By David Butler on Dec 16, 2010
Let's take a deeper look at what we mean when we talk about 'Master' data. In its most general sense, master data is data that exists in more than one operational application. These are the applications that automate business processes. These applications require significant amounts of data to function correctly. This includes data about the objects that are involved in transactions, as well as the transaction data itself. For example, when a customer buys a product, the transaction is managed by a sales application. The objects of the transaction are the Customer and the Product. The transactional data is the time, place, price, discount, payment methods, etc. used at the point of sale. Many thousands of transactional data attributes are needed within the application. These important data elements are local to the applications and have no bearing on other applications. Harmonization and synchronization across applications is not necessary. The Customer and Product objects of the transaction also have a large number of attributes. Customer for example, includes hierarchies, hierarchical and matrixed relationships, contacts, classifications, preferences, accounts, identifiers, profiles, and addresses galore for 'ship to', 'mail to'; 'service at'; etc. Dozens of attributes exist for individuals, hundreds for organizations, and thousands for products. This data has meaning beyond any particular application. It exists in many applications and drives the vital cross application enterprise business processes. These are the processes that define and differentiate the organization. At every decision point, information about the objects of the process determines the direction of the process flow. This is the nature of the data that exists in more than one application, and this is why we call it 'master data'. Let me elaborate.
Oracle has developed a party schema to model all participants in your daily business operations. It models people, organizations, groups, customers, contacts, employees, and suppliers. It models their accounts, locations, classifications, and preferences. And most importantly, it models the vast array of hierarchical and matrixed relationships that exist between all the participants in your real world operations. The model logically separates people and organizations from their relationships and accounts. This separation creates flexibility unmatched in the industry and accounts for the fact that the Oracle schema for Customers, Suppliers, and Accounts is a true superset of the wide variety of commercial and homegrown customer models in existence.
Sites are places where business is conducted. They can be addresses, clusters such as retail malls, locations within a cluster, floors within a building, places where meters are located, rooms on floors, etc. Fully understanding all attributes of a site is key to many business processes. Attributes such as 'noise abatement policy' at a point of delivery, or the size of an oven in a business kitchen drive day-to-day activities such as delivery schedules or food promotions. Typically this kind of data is siloed in departments and scattered across applications and spreadsheets. This leads to conflicting information and poor operational efficiencies. Oracle's Global Single Schema can hold all site attributes in one place and enables a single version of authoritative site information across the enterprise.
Products and Services
The Oracle Global Single Schema also includes a number of entities that define the products and services a company creates and offers for sale. Key entities include Items organized into Catalogs and Price Lists. The Catalog structures provide for the ability to capture different views of a product such as engineering, manufacturing, and service which are based on a unified product model. As a result, designers, manufacturing engineers, purchasers and partners can work simultaneously on a common product definition. The Catalog schema allows for unlimited attributes, combines them into meaningful groups, and maps them to catalog categories to track these different types of information. The model also maps an unlimited number of functional structures for each item. For example, multiple Bills of Material (BOMs) can be constructed representing requirements BOM, features BOM, and packaging BOM for an item. The Catalog model also supports hierarchical information about each item and all standard Global Data Synchronization attributes.
Business Processes Utilizing Linked Data Entities
Each business entity codified into a centralized master data environment significantly improves the efficiency of the automated business processes that use the consolidated data. When all the key business entities used by an organization's process are so consolidated, the advantages are multiplied. The primary reason for business process breakdowns (i.e. data errors across application boundaries) is eliminated. All processes are positively impacted and business process automation is itself automated.
I like to use the "Call to Resolution" business process as an example to help illustrate this important point. It involves call center applications, service applications, RMA applications, transportation applications, inventory applications, etc. Customer, Site, Product and Supplier master data must all be correct and consistent across these applications. What's more, the data relationships between customer and product, and product and suppliers must be right. This is the minimum quality needed to insure the business process flows without error.
But that is not the end of the story. Critical master data attributes such as customer loyalty, profitability, credit worthiness, and propensity to buy can optimize the call center point of contact component of the process. Critical product information such as alternative parts or equivalent products can optimize the resolution selected by the process. A comprehensive understanding of the 'service at' location can help insure multiple trips are avoided in the process. Full supplier information on reliability, delivery delays, and potential alternates can prevent supplier exceptions and play a significant role in optimizing the process. In other words, these master data attributes enable the optimization of the "Call to Resolution" enterprise business process. Master data supports and guides business process flows. Thus the phrase 'Master Data' is indeed appropriate.
MDM is the software that houses, manages, and governs the master data that resides in all applications and controls the enterprise business processes. A complete master data solution takes a data model that holds fully attributed master data entities and their inter-relationships. Oracle has this model. Oracle, with its deep understanding of application data is the logical choice for managing all your master data within the enterprise whether or not your organization actually runs any Oracle Applications.