Master Data Management
for the Public Sector

Mel Hodge, Head of Practice - Data Strategy and Governance 

As a public sector organisation, you deal with thousands of people on a daily basis, which means 

you hold vast amounts of data on each of them. Be it names and addresses or marketing preferences, account activity and interactions, there is a wealth of information that each department has access to. 

What is Master Data? 

‘Master Data’ describes the data about entities or parties. In the public sector, a lot of that is data about citizens — titles, names, dates of birth etc. 

Master Data is also at the root of ‘transactional data’ and ‘reference data’. 

Transactional data is the record of interactions between pieces of Master Data (e.g. a citizen pays their council tax). Reference data is contextual data around those interactions. That could be something like a payment method (e.g. council tax paid by direct debit). 

What is Master Data Management? 

Master Data Management involves creating a single view of the Master Data points, reconciling disparate data into a single ‘golden record’. 

MDM ingests, then cleanses, standardises, enriches, and matches data, and once it has created the golden record, that record serves as the trusted view of business-critical data that can be managed and distributed across the business. The golden record promotes accurate reporting, reduces data errors, removes redundancy, and helps data consumers make better-informed business decisions. 

There are two sides to Master Data Management — MDM as a discipline, and MDM as a technology. The discipline of MDM relies on data governance and a healthy, robust data culture. The technology of MDM supports that with tools to automate data management and distribution.

Citizen MDM can help your public sector organisation to better serve citizens in an increasingly digital world. As well as unlocking data-driven ways to boost efficiency, save time and reduce costs, processing your citizen data through MDM can help you to respond to changing citizen behaviours – offering new ways to interact with your organisation through digital pathways and self-service portals. One source of accurate data will also help you to comply with ever-evolving regulations. 

MDM isn’t a technology that you can turn on with a flick of a switch. It needs to be underpinned by a strong Data Strategy and have buy-in from everyone in the organisation. 

What does a ‘golden record?’ achieve? 

Let’s imagine a fictional citizen — Jill — from a fictional town — Starley. Starley Council has data on Jill spread throughout multiple departments – council tax, planning, housing, health, parking, and schools — yet that data differs wherever you look. 

  • Planning think that Jill Cooper is unmarried, yet housing have Jill’s title as ‘Mrs’. 
  • Council Tax have an address for Jill in Starley Close, yet refuse collections and garden waste have been sending letters to Jill’s address in Starley Gate from 10 years ago. 
  • Schools have a Gill Cooper that is probably a typo, but how can they know for sure? 

The consequences of this erratic data picture include: 

  • Minor inconvenience: Jill gets the odd e-mail she doesn’t really need. Irritation: Jill gets yet another letter addressed incorrectly to Gill Cooper. 
  • Alienation: Jill receives a parking ticket for parking in her own driveway. 
  • Non-compliance: the data the council holds on Jill isn’t in line with regulations. 

MDM brings all of Jill’s data together in one, central source. It doesn’t just focus on citizen data’s accuracy, but its accessibility and reliability to help make data-driven processes and initiatives effective. With the right MDM implementation, every department can access the same, reliable citizen data, contribute to it, and see one, 360-degree view of Jill Cooper to achieve that polished Golden Record of her and thousands of other citizens. 

How Master Data Management transforms your operations 

The better you know your citizens, the better you can serve them. 

In the short term, MDM can: 

  • Strengthen relationships with citizens by sending them targeted messages, building a more personal experience and better catering to their needs 
  • Create a more transparent network for citizens. 
  • Help you react to changes faster, and make better decisions, informed by accurate data. 
  • Create watertight compliance, with information readily available and correctly tagged. 
  • Streamline operations, without compromising on quality of service. 

MDM can also act as a springboard for other data-driven initiatives, providing reliable data to help you: 

  • Implement self-service portals, powered by accurate and up-to-date data 
  • Improve efficiency and reduce costs by automating tedious tasks. 
  • Protect citizens against fraud 
  • Drive digital contact centres that benefit, rather than frustrate, the citizen. 
  • Add value and convenience at key points along the citizen’s digital journey, reflecting the more digital lives we now lead. 

What are the obstacles to Master Data Management? 

The rewards of having reams of data come with their fair share of risks for any public sector organisation. Just implementing an MDM platform and making sure everyone uses it wouldn’t lead to achieving a Golden Record — there are obstacles in every organisation that can prevent a single view of your citizen. 

Data Silos 

Data silos have been a part of public sector organisations for years. They occur when certain public sector departments, or individuals, store data in places that can’t be accessed by anyone else. From incorrect spreadsheets to outdated systems used by different departments, unchecked data silos prevent information from being shared. 

Legacy technology 

Most public sector organisations have been in existence for decades. In some instances, they hold data for up to four generations. This leads to dealing with lots of complicated legacy technologies (and sometimes even paper records) that are not fit for purpose in today’s digital world. MDM can play a pivotal role in integrating that technology and historical data to provide a better experience to citizens. 

Conflicting agendas 

Every public sector organisation is made up of multiple departments, many of which have their own priorities and budgets to invest in new technology and data systems. Instead of working towards a shared data goal for the business, individuals or departments work towards adopting different processes which might not be in the best interests of providing a great overall service to citizens. Unless a shared organisational goal is introduced through MDM, conflicting agendas will undermine the performance of a public sector organisation. 

Data literacy 

In almost every public sector organisation, employees will range from highly data literate to data illiterate: those with no understanding of data at all. Every individual needs to be on board when it comes to ensuring that good quality data is always available and that platforms are delivering their promised results from the start. 

Five core principles that your MDM initiative needs 

Making MDM work requires a commitment to Data Quality and Data Governance from all departments of a public sector organisation — yet with the right implementation it can result in a return on investment quickly. The five principles at the heart of public sector MDM are: 

  1. Data Quality 
  2. Data Strategy 
  3. Data Governance 
  4. Data Culture 
  5. Data Compliance 

Data Quality 

The quality of your data is a key ingredient to successful MDM implementation as it reduces the risk of data duplications, missing fields, errors and inconsistencies. Poor quality data hampers effective decision-making, automation and citizen-facing actions, and 20% of councils uncovered major shortcomings in their data. 

An MDM platform won’t automatically eradicate poor quality data: if any of the issues listed previously — data silos, legacy technology, etc. — aren’t addressed, your Data Quality will suffer. 

Data Strategy 

Data plays a pivotal role in the working of any public sector organisation, governing body, institution or company. However, most organisations underestimate the importance of a Data Strategy to support their employees and citizens in their pursuit of solving complex problems. In fact, 45% of public sector organisations have no data strategy. 

Becoming a truly data-driven organisation means looking at your data as the single point of truth for business decisions. In essence, a solid Data Strategy is a core principle for making any MDM efforts successful. 

Data Governance 

An effective Data Governance initiative is crucial to collating data that can be trusted. It’s a framework of processes and technology that governs how people use data, while also making sure everyone understands the importance of that data, both for the organisation and the individual. However, 35% of the UK’s public sector organisations have no data-specific roles, and don’t intend to change that. 

Two questions will have a big impact on your Data Governance’s success: “How reliable is my citizen data?” and “Why does it matter?” If you can communicate the answers through your Data Governance process, you will find that people are more likely to embrace transformation. 

Data Culture 

Deploying a solid MDM framework could mean changing processes that your organisation has been following for years. If the people or departments within an organisation resist these changes it can hamper the success of an MDM initiative. That’s why working towards a Data Culture where everyone understands the long-term benefits of MDM and commits to making it a success is essential. The challenge is, 38% of local authorities have uncoordinated approaches to data and analytics. 

If your organisation is ready to embrace data and democratise how it’s used throughout the business, you will have more success in achieving your Golden Record. If it isn’t, you can start taking steps towards it at any phase of your MDM journey. In fact, for many organisations, MDM acts as the catalyst that changes the way they perceive data, by making it accessible, available and valuable to everyone.

Data Compliance 

As citizens become more aware of having a say over how their personal data is used, public sector organisations need to be aware of legislation such as GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, among others, to ensure they are fulfilling regulatory requirements. When a citizen asks for their data, or for it to be removed in its entirety, you need to know how to honour their request. When implemented correctly, MDM can supply you with the key tools to boost data compliance within your organisation. It will help you to regulate data, making it easier to show what you have, where you have it, and how you deal with data requests. 

The Agile Solutions approach to citizen MDM 

You can use public sector data to boost your citizens’ experience, improve departmental efficiency, save costs and run your organisation more effectively — confident that the information you have is accurate, up-to-date and reliable. Or, you can risk alienating, frustrating and irritating citizens with data that doesn’t reflect who they really are — driving decision-making, automation, and processes with data that is either out of date or inaccurate. 

Find out what’s standing in the way of your Golden Record: call 01908 010618 to ask our team for practical advice on implementing MDM.