Leave the data model out of the MDM discussion: Expert

TORONTO—IBM Canada Ltd.’s David Corrigan has since learnt that the best way to get buy-in from the business for a master data management (MDM) initiative is not to go into a boardroom discussion armed with a data model tucked beneath his arm.

“MDM never gets beyond the IT boardroom … your goal is to get to the executive boardroom,” said Corrigan to an audience of IT professionals at the MDM & Data Governance Summit Canada 2011.

With an IT background under his belt, Corrigan, IBM’s director of product marketing for the Armonk, New York-based vendor’s InfoSphere group, used the keynote to help IT professionals get an MDM project off the ground and implemented in their organizations.

“You have to explain MDM in a much more simplistic way than you’ve been used to in your IT plans,” said Corrigan, adding that business executives get turned off by data models and terms such as reference data and hybrids.

Instead, during the initial phases, focus on just a couple of anecdotal use cases for MDM in the business and “make them real.” He said, “You have to pick the ones that you know will get people’s attention.”

Business case metrics from analyst research firms, which are abundantly available, are useful for measuring the value of MDM in the business. Listing a few statistics such as call centre improvements or reduced mail costs is an eye-opener. Moreover, if those industry metrics cite success stories from rival companies, then business executives will sit up and listen. “Use it to create smoke within your organization,” said Corrigan. “It’s not the fire. It’s the smoke.”

The lead architect for enterprise applications with Royal Bank of Canada also spoke at the keynote and shared his experience with implementing MDM. His introduction to the audience was very telling: “Hello, my name is Joseph Likuski and I am an MDM-holic.”

Likuski’s point is that there’s a lot that forms part of an MDM plan, from an IT department’s perspective. And, a conference such as this can also get many IT people riled up about MDM. But the process of getting business buy-in doesn’t have to involve all the details.

Rather than using the term MDM at the Royal Bank of Canada, the program has been named Client Information Transformation. The word “Client” gets attention. The word “Transformation” gets people excited, said Likuski.

So far, the bank has deployed an MDM server for a consolidated view of data across the enterprise, and has established an overall data governance process. “We’ve moved all the way from feudalism to monarchy. So we’ve made progress,” said Likuski.

In summary, Corrigan lists the four S’s of getting MDM buy-in:

Short: Your presentation should include no more than 10 slides.
Simple: Leave the data model at home and, in addition to yourself, have non-IT people present the business case.
Starting point: Outline clearly where the MDM initiative will take root in the organization.
Strategic: Explain where the MDM initiative is heading and why it’s important to implement it.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau