Navigating the Complexity of Enterprise Data and Siloed Data Masters: Grandmaster Data Mastering

November 13, 2023

Art Morales, Ph.D.

When it comes to enterprise data, there’s often a jarring disconnect between perception and reality. For those not deeply enmeshed in the mechanics of data management, the prevailing belief is that “data is clean enough.” Yet, if you dare to peek behind the curtain, you’ll find that the situation can be quite chaotic. This dissonance is precisely why Master Data Mastering (MDM) is a pressing concern for any modern enterprise. MDM isn’t just about data integration across various entities within a domain; it’s about cleansing and refining data as well. Imagine having multiple, conflicting versions of essential information dispersed across departments — it’s not just a data nightmare, but a quagmire that hampers decision-making and advanced analytics. This is where MDM steps in, striving to centralize, deduplicate, and authenticate essential data. However, even within the realm of MDM, there are evolving methodologies and challenges. One such concept, which we’ll dive into today, is “Grandmaster Data Mastering” (GMDM). In this blog post, we’ll explore GMDM’s role in the larger picture of MDM, discuss different approaches to mastering data, and delve into why well-mastered data is a linchpin for emerging technologies like generative AI and graph analytics.

The Unique Challenges in Large Enterprises

Large enterprises face their own set of unique challenges when it comes to MDM. These organizations often deal with colossal amounts of data that are not just massive but are also overlapping and complementary. This data is distributed across various departments, each operating under its own set of rules, processes, and systems. This landscape complicates the creation and maintenance of a single, unified data mastering process. Moreover, different business units contribute to the data ecosystem, each with its own goals and timelines. Coordination among these units turns data mastering into an administrative and logistical puzzle.

Diverse Data Sources

The complexity does not end there. Most large enterprises operate with a blend of legacy systems, third-party applications, and new-age platforms, each producing data in its unique format. Businesses also frequently incorporate external data into their systems, adding another layer of complexity. These disparate sources make data mastering an uphill task. Business units may attempt to master their data, but they often end up creating their own, slightly different versions of the wheel.

The Role of Grandmaster Data Mastering (GMDM)

Amidst these challenges, Grandmaster Data Mastering (GMDM) offers a refreshing approach. GMDM proposes treating certain internal, pre-mastered data sources as if they were external. This strategy facilitates the establishment of an enterprise-wide “master of masters,” which serves as the definitive source of truth for each entity. By doing so, this comprehensive master can be made available in a centralized data marketplace, thus setting new standards for data quality and reliability across the enterprise.

Learning and Feedback Loops in GMDM

One of the most potent benefits of the Grandmaster Data Mastering approach is its ability to create a self-reinforcing feedback loop that enhances data quality throughout the organization. Individual data mastering projects, often confined to specific departments or domains, generate valuable insights and learnings. These can be integrated into the GMDM process to refine the “master of masters.” Interestingly, the rules and learnings from the domain mastering projects can be used to test the effectiveness of the GMDM process. For example, one can track the number of singletons or unmatched records in the domain master and their numbers should decrease as the Master of Masters is created while the coverage (average number of source records that contribute to a golden record) should increase.

Simultaneously, the insights (duplicates, data corrections, data enrichment) gained from GMDM can feed back into the individual data sources, creating a virtuous cycle that continually elevates data quality across the board.

However, coordinating mastering projects across different domains can be a daunting and impossible project. The concept of GMDM can act as a linchpin here, instead of trying to boil the ocean and master all the data from scratch, take advantage of the existing work and just treat those sources as external data. This concept is important because it allows the mastering process to take those sources at face value, just as when external data is purchased. This decreases the process and organizational pressure on the data and should make the process easier to start.

As individual projects feed into GMDM and vice versa, organizations find it easier to develop a coherent, aligned approach to data mastering. This slowly but steadily creates an environment where existing systems can be improved or even replaced, keeping the broader enterprise needs in focus.

This iterative, mutually beneficial process has an added advantage: it helps establish authoritative sources of truth across the enterprise. These sources act as the ultimate reference points for all data-driven activities, reinforcing data reliability and boosting organizational confidence in analytics and decision-making.

It’s important to note that when it comes to mastering data, there are several methods, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Rules-based systems can become unwieldy and challenging to manage, particularly as the number of rules increases. Manual curation, though accurate, becomes impractical for handling large datasets. On the other hand, Machine Learning (ML) models offer a more adaptable and scalable alternative. They can easily accommodate new data sources, rendering the mastering process more efficient.

When building a Master of Masters, rules-based systems may have trouble scaling just based on volume. Furthermore, the number of data sources can also grow as the projects mature, and the organization starts to see benefit. It is for this reason that having a nimble and fast process to add new sources to the mastering project is essential. This is where Machine Learning tools can come in handy, and what we see today in tools like Tamr gives us hope to be able to keep up with the volume and complexity of Grandmaster data mastering projects.

The Untapped Potential: The Importance of Mastered Data for Advanced Analytics

The benefits of mastering data go beyond mere organization and cleaning. It also facilitates the establishment of critical relationships between data points, paving the way for more sophisticated analytics. For instance, generative AI models require high-quality, structured data to produce actionable insights. Data strategies become significantly more effective when based on properly mastered data. Similarly, graph analytics benefit from mastered data by providing deeper insights into complex networks that provide insights into relationships between entities across the enterprise.

Master Data Management in large enterprises is more than a technical requirement — it’s a strategic imperative, albeit one that often goes underfunded. Although fraught with challenges, the landscape is also ripe with opportunities. Adopting new approaches like Grandmaster Data Mastering and leveraging new technologies can help organizations not only navigate the complex landscape of data management but also lay the groundwork for more advanced analytics and AI operations.

At XponentL, we’re working with some of the hardest data mastering projects around and bringing our data and domain expertise to help clients make sense of their data and improve the quality of enterprise data assets. Get in touch to learn more!