a project manager approach to MDM

We are approaching winter, the days are shorter but IT’s always there, running everywhere in your mind, including at night between two dreams: Master Data Management (MDM)! For some time now, your company is working to be data-driven and your evolution in this field has made you understand that you have to go this way: you need a MDM to ensure your maturity evolution in Data Governance.
And you’re right! Yes! It is an essential step in order to establish your governance and allow your company to evolve in maturity, you have made the right choice…
However, we will now have to imagine a way to do it, because there is a lot of work to be done! It will not be done in a day and, as with many projects, it could end badly with a waste of time, money and motivation, if you’re not perfectly prepared.
I will therefore try to guide you on the first steps regarding the implementation of a MDM in your company… Here is an approach to the implementation in the shoes of a project manager.

A few words about the Project Manager

Before going any further, we will look at the mindset of a project manager (PM). For many people, considering a “project” seems to be something heavy and substantial, which will take time and cost a lot. Even if it is not false, it is not always true…

A PM is an experienced person who has a wide technical and business knowledge. Of course, you can find specialized PMs: infrastructure, business, governance, data… But, above all, they a real rigor in their work accompanied by an excellent communication. It is easy for them to point out the risks underlying your project even before they arise, and to imagine the different steps of a project.

PM Gandalf MDM

Yes, your PM is Gandalf!
But, this time, you shall pass with him ;o)

In short, a PM is above all:
• Rigorous and precise
• Pro-active and good communicator

As we quickly see, this person will be your driver, they know the road and its dangers! They will be present at each important step of your project, including its definition.
Because the definition of the project and the quality of your collaboration is crucial, you must aim for excellence in your preparation.

What is an excellent preparation?

There are 3 key elements to excellent project preparation:

1. The definition of objectives
They must be very clearly defined, without any risk of interpretation (e.g.: define the desired level of maturity after 2 years in addition to the implementation of the MDM)
A word of advice: rely on the SMART system: simple, measurable, accessible, realistic, timely defined (I recommend you to read my article about it)

2. The definition of resources
We need to know who will do what, and define the limit of each person’s responsibilities (e. g. which consultant will work on what, which software will be used, who will be the single point of contact of company X, etc.)

3. The definition of timing
A project has a beginning and an end that must be precisely defined. (Friendly advice: Avoid retro-planning)
Finally, even if I don’t specifically mention the subject here, budget control remains fundamental!

So, between you and your PM, who does what? My advice is to let your PM have a 365° view of the complete project. They are not here to make strategic decisions for you, but mostly to notify you that there is some problem that you must take into consideration. And they will give you all the necessary information you need to take a position on.

Also, they are there to provide at any moment the status and next steps of the project. I insist about the ‘every moment’. As they have a complete knowledge of the project and how it must progress, they can always tell you : where you are and where you should be.

In all cases, the PM will not:
• make strategic decisions
• make decision that imply the budget
• make decision that badly impact the timing
• get rid of a consultant or an enterprise
…. without talking about it with you and let you decide. Even if you can’t reach an agreement together, you always will have the last word.

Now that we understand how our PM works, let’s move to the MDM.

Kind reminder of what is Master Data Management

We talk about MDM a lot in data governance and it is quite normal: it is a solution that will allow you to centralize your reference data from your various information systems. You will essentially find 3 types of data:

  1. your customers (ex: in a CRM);
  2. your finances (ex: in an ERP);
  3. your products.

But you could also put your employees (HR) there. However, before landing comfortably in the MDM, your data must meet a minimum of quality criteria. There’s no way we’re putting anything and everything into it, anyhow.
The data will therefore go through a phase of cleaning, updating, metadata enhancement, etc.
It is therefore a very large reference database that can contain a lot of information.

The purpose of this MDM is mainly to:

  • Centralize reference data, update and standardize them
  • Ensure data integrity and uniqueness
  • Avoid any form of data redundancy

But how do we do that? What are the main steps? As is often the case, in many projects, we will actually find the same ideas in our milestones.
Let’s do it !

The main steps of our implementation and … yet a very first risk!

Let’s start right away with the first risk: consider the implementation of your MDM as a technical project that will be placed in the hands of the IT department only, with the hope that it will be implemented in a few days. I can never repeat it enough, and I echo Matt Siomra on this point: it is a business project that requires a lot of collaboration and investment (See his article on LinkedIn)

Hey! Don’t forget there a lot of hi-tech, too ;o)

I propose you divide your project into 4 main steps:

1. Business analysis (as-is & needs) – To do with a Business Analyst (BA)

  • Identify all your information systems
  • Create an inventory of your data sources
  • Clearly identify business demand in relation to the MDM

2. Determination of the to-be – Working with your BA, but it’s a business strategic approach

  • Clearly determine the usefulness of the MDM with your business
  • Set the exact goals expected by the business
  • Refer to ‘What is an excellent preparation’ 🙂

3. Designing – To do with a Data expert

  • Determine the data that will be referenced
  • Establish the metadata schema
  • Define and standardize the exchange format
  • Compare and verify expectations with the Data Governance strategy (ensure business alignment)
  • Test and fix the exchange processes

4. Implementation – Lots of work for your PM here

  • Technical implementation
  • Cleansing data
  • Documentation of the repository
  • Establishing links with information systems
  • Testing, testing & testing ! oh… and don’t forget to test 🙂

Remember, you have a PM who is there to keep an eye on all of this and make sure that no steps are missed. Trust them, rely on them! And you stay tuned to the business and your governance.
I advise to work with your PM from the beginning, not just waiting for implementation to call them back. Like this, they will have a global view of the whole project.
Ok, now: what to do with this list ? It’s like a first template, a start of discussion between you and the business. You must work on it a lot.

Finally, a last advice, made up of more than 20 years of experience: DO-CU-MENT!!!!!! Always, all the time.

5 Good Practices for this kind of project (and all kinds of projects, by the way)

1. Document
Believe me, this documentation will be necessary and life-saving. There will come a time when you will ask “why this kind of metadata is being introduced so strangely in the flow”? And you’ll find the reason in your notes. This will prevent the change you were going to do that would lead to errors downstream.

2. Prepare your project carefully
Did I mention this earlier? I insist. This preparation is crucial. Take the time, mature the project. The MDM project is vital and valuable and deserves to be well prepared.

3. Be sharp on your business analysis
The MDM is set up for business, it would be a shame to overlook the analysis from the beginning, wouldn’t it?

4. Sponsoring
Believe me, all projects are easier with some Managers & C-level behind you to give a little push ;o) – Check out 3 things you didn’t know about the role of the data governance sponsor

5. Communicate
Communication is a big key in every project. Don’t forget anyone!

Finished ? Noooooo….

Hell no! This is the beginning of great and nice journey ;o) I wish you the best and a lot of courage ;o)

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    About the author 

    Olivier Delvigne

    I’m Olivier Delvigne, 44 yo, founder of One Circle IT Solutions and in the IT world since 1998.
    I started as an IT trainer and then worked ten years as a System Engineer before spending another ten years as Project Manager and IT Manager. Today, I am a freelance in managing IT infrastructure and Governance projects (IT, Data, Information). It’s sometimes a real challenge but I'm loving it!
    I like sharing information and experiences… and writing articles is a nice way to do so :)
    I hope you will enjoy reading them. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or just want to share your thoughts with me.
    Have a nice day,

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