Starting with master data management: 5 challenges to keep in mind

Henrica Westhoeve
January 2, 2024 - Reading time 4 minutes

As a data-driven organization, master data is essential for further growth, but it can still be a significant challenge to implement it correctly throughout your entire organization. However, just like with anything new in an organization, the implementation often comes with challenges. We list five challenges and help you with the successful implementation of a master data management strategy.

1. Too much focus on the tools

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tools that should help you effectively execute your master data strategy. It's easy to get lost in the details and drown in open tabs, comparison sites, and more. In reality, it's a waste of your time. Tools are indeed crucial, but unfortunately, buying a drill doesn't automatically make you good at drilling. Tools and skills go hand in hand. The same applies to your data and tools. Your first focus should be on data quality to make master data management a success.

2. Too little focus on company goals

If all goes well, having master data management is not your ultimate goal, at least not for the company. Ask yourself why you started with master data management and what you ultimately hope to achieve from it. If you can't provide a clear answer, try to determine it nevertheless.

This is necessary to get the entire organization on board with master data management. Everyone is involved, after all. If you can articulate well why master data management makes a positive contribution to achieving business goals, you are more likely to gain support. This, in turn, increases the willingness to adapt processes.

3. Striving to perfection

Striving for perfection is fine in itself, but often it prevents progress in other areas that may be more critical. Unfortunately, no matter how much you desire it, your data is never perfect, even with the implementation of master data management. Processes will never be perfect either. Therefore, the focus should be on up-to-date data and continuous reflection on processes. Progress is made by doing better each time, not by aiming for perfection.

Interesting read: Data done right: 3 tips for optimal use of your (external) data.

4. Focus on the 'golden record'

The 'golden record' is the only reliable version of a data entry within an organization, eliminating duplicates and inconsistencies, serves as the ultimate source of truth for data analysis, reporting, and operational processes. This accurate representation is essential for enhanced customer relationship management, marketing campaigns, financial reporting, and optimized business operations.

But what does this look like? There is disagreement among all departments about that. Each department sees different data fields as 'gold.' The real golden record actually does not exist. You need to ensure that each record has the most important fields for each department. Identify which fields are indispensable and make sure they are included in your CRM.

5. Wanting to boil the ocean

When you start implementing master data management, you ideally want to tackle everything at once. This is referred to as wanting to boil the ocean. Trying to do this results in one massive project that never seems to end. You need interim milestones so that you can celebrate successes, and the finish line feels miles away. Break the large project into smaller pieces, such as initially focusing on cleaning up the current data. Then proceed to analyze the current fields, allowing you to make progress step by step.

There are other challenges. You can read about these in the white paper: The biggest data bottlenecks for your organisation. Here, we discuss more challenges and how to address them. When implementing master data management, you often encounter the above five challenges. Focus on qualitative data, maintain attention to business goals, avoid perfectionism, introduce diversity in the 'golden record,' and break the project into smaller parts to avoid the pitfall of 'boiling the ocean.' By approaching it step by step, you achieve success in the implementation of master data management.

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