A single version of the truth with Informatica’s Mike Hudgell

What does an atomic watch have in common with MDM? Informatica’s Mike Hudgell shares his practical insight, gained from over 20 years of helping organizations implement Master Data Management (MDM). 

What does an atomic watch have in common with MDM? You’ll find out once you’ve read this interview with Mike Hudgell, Informatica’s MDM Segment Lead UKI & MEA.

You’ve heard about the benefits of MDM, now discover the practical impact it can have on your business, as seen first-hand by an expert who has been an MDM advocate and practitioner for over 20 years. In this Q&A, Mike highlights some of the challenges organizations experience with their data, as well as explains how a single version of the truth – driven by MDM – can help businesses react faster, make better decisions and become more efficient.

Mike also talks us through the process of implementing modern MDM, including how using a delivery partner can help you secure a better return on your investment. 

So, Mike, what's the biggest obstacle preventing businesses from reaching their data goals?

There are still too many companies that don't really have good data goals and don't have a good data strategy. We live in a digital world, with customers engaging through a wide range of channels – face-to-face, eCommerce, mobile apps – and new businesses are springing up every week. They are bringing propositions and products from all around the world, to our desktops, our doorsteps, with little IT infrastructure. Drop shipping is the latest big craze where you can create a website, sell products, make money from those products, but never actually see the products as they get delivered from suppliers around the globe. These are purely data-driven businesses: everything is in the cloud. 

The biggest obstacle for a lot of businesses is not really recognizing the opportunity that quality, trusted data can bring.

Why is MDM a vital part of a data strategy?

I’ve been an advocate of MDM for over 20 years now. Most of that time has been spent trying to help organizations see the benefit of understanding their data better and having a trusted, definitive source of the critical data elements that drive their business. Whether it's customer, product, supplier or employee information, having a single place where that data is defined across the business is so important – it should always be part of your business strategy. That is what Master Data Management can deliver. Once you get it, it’s obvious, and I’ve had repeat customers over the past 20 years who can show the business benefits of master data.

Everybody starts with data quality. We all understand that having data quality makes good business sense. But going that extra mile, investing that bit extra to get your data mastered so that there is a single version of the truth - historically it’s been a stretch too far for most organizations. They spend just enough to get their data in shape, nothing more. 

The problem is, once you finish a data quality project, it instantly starts to deteriorate. You need a continuous process in place to ensure the quality is maintained and kept current across all parts of the business

Our chief executive explains it like this. When you have two watches, you're never quite sure what the time is: which one is right? But take the idea of an atomic clock, which synchronizes all watches, mobile phones or devices, and you can always trust that it’s correct. That's what MDM brings to a business.

How can businesses choose the right MDM solution for their objectives? 

More often than not MDM is viewed as a tactical project – there’s a problem to be fixed, one of the most common being duplicate data. HR data is a good example, where they have lots of different systems containing sensitive employee data. MDM can bring that data together, harmonise it, clean it up, enrich it, and produce a single view of an employee. That’s a tactical approach, and we see a lot of companies using MDM to tackle specific issues like this – but that eventually leads to a lot of expenditure, not to mention multiple vendors and systems to keep track of.

Then, there’s strategic MDM. Some organizations start tactical, see MDM’s value, then want to take a more strategic approach. They want a single MDM solution that will cover all scenarios (on-premise, cloud, batch, real-time etc) and this becomes a foundational, component part of the business's operations. There are some organizations we speak to that decide right at the start that MDM is not a project: it’s part of their strategic vision, to have trusted data across the enterprise and gain strategic advantage. 

Informatica can help organizations modernize with tactical project-based solutions so that people can start small and grow. 

MDM success is about culture as much as technology - what advice do you give Informatica customers when implementing MDM?

It is about culture as well as technology, but the best MDM solutions now have a powerful orchestration and workflow engine as part of the solution: the benefit being that these can automate some of the processes. However, it does still need human interaction to be a success – it can learn quickly, but it can’t do it by itself. We call it augmented automation. This solution can drive change in the business, automating boring, repetitive tasks, and freeing people up to be more productive and create value for business. 

This aspect of MDM wasn’t always well-handled in the past and could disengage people from the benefits, but with modern MDM we’re seeing businesses able to actually use their platform from the start, with people fully engaged. We’re seeing it bring value to our customers within nine or 10 weeks, as opposed to nine or 10 months. It’s sparking a revolution in the business, driving change and enabling an agile culture, instead of restricting it.

What's the worst data mistake you've seen that could be prevented with MDM?

A very well-known UK gambling company, with shops on the high street, had grown by buying a telephone betting company and an online gaming and betting company. These created three very distinct parts of their business. As part of a big sporting promotion, they offered a free £25 bet for one of their lines of business. What they didn’t realize is that a large percentage of the people they offered it to were customers in another part of the business. They gave away a huge amount of money to attract customers… who were already customers! If they had joined up those three silos, with MDM, they wouldn't have given away that money. It didn't break the business, but it was a significant sum of money. That’s just one example – there are plenty of others. 

What can businesses achieve once MDM is entrenched in their business? 

They can operate the business more efficiently, have the ability to drive change throughout the business, be assured that the business decisions that they are taking are based on trusted, accurate data – and can reduce the time between collecting the data to getting insight and taking action. We’re seeing great results in this area from customers who’ve implemented our MDM solution, with businesses being able to optimise their operations and be more reactive: changing their offer to meet seasonal demands and improving their supply chain efficiency, all enabled by using MDM. 

With so much information stored in MDM – customer, product, supply chain, finance – they can now ‘join up’ their data to get a true single view across the business. For instance, you could tailor a product selection to someone looking to minimize their carbon footprint. That’s the future that MDM can bring to businesses: making sure you get the right product in front of the right customer at the right time, and at the right cost to the business.

How do Agile Solutions and Informatica work together to help businesses with their MDM challenges?

The optimum way that we work with partners like Agile is by engaging early to understand the specific use cases that are challenging the organization. We don’t want to sell technology for the sake of it: we want to understand what the problem is and the impact that problem is having on the business. We then work together as a team to show how we can resolve that particular use case in the shortest possible time frame to deliver a great return on investment. It’s about business outcomes – this is no longer just an IT project, throwing people together to deliver some technology platform, which might have been the case 15 years ago. Now, it’s understanding the business pain and working with the customer to ensure it is resolved within a reasonable timeframe and delivering a benefit for their investment.

Is your data really telling you the truth – particularly about your customers? Find out how MDM can change the way your organisation uses data and what steps you need to make it a success. Download our guide: Know your customer: An Agile Solutions guide to customer MDM.