“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
You know Master Data Management (MDM) can solve your business challenges. However, like implementing any enterprise system, where do you begin? What should you do to start the process? Who should you involve, and how do you make decisions about budget, authority, timeline and goals? These seven simple steps provide an excellent framework to build your strategy at the very outset, before you make a purchase, ensuring you start smart and improve along the journey from vendor selection to implementation, adoption and deployment.
You’ll use the due diligence to scale and configure your flexible MDM platform that will solve challenges like:
- How to go to market faster with new products and services
- How to improve efficiency throughout your supply chain
- How to engage with your customers more personally
- How to reduce the cost of managing data silos
1. Do the research
Systems integration partners
Many systems integrators have product MDM programs that serve as part of their larger implementations. If you have the budget, this is a great option. At the very least, you can connect with one or more as part of the discovery process. Since these integrators treat data as an asset that drives performance, they’ll have experience and knowledge on how to capture, clean, organize and integrate data so it can be easily retrieved and analyzed by business users.
Gartner, Forrester and other analyst firms will give you a solid list of MDM vendors to approach with questions. The early education process will further enhance your business case. You’ll be exposed more to the vendor process and will have a third party providing strengths and weaknesses of vendors that include details like implementation styles and market direction. You can use this intelligence to assess your current and future needs better.
Each vendor will have a bias, but that’s okay. You can leverage them for building your strategy by asking questions and learning along the way. You’ll want to make sure they understand your business use case before implementation. You’ll also want to investigate whether they have resources to work with you across your entire footprint, ensuring they can handle multiple domains (product, customer, supplier and location) versus specializing in just one. Each vendor will give you recommendations for optimizing processes, as well as aid in establishing a budget.
2. Include every department
MDM serves users across geographies, lines of business and departments such as marketing, sales, product development, partners, supply chain and more. You need cross-functional input from the leadership and end users in every department you’ll serve. In other words, you need to bring the right people to the table to establish technical requirements, business uses and workflows. You’ll also want to consider the disparate systems you’ll integrate via MDM, including e-commerce, point of sale, ERP, CRM, inventory management systems and more.
3. Gather use cases
Sales, marketing and engineering each have different needs. The first thing you should do is interview people from relevant lines of business. This will help you understand their challenges, allowing you to gather and document them for analysis. Then, educate your team on the daily work, processes, roles, goals and objectives of each department. For instance, understand the product lifecycle, from ideation to design and build; document all of the steps associated with a new launch, including the coordinated functions of the web, advertising, print and more; look at the different systems that collect data and observe how data is managed in each system.
4. Create the business case
Your MDM strategy must tie to your company’s strategic business initiatives. Otherwise, it will never get approved, let alone deliver functionally that serves the company’s vision, mission and goals. Identify the three to five business initiatives in place that you can enhance with MDM. It won’t be hard. For instance, it may be launching products faster, improving your warranty program sales, reducing refund requests, cutting supply chain complexity or shortening the product lifecycle. For each of these, the efficient management of master data provides a single authoritative view of information and eliminates costly inefficiencies caused by data silos.
5. Identify implementation styles
Regarding the technical aspects of your MDM, you’ll want to establish the implementation type that works best for you. Four common MDM implementation styles give you options to take the best approach for your organization. What data you need, who in the organization needs access to the data, and what devices and locations will be served are all variables to consider. In addition, you’ll want to consider whether to deploy the MDM solution on-premise or using managed services. Luckily, today plenty of options exist that will meet your needs now and grow with your business. For instance, you can use Stibo Systems as a single point of contact responsible for MDM for the cloud, which includes hosting, monitoring and maintenance, installation and more.
6. Request a proof of concept
The proof of concept gives you the best approach to ensure vendors can meet your needs according to your business objectives. It allows you to test the strategies you’ll create, then reassess and refine the program scope. As part of the proof of concept, you can define and test what data elements to include and build consistent definitions and map out related processes. Use a proof of concept to check what you’ve outlined and to begin building a targeted pilot. Otherwise, you could enter into an enterprise-wide project that’s too ambitious at the outset and could easily fail later. You’ll want to test and see exactly how your proposed MDM solution serves as the core component to manage, centralize, organize, categorize, localize, synchronize and enrich data according to your pre-established business rules.
7. Build the budget
Software licenses, implementation, systems integration, customization and scalability are just a few factors to consider when planning your budget, and you’ll want to do that after you’ve interviewed staff in other departments and established use cases. Consider your resources and take into consideration the fact that someone must install the software and manage the services. Vendors may have their own services team, or they may take advantage of strategic partners.
Preparation is the prize
The developing and implementing of an effective MDM solution will continue to grow in significance since data and software are pillars of the digital era. Following these critical steps allows companies to ensure their implementation will meet the demands of the business. Performing detailed due diligence in advance of purchase will also facilitate a faster implementation, better buy-in and a smooth transition. By preparing and thinking strategy first, success will follow.
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." - Benjamin Franklin
How will you build your strategy? Having challenges planning it? Please share your thoughts below.