Master Data Management isn’t shiny, sexy, or fancy. I’d even say that 99 out of 100 people would call Master Data Management simply “boring”. Sometimes when I discuss Master Data Management and best practices in this field I have to start by explaining that Master Data Management isn’t about black screens with green letters on it.

Master Data Management Best Practices

Although Master Data Management isn’t a new discipline (its roots go back to the early ’90s), its relevance has been growing over the last years massively. And although it is no fancy, buzzword discipline, more and more companies discover the potential of Master Data Management.

I firmly believe that Master Data Management holds considerable potential for every company. A possibility to improve process efficiency, reduce system implementation efforts, and to get rid of manual and time-consuming tasks.

However, with this blog post, I don’t want to focus on the benefits Master Data Management holds. I want to go one step further and shed some light best practices when introducing Master Data Management. Based on our experience with put together 7 best practices that are crucial.

Master Data Management — 7 Best Practices

#1 — It’s A Business Project

Many companies —still— consider Master Data Management as an IT project. And that’s precisely how many companies set up Master Data projects. The center of most discussions is around which system to chose. 

From our experience, the most essential best practice we can provide is the following: Consider Master Data Management as a business project. You need a project champion from the business side. You need the business side to understand the project. Moreover, the business must drive the project. IT is merely one part of the project — not more, not less.

#2 — Data Governance Is Essential

Another best practice that is related to the beforementioned aspect is related to data governance. One essential thing to understand is that Maser Data Management is a process discipline. 

Usually, master data has a long-lasting lifecycle. Moreover, during the master data’s span of life, the responsibility typically changes. Initially added in department A, it is maintained in department C and phase out in department C.

Accordingly, data governance processes are vital. Which department is allowed to use specific master data? And even more critical, which department can modify, add or delete master data?

Make sure to define thorough data governance processes right from the beginning!

#3 — Chose A Step-By-Step Approach

Compared to the vast amount of dynamic data, master data still has the image of a small amount of data. Indeed, the amount of dynamic data companies create is higher. However, from experience, I can tell you that companies are surprised by the amount of master data.

Therefore, the best practice we follow is approaching master data management step by step. Pick out specific processes or dedicated assets of your company and start with it. Please, do not try to implement Master Data Management with a big bang. This will be a waste of time and money. Why? Because that project definitely will fail!

#4 — It Isn’t A Project But A Process. You Will Remember That Best Practice!

That brings me to the next Master Data Management best practice. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is considering Master Data Management as a project. It is everything but a project.

Of course, you should kick-off a Master Data Management initiative with a project. And during the initial project, you have to create the fundament:

  • Implement a Master Data System
  • Set up Master Data Management Processes
  • Define Data Governance Structures
  • Define Security Aspects
  • Set up Transition Plans
  • Etc.

However, the toughest part starts afterward. Master Data Management has to become an essential part of your enterprise’s processes. Therefore, you have to improve and enhance it regularly. Moreover, you need dedicated persons that take care of the process.

#5 — Go For A Cloud-Based Master Data Management Solution

Let’s move on to more technical best practices when introducing Master Data Management. One thing I strongly advise is to go for a cloud-based master data management solution. 

Going for an on-premise solution is always linked to carrying out a rather complex IT project. Additionally, this —most often— is related to higher costs and reduced flexibility.

Since Master Data Management only partially is about an IT system, you should concentrate your efforts on building the required processes, collecting the data, setting up governance structures, etc. 

Additionally, many providers offer the possibility to subscribe to cloud-based content-services.

What does that mean? Instead of buying a system, you select the data entities you want to use and subscribe to on a monthly/annual base. 

Besides a positive financial impact, this approach holds two massive advantages:

  1. You can individually select the data entities you want to use and don’t have to go for a complete solution. Probably you solely need airport and country master data. So you only subscribe to this master data.
  2. You can step-by-step bring Master Data Management to life — without risk. 

Oh, and if you want to know more about the benefits of cloud usage in a post-CORONA time, you should head over to this blog post!

#6 — Ensure Access To Master Data For Everybody

Master Data Management is not solely about providing master data to your different systems. On the contrary, it is about supporting each of your business processes with the master data — whenever needed. 

Therefore, you should go for a master data system that let’s access everybody at your company the contained data.

I prefer master data systems that offer mobile access to enable everybody —back office, operations staff, management, etc.— to access data. Here are some examples of how such a mobile master data solution can look:

mobile master data system
master data system app
master data system airline

#7 — Pay Attention To Integration

One last best practice regarding technical aspects of a Master Data Management is about integration. It is essential that your desired master data system super easy and efficiently integrates into three directions.

First, importing new master data must be possible swiftly and efficiently. Second, make sure that the integration of other IT systems can be set up quickly. Third, accessing the entire master data must be possible without problems at any time for everybody.

#8 — Promote The Benefits of Master Data Management

With the last best practice, I’m coming back to my initial statement. Remember that? The unsexiness of Master Data Management. The way many employees perceive Master Data Management can create enormous hurdles for your project.

Therefore, probably my most important best practice when it comes to Master Data Management is the following: Promote is this topic right from the beginning. And promote it aggressively. Talk about the benefits of Master Data Management. Explain what Master Data Management is really about and why it helps your company.

Similar to many other projects: Communication is king! 

What Do You Think About Master Data Management? What Are Your Best Practices?

Always happy to receive your feedback and thoughts. Just hit me up on Twitter or get in touch on LinkedIn.


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Benjamin is an information-enthusiast, a content-maniac, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions with the aim to change the way companies use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned companies all over the globe.