As SOA adoption grows, many large companies are looking to centralize trusted data sets with a master data management (MDM) system. Especially in times of mergers and acquisitions, MDM is important in tying together disparate operational systems that rely on the same data, said Greg Todd, executive director of information management services at consulting and IT services company Accenture. As a consulting technical architect, Todd does a lot of work with Fortune 500 companies.
Over time organizations have been maturing their SOA capabilities when building enterprise service buses and starting to integrate and centralize a lot of decentralized environments, he said.
"Being able to do that with their MDM is as critical today as ever, given the large volumes of data that are available to anyone," said Todd. "Having that centralized architecture for MDM – having the ability to harmonize that batch to all the applications that need that master data using your SOA architecture – leads to more of a globalization of your master data management."
Centralized data can be especially important after a merger or acquisition, he said. The company or companies need to determine where all the repositories are and what key master data should be maintained. Often there are disagreements on the definitions of data and the ownership of repositories. And then there is the matter of system integration.
"The combination of customer files and vendor files and things like that are a big challenge because you have to match the records," said Todd, "and do some sort of translation from one system to another."
It is important to iron out these details up front during a merger or acquisition, Todd said. If you don't, it may be difficult to accurately report to the executives how the acquisition is moving forward.
New tools support quick updates to master data sets. But the latest and greatest tools are not necessarily for everyone.
Moving away from batch master data updates toward more frequent SOA-based updating is desirable, Todd said. But most of the Fortune 500 companies he deals with are still making batch updates to their MDM systems. It is really a mixed bag.
"It really is dependent on how critical that information is for exercising some sort of business activity," said Todd. "Having [data] harmonized, synchronized, centralized and then globalized is the direction I think we're seeing most organizations heading," said Todd.
There are a growing number of newer applications in areas like optimization engines and predictive analytics that benefit greatly from a more up-to-date master data repository. Todd said SOA helps to enable the fluidity of master data in such analytical systems.