What’s a Business Process without Master Data?

While the linkage between business process management (BPM) and master data management (MDM) initiatives has been explored for some time, it’s only now that we’re beginning to see companies truly think about these initiatives as fully integrated programs. For quite some time, I have been a strong advocate for the convergence of BPM and MDM initiatives and how companies should NOT treat these as disparate efforts. For instance, how can companies talk about streamlining core business processes, such as their Trouble to Resolve, or other key customer care processes without having a unified view of the customer? It’s hard to optimize a process without trusted data. This seems fairly intuitive, but still, most companies were not connecting the dots just yet.

But the times may be changing. While MDM investments have traditionally been justified through the promise of smarter decisioning and insights, we are now starting to see BPM initiatives more frequently emerge at the forefront to help justify parallel investments in MDM solutions. The ability to synchronize a companies’ “master” data – whether it be customer data, product data, supplier data or transaction data – across applications has tremendous value when considering process optimization opportunities. The trick may be that the “data” guys have stopped talking about MDM and are starting to talk more about the business process or objectives and benefits that businesses will see from trusted unified data. Vernacular is a powerful thing.

So why now? The reality is that the ever growing expectations from end customers is making it impossible for companies to meet expected service levels without smarter analytics and trusted single sources of data. It’s impossible to engage your customer in a more intimate relationship without having a unified view and smarter analytics about how they’re best served and what the next best offer or service might be. And did I mention this all needs to happen in real-time?

In some ways, MDM has always been a solution looking for a problem. MDM itself provides little value without an application front-end or business context. So I’m not sure whether the BPM guys finally admitted that it’s all about the data or whether the MDM guys finally woke up and found the problems they have been looking for. Maybe data has finally moved out of the back office and into the front office? In any case, the convergence seems like a match made in heaven.

So problem solved, right? It all sounds easy and straightforward? Well think again. Enter the new millennial generation and things get even more complex. Your customers are no longer interacting with you through only traditional channels. Enter the world of Social networking and Mobility where every customer is now a broadcaster, brand advocate or detractor. One small customer service issue and you’re toast. Master data management is no longer just about a unified “internal” view of your customer data, it’s about being aware of what your customer is doing beyond your four walls and where your customer is at the time of interaction. It’s about being able to monitor social activity, capture the sentiment and integrate it into your view of the customer. It’s about knowing where your customer is and providing contextual interactions. It’s about providing richer customer experiences. It’s about driving loyalty and increasing your revenue per customer.

So how do you get started? I recommend starting small. Look for obvious areas of intersection where a core business process can be further streamlined if the appropriate unified data were available. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to justify MDM as a standalone program by developing hard ROI models. MDM doesn’t need to be so complex. Demystify it by finding a “right sized” problem to solve. Align it to business objectives and outcomes. Converge it with front office applications like BPM. Adopt a “good enough” approach and ditch the data jargon. The process guys have always had an elegant way of conversing more in business terms, so take their lead!

For those who want to share their ideas around how MDM is emerging as a key business priority, please join us for our MDM event on Tuesday (June 26) in New York City.

Frank Palermo

Executive Vice President - Global Digital Solutions, Virtusa. Frank Palermo brings more than 24 years of experience in technology leadership across a wide variety of technical products and platforms. Frank has a wealth of experience in leading global teams in large scale, transformational application and product development programs. In his current role at Virtusa, Frank heads the Global Technical Solutions Group which contains many of Virtusa’s specialized technical competency areas such as Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence (DWBI). The group is responsible for creating an overall go-to-market strategy, developing technical competencies and standards, and delivering IP based Solutions for each of these practice areas. Frank also leads an emerging technology group that is responsible for incubating new solutions in areas such as mobile computing, social solutions and cloud computing. Frank is also responsible for overseeing all of the Partner Channels as well as Analyst Relations for the firm. Prior to joining Virtusa, Frank was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Decorwalla, an emerging B2B marketplace in the interior design industry, where he was responsible for the overall technology strategy, creative direction, and site development and deployment. Prior to that, Frank was CTO and VP of Engineering for INSCI Corporation, a supplier of digital document repositories and integrated output management products and services. Prior to INSCI, Frank worked at IBM in the Advanced Workstations Division, and took part in the PowerPC consortium with IBM, Motorola and Apple. He was also involved in the design of the PowerPC family of microprocessors as well as architecting and developing a massive distributed client/server design automation and simulation system involving thousands of high-end clustered servers. Frank received several patents for his work in the area of microprocessor design and distributed client/server computing. Frank holds a BSEE degree from Northeastern University and completed advanced studies at the University of Texas.

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