A tale of 2 MDMs – Master Data Management vs Metadata Management
Master Data Management and Metadata Management are common terms in the field of enterprise information management and refer to two distinct things, but there is some confusion about them. Let’s see what each of them mean. Webopedia defines metadata and master data as –
- Metadata – “Data about data. (Something that Jim Harris talked about on his OCDQ podcast as well) Metadata describes how and when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, and how the data is formatted. Metadata is essential for understanding information stored in data warehouses and has become increasingly important in XML-based Web applications.”
- Master data – “Also called reference data, master data is any information that is considered to play a key role in the core operation of a business. Master data may include data about clients and customers, employees, inventory, suppliers, analytics and more. Master data is typically shared by multiple users and groups across an organization and stored on different systems.”
The terms do help a bit but doubts still remain. Simply put, master data is bigger than metadata and denotes a bigger set of values that the former. Let’s take material data as an example – the master data that includes MRO parts, raw materials, packaging and other materials that organizations have in their plant inventory. Imagine a specification sheet that defines an item accurately, completely and consistently. In this case, metadata will refer to the categories, parameters, and other information about the collection, storage and formatting of the data. On the other hand, master data will refer to all the information present on the sheet. Metadata tells you things about the data, without giving any actual data. Master data tells you everything about the data, and would include metadata as a matter of form.
Even though both MDMs are quite distinct, there are closely aligned. The two most important ones are –
- Both are generally treated as IT’s headache but require collaboration between the business and IT, to provide functional data governance.
- Master data management builds its trust through the effective use of metadata. The definitions, business rules, quality metrics, data relationships, policies, and stewardship roles that enable a master data capability are all captured and maintained through the effective use of metadata.
There has been a bit of confusion about these two terms and I hope this write up clarifies things. In the next post, I’ll be talking about metadata repositories and how they are directly linked to the implementation of master data management. In the meanwhile, if you have any thoughts or anecdotes about the topic, please share them in the comment section below.
Specification sheet with metadata and master data pointed out
Further Reading –
White Paper – MDM as an Answer to ROI of ERP Deployment
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