The antimatters of MDM (part 1)


In physics, antimatter has the same mass, but opposite charge, of matter. Collisions between matter and antimatter lead to the annihilation of both, the end result of which is a release of energy available to do work.

In this blog series, I will use antimatter as a metaphor for a factor colliding with a master data management (MDM) matter that not only annihilates it, but also prevents a release of energy needed to make MDM work.

I call these factors the Antimatters of MDM.

The business justification paradox

Although a business justification for MDM is easy to make due to the tremendous cost reduction that could be achieved by eliminating the redundant maintenance of multiple copies of (especially customer) master data scattered across the organization, the reality of maintaining their existing software applications makes it no easy -- and far from operationally risk-free -- task to engineer this transition. This prevents many large organizations from attempting MDM implementations despite the powerful technologies and mature methodologies now available.

Furthermore, we often talk about the need to make the business justification for MDM (as well as any other enterprise initiative) as if having this justification will convince the organization to implement a solution to an obvious business problem. I call this the business justification paradox, and its antimatter annihilates many MDM programs before they even get a chance to be fired out of the particle accelerator, so to speak.

Because the harsh reality is that even a legitimate business-justified solution, which in the long run will reduce costs, mitigate risks and increase revenues, will in the immediate future only increase costs, increase risks and decrease revenues. This is a difficult sell to an organization’s shareholders. Essentially, its bottom line says that we will lose (and spend more) money this year, so we can make (and spend less) money next year.

While it’s easy to criticize short-term thinking in organizations, I must admit that, no matter how convincing the justification is, I too am often hesitant to personally sacrifice in the short-term (e.g., eating healthier) in order to be better off in the long-term (e.g., reducing risk of heart disease). To paraphrase J. Wellington Wimpy, I’ll gladly pay the price of poor health tomorrow for the chance to eat a hamburger today.

Building a strong business case for your MDM program is essential, as is understanding the wimpy response you might get from your organization’s stakeholders despite providing them with a business justification for MDM.


About Author

Jim Harris

Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (OCDQ)

Jim Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with 25 years of enterprise data management industry experience. Jim is an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer. Jim is the Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, an independent blog offering a vendor-neutral perspective on data quality and its related disciplines, including data governance, master data management, and business intelligence.


  1. Great blog Jim! I love the analogy of matter/anti-matter for MDM, not to mention the reference to a popular Popeye character. :-)

    You have identified one of the most keenly felt issues regarding MDM (or Data Quality/Data Governance) issues that I've been reading/hearing about lately: the business justifcation/ROI dilemma. In today's economic market, organizations are hesitant to spend money if there is not an immediate return on the investment. The scenario you have outlined in your blog certainly fits that scenario.

    And, since we're not willing to give up our hamburgers today for better health tomorrow, we need to find ways to make the hamburger more healthy (without losing the flavor!) so we get the best of both worlds.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post, as always.

    • Jim Harris

      Thanks for your comment, Karen.

      Yes, in today's economic market, organizations want to eat their dessert before paying for a meal that might fill their stomach but empty their wallet.

      Making the hamburger healthier, and perhaps pairing it with a reduced price appetizer (i.e., quick win pilot project, perhaps starting with a simpler domain such as a Lobster Roll of Location as opposed to pitching the Seafood Combo Platter of Party/Customer) would make the MDM menu more appealing.

      Healthy Hamburger Regards, Jim

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