How do you get to Master Data and create the strong foundation needed to be a data-inspired enterprise? Whether you are mastering at the application level, across an enterprise, or anywhere in between, there are four common requirements for Master Data:

Structure: First, to harmonize and integrate data, it needs structure. Once data is structured, it becomes much easier to manage, integrate, and use to gain insight out of disparate data sources.

The standardized structure is critical for different departments to be able to speak the same language. A simple approach to applying a standard structure begins with what we like to call the “four C’s” of Master Data: Code, Company, Category and Country.

Connectability: Once you have a standardized organizational structure, the data needs to be connected and aligned. Separate workflows and systems used by different departments or regions must be able to connect to a common source of Master Data truth. Basically, there needs to be a way to access this essential data within any environment.

Coverage: The third area is coverage. You want to be sure your entire business universe is covered, including all customers, partners, and vendors you engage with in normal business operations. You need both the breadth of coverage – across all these entities – and then depth of coverage.

Quality: Finally, all Master Data needs to have quality you can trust.

The ultimate goal is a transition to a full, enterprise-wide Master Data program, but meeting the above-mentioned requirements is an excellent start. With a comprehensive Master Data foundation, you’ll begin to experience benefits through improved communication, stronger business relationships, and the reliable information to build your business around data-inspired strategy.

To learn more about the importance of Master Data to your organization, visit our Perspectives.