Considerations for Multi-Domain Master Data Modeling – Part 4

OK, so which master data modeling approach is better? Pre-packaged or business model-driven? My personal opinion is to look at which approach best addresses my hot-button issues (inconsistent reference data, inconsistencies in structure, inconsistencies in meanings).

If you use a vendor’s pre-packaged system, you are at risk of exacerbating the problems even more – your internal models are inconsistent, and now you are adding in a new model designed by people outside your organization? The vendor probably does not know the unique aspects of your business, or the cultural issues influencing design, or the details of your system development life cycle. Even if the pre-packaged model meets 90% of your business needs, you are going to spend a lot of effort in making the changes and tweaks to the models and the layers of interfaces and services to make it work for your internal systems.

On the other hand, a business model-driven approach allows you to start with your own data model definitions and allows the vendor product to automate the sets of layers and interfaces around a model for which there is some internal expertise, as well as links and connectivity among the different conceptual data domains. This approach allows for greater flexibility, since you are not walled in by the prepackaged representations.

In addition, you can adapt automatically-generated services and interfaces to business-oriented processes. For example in a pre-packaged approach, you might be able to create a new customer record through an existing master data service, and that is good. But in the business driven modeling approach, you can embed the creation of all the master records associated with a particular process (such as a customer record, a covered asset record, and a billing location record) within a single composite business service. In essence, the interfaces can be generated as a result of both the underlying data models and the business process models.

As MDM matures, we can begin to identify the distinguishing factors between the successful implementation and those that are less so, and what we have seen is that when there is a presumption of an “out-of-the-box” solution using pre-packaged models, there is often a significant amount of work needed to get to the starting gate. But those organizations that focus on documenting business processes and distilling out the key data concepts to be shared are building a strong foundation for MDM success. To hear more detail on the topic of this blog series, you can listen to the replay of my TDWI Webinar, “Is Your Approach to Modeling MDM Fixed or Flexible?”

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