With our recent client engagements in which the organization is implementing one or more master data management (MDM) projects, I have been advocating that a task to design a demonstration application be added to the early part of the project plan. Many early MDM implementers seem to have taken the “Field of Dreams” approach to adoption: “build the master data environment and the business applications will come.”
However, we often underestimate the complexity of integrating business applications with an existing master data environment, especially if there has not been an adequate process for assessing how the application’s owners expect to use master data. This is compounded when the business users do not really understand how MDM works in the first place!
The benefit of reviewing two typical master data use cases (as we have done in these recent posts) is to help address both of these hurdles through the creation of a simple application that demonstrates the key services provided by the master data system. I suggest developing a web-based portal application that demonstrates key capabilities, including (at the very least):
- Data ingestion: Showing how a new set of records can be configured for ingestion, data preparation, and integration into the master environment. The demo application should report on the number of records ingested as well as the number of records that matched to an existing entity within the master environment.
- Creation of a new master record: Enabling a data analyst to create a new record, have it checked against the master environment to determine if one already exists for the entity, and then allow for the new record to be committed.
- Search and retrieve a single record: Provide the ability to perform a lookup using identifying attribute values and request that a single record be delivered.
- Search and retrieve a composite record: Provide the ability to perform a lookup using identifying attribute values and request that all records that have been resolved to that entity’s identity be delivered.
The benefit of this kind of demo is threefold. First, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and a practical demonstration of what MDM does is much better than a stack of documents or slides. Second, it provides a hands-on mechanism for the potential users to test-drive the capability. And this contributes to the third benefit, which is that the demonstration provides a simple model for deployment. Playing with the demonstration application will motivate the thought processes for determining how business processes can employ master data in a productive way, and this facilitates MDM adoption more quickly and efficiently.