Our Take on Gartner’s Master Data Management Advice

by Kate Tickner on 1st August 2017

Entity Group has, for the third year in succession, been included in the Gartner Market Guide for MDM External Service Providers, published March 2017 (ESPs). We are delighted to be listed once again by Gartner for MDM solutions.

This discussion considers our take on the report – where we digest and comment upon some of its key points.

According to Gartner

“Even though the MDM ESP market is rapidly gaining popularity and momentum in the overall information infrastructure space, it is still in the adolescent phase of maturity (with a market penetration of less than 20% of the possible target audience). Gartner predicts that it will take around five to 10 years for the MDM ESP market to reach mainstream adoption.”

Entity’s view on this is similar, with our own customer base still broadly at the large enterprise level. We are noticing a trend, however, and are working more and more with mid-sized organisations. We’ve had numerous discussions across various sectors in this segment and the anecdotal market feedback indicates that a subscription-based Data Management-as-a-Service offering would help to significantly speed MDM adoption. The upcoming release of our Data Management-as-a-Service offering  will focus initially on GDPR, (for which MDM is a key requirement) – take a look at our video, and sign up to our newsletter for more details.

In Gartner’s view, MDM ESP’s “provide substantial value in helping organizations develop strong foundations for their digital strategies”, and that the “scope and complexity of MDM programs, coupled with the high level of cooperation needed between IT and the business, provide ample incentive for organizations to seek assistance from ESPs to devise a sound MDM strategy and (or) implementation plan for their MDM initiatives.” They re-inforce this point later, stating the “effective use of ESPs in the strategy and implementation of MDM programs can be the deciding factor in overcoming the common technical, organizational and political barriers to implementation”.

Crossing the Data Delta Book

This is something we discuss at length in our Data Management book – Crossing the Data Delta. We believe that People and Process are at least as important as technology for MDM success. We describe the gap between the data that organisations have today, and the information or business advantage they aspire to, as a ‘Data Delta’, i.e. the delta in the exploitation of data between where they are and whey they need to be.

The Data Delta model (which is explained in much greater detail in our book), starts with six Principles, which are:

Delta Triangle
The Data Delta Model Principles

1. Ownership – Data must be Governed and Owned;
2. Description – There must be an agreed Description of the data;
3. Quality – Data Quality must be defined, measured and managed;
4. Access – Principles of Access need to be established; the data lifecycle, storage, privacy and security;
5. Usage and Sharing – How data is Used and Shared needs to be agreed; how systems are integrated;
6. Implementation and Control – Data which needs to be Controlled, and how and by whom, needs to be established, so that business applications can be successfully implemented.

This delta exists within almost all organisations, and yet it must be bridged if you want your MDM project to deliver on its goals. You need to take into account not only the technology implementation and control layer, but all of the layers above.

Getting the balance right between people, process and technology is part of the art of programme management. The graphic below, again taken from Crossing the Data Delta, is based on subjective assessments from a group of our top consultants on their recent projects. We don’t claim this is scientifically based, but it is steeped in pragmatism and experience.

DeltaTriangle SolutionElements

Whether you are delivering on Big Data, Data Governance, Analytics, or Master Data Management, success rests on introducing change to people, process and technology. There is no doubt that there are many traps in this. We see organisations put far too much emphasis on technology and end up with IT-led initiatives that are doomed to fail. But we also see process-led approaches fail – typically, those led by non-data management specialists, who simply don’t appreciate the complexity of the technical solution.

It seems, however, according to Gartner’s report, “there is a clear shift on the part of responding firms of all sizes toward technology implementation. This shift implies that end-user organizations should take greater care to prevent an organization’s MDM technology orientation from directly influencing its MDM discipline and strategy.”

We would add that in our view, data governance and data strategies very often get ignored because they are difficult to articulate and seem even more difficult to execute. However, they are achievable with the right assistance.

A Data Roadmap

Ideally, a data roadmap should bring effective ownership, control and management to your information landscape, so that your organisation is both able to understand your data and to exploit information assets more fully. It should include an assessment of your existing landscape, using maturity assessment models and interviews with key stakeholders. It should conclude by defining an optimum target state and the means to deliver this across the entire organisation.

The aim should be to establish an end-to-end view of your information eco-system, along with the identification of “priority domains”. “Priority domains” are those that reflect your organisation’s business and technical priorities and are those that should be analysed in greater detail. This naturally prioritises key focus areas during the subsequent implementation phase of the data roadmap.

Information Management Strategy

In summary, a structured approach to information management strategy (such as adhering to an effective Information Management framework like our Data Delta model), identification of priority domains, and the understanding and managing of business change, through strong programme management of people, process and technology, will help to present a holistic approach to MDM success.

If you’re not sure about where or how to get started on a strategic data roadmap, senior members of the Entity advisory team can provide a free two hours workshop to organisations keen to do some blue-sky exploratory thinking, what we call a “Strategy Session”. It’s at no cost to you, and is designed to focus on the potential value of evolving a strategic data or governance roadmap. Find out more here.

Focus on the People and the Process, as much as you do technology. It’s not new advice – it’s best practice – the more things change; the more they stay the same.


• Gartner, Market Guide for MDM External Service Providers, Published: 20 March 2017. Analyst(s): Bill O’Kane, Saul Judah, Michael Patrick Moran, Ankush Jain

Crossing the Data Delta: Turn the data you have into the information you need – Published 12 Oct 2016 – by Pete Smith, Jason Edge, Dave Wilkinson, Steve Parry

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