The data used by corporations can be broken down into five different types: Unstructured (emails, marketing materials, white papers), Transactional (invoices, receipts, sales), Metadata (log files, report definitions, XML documents), Hierarchical (the relationships between all the other data), and Master (a company’s critical nouns–people, places, and things. So customers, employees, products, office locations, etc).
In most organizational setups, all of these different data types are managed by different systems or software applications. Master Data Management (MDM) provides a way to link all of that information into one big master file. If done right, this file not only provides all users with a common reference point, but it streamlines the process of sharing data among all departments and personnel.
To put it another way, MDM is a methodology put in place by a company that not only identifies their critical information, but creates tools to maintain that information. Its goal is to identify, validate and resolve data issues while creating a “Gold Copy” master dataset for downstream systems and services to consume.
It is important to note that it must clean and maintain–any time or money spent in cleaning information will be wasted if the MDM does not also keep that information clean as it grows and updates. Also important–MDM does not and cannot represent a full Data Governance or EDM program.