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Who owns Master Data in your company?

I’ve had to respond to this question, inside and outside of the company, in a number of different conversations over the past few days. It’s interesting, because this is one of those conversations where semantics mean a lot – what people say is just as important as what people don’t say. I only mean that people assume their listeners have precisely the same understanding of the concepts – which is often a mistake.

Case in point – who owns the Master Data? It seems obvious to many IT folks, having dealt with ERP and data warehousing in the past,  that the business owns the Master Data – it’s their business, right? Then why so often does the business look to IT to take the lead on cleansing / populating / defining / loading Master Data?

Business owns the Master Data

… they make the decisions on specifics. What should the next item number be? How should we structure the routings?  Who defines the standards for bin / storage location / building / plant / campus identifiers? What is the desired format for capturing customer street addresses consistently? How will we set up the chart of accounts?

The business knows that who and the why of Master Data.

On the other hand, and in most companies …

IT pwns the Master Data

Yes that is the correct spelling. For those who don’t know, it’s a hacker term; when I pwn the system, I have a root, I have a system admin access. I understand the technical underpinnings and details – I know how everything fits together. I know how to do anything I want with the system.

In Master Data terms – IT understands the data architecture and the interdependencies. They know all the transactions required to enter data into the system, and what security roles are in place to limit access to those transactions. IT also has tools and knowledge on how to extract data from the database and batch import data en masse.

IT knows the what, when, and how of Master Data.

What does that mean?

When an organization needs to get its Master Data in shape, it’s going to be a team effort between business and IT. The business must take the lead, making and clarifying decisions and driving the details. But IT absolutely needs to be right by their side, helping with the mechanics.

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