Master data access use case #1: The unique record


Last time I suggested that there are some typical use cases for master data, and this week we will examine the desire for accessibility to a presumed “golden” record that represents “the single source of truth” for a specific entity. I put both of those terms in quotes because I think they are both mistaken. A record that is cobbled together by pulling data values from an assortment of sources to create a record that is inconsistent with almost all of the sources could hardly be called “golden.” The interpretation of what is (or is not) “truth” is based on the use of the data, and it would be presumptuous for an IT-project to dictate what is to be considered the truth.

That being said, the desire for a unique representation of a master entity remains, and there are reasonable expectations that any application’s search for an entity’s information will return one and only one record. This is particularly true when the master domain is employed as part of a reporting or analytics activity in which queries are aggregating values associated with each unique entity.

This is the essence of our first data access use case: returning a unique record for a single entity, even if multiple source entity records exist in the organization. The typical MDM implementation will urge the implementation team to create a single master profile record managed within the repository and apply some set of survivorship rules. The survivorship rules mediate among the values from the collected source records to choose a winning value for each master data element.

My personal reaction is that this pits too much of the responsibility for survivorship on the MDM application. This is especially true if different users have different expectations for how they want survivorship rules to be applied.

There are two other approaches that might address that issue. The first is to modify the master data environment to capture the master data attributes from all of the source data sets and tag each copy by its source and time/date stamp. The second is to create a minimal model that is almost exclusively an index that links to the original sources in their original systems of record. In both of these cases, instead of the MDM system applying the survivorship rules when a master record is created, different rules can be applied to the records as they are accessed by different users to provide unique representative records that are crafted for each scenario.


About Author

David Loshin

President, Knowledge Integrity, Inc.

David Loshin, president of Knowledge Integrity, Inc., is a recognized thought leader and expert consultant in the areas of data quality, master data management and business intelligence. David is a prolific author regarding data management best practices, via the expert channel at and numerous books, white papers, and web seminars on a variety of data management best practices. His book, Business Intelligence: The Savvy Manager’s Guide (June 2003) has been hailed as a resource allowing readers to “gain an understanding of business intelligence, business management disciplines, data warehousing and how all of the pieces work together.” His book, Master Data Management, has been endorsed by data management industry leaders, and his valuable MDM insights can be reviewed at . David is also the author of The Practitioner’s Guide to Data Quality Improvement. He can be reached at

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