The antimatters of MDM (part 2)


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.

Various versions of verisimilitude

One of the many things that differentiates master data management from data warehousing is the goal of providing the organization with a single view of master data entities (parties, products, locations, assets) by creating their best data representations. These master-data-pieces, which make MDM alternatively stand for Master Data Museum, are often referred to as the organization’s single version of the truth.

However, truth, like the beauty of the artwork hanging on the walls of actual museums, is in the eyes of the beholder. And since the organization has more than one set of eyes, instead of a single version of the truth it has what I call various versions of verisimilitude.

Many within an organization advocating for a single version of the truth are viewing the data world with silo-shaped glasses. In other words, many organizations persist on their reliance on vertical data silos, where each business unit acts as the custodian of their own private data, thereby maintaining their own version of the truth, which is the single version of the truth from their perspective.

Although this silo mentality is often cast as a negative (as I just did), most companies are organized by functional area, line of business or some other division of labor for a good reason — it allows daily operations to be carried out by people who have been trained in a specific type of business activity, which must be viewed within the context of that intentional tunnel vision in order for the enterprise to conduct its business.

Additionally, regulatory compliance initiatives, such as Dodd-Frank in the US and Solvency II in the EU, require the creation of a version of the truth for a single purpose, namely for satisfying the data-related requirements of the regulations, which might not satisfy other business needs for the same data.

As the artist Eduardo Hurtado said, “should you paint a credible sky, you must keep in mind its essential phoniness.” His point was art is only a representation of reality, which in turn is only our perception of reality.

Therefore, should you create a credible version of the truth, you must keep in mind it is essentially only one of the various, and business-justifiable, versions of verisimilitude applicable to your organization. Collectively these create an antimatter minefield that you must carefully traverse in order to make MDM a successful matter when viewed from every valid business perspective within your enterprise.


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. Hi Jim

    Great points that you make.

    The silo fears that you describe are real yet, in any enterprise that is founded on a quality information architecture, unfounded.

    In such an enterprise with such an architecture, data is able to represent every version of the truth.

    A data architecture is like a magic looking glass. Although all of the facets of every entity are present all of the time, only those that are relevant to the person looking in the glass can be seen. Yet nothing is hidden. As soon as they change their perspective all that relevant to them comes into view.

    Although what a quality information architecture provides to an enterprise is so powerful that it might seem like magic, it is no illusion. It is very real and produces very real business benefits across the whole of the enterprise.


    • Jim Harris

      Thanks for your comment, John.

      Your points represent the goal of a well-implemented MDM program that is well-supported by data governance and data quality, which is often only possible in organizations with a high level of information management maturity.

      Not to sound too cynical, but in my experience these organizations, and these MDM implementations as pristine and powerful as you describe, are the exception, not the rule.

      That being said, it is always good to let people know what the goal should be, and that it is an attainable goal, both of which you have done.

      Best Regards,


  2. Hi Jim

    You are right to sound cynical. Sadly, far too many enterprises are depending on technology alone to solve their Data Quality (DQ) and Master Data Management (MDM) problems.

    They seem to be blind to the fact that it was an overoptimistic (almost blind) reliance on technology, without structures and governance, that is a major contributor of the quality errors and fragmentation that has brought them their current problems.

    They are now trying to use the same logic to try solve a problem that this logic created in the first place. You know what Einstein said about that!

    The truth is that no enterprise can achieve effective DQ or MDM without first modelling and implementing the information architecture necessary to support the execution of its business functions.

    This architecture is the data wiring diagram for the enterprise. Without it, the enterprise will continually experience blown data fuses and short circuits.


  3. Pingback: A seasonal perspective on a single version of the truth - The Data Roundtable

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