Master Data Management (MDM) comprises a set of processes and tools that consistently defines and manages the non-transactional data entities of an organisation (which may include reference data).

MDM has the objective of providing processes for collecting, aggregating, matching, consolidating, quality-assuring, persisting and distributing such data throughout an organisation to ensure consistency and control in the ongoing maintenance and application use of this information.

The term recalls the concept of a master file from an earlier computing era. MDM is similar to, and some would say the same as, virtual or federated database management. We spoke to Bertrand Diard, co-founder and CEO of Talend, to find out more.

Give us a background on what Talend does

Talend is a leading provider of open source integration software. We offer a wide range of middleware solutions addressing the needs of data management and application integration for businesses of all sizes including Virgin Mobile, Deutsche Post, Sony and Land Registry.

Talend began by providing an alternative to the traditional proprietary data management tools and we have seen our market coverage grow extensively in a short number of years. This growth culminated in 2010 with the acquisition of Sopera, the open source application integration software developers. Our full portfolio now includes data integration, data quality, Master Data Management (MDM) and application integration, placing us as the recognised market leader in open source integration solutions.

So, what’s your take on MDM?

MDM is a discipline, and the associated tools, that create a consolidated accurate view of enterprise data. MDM comprises a set of processes and tools that defines and manages enterprise data to ensure accuracy, consistency and control across organisation lines. A complete and flexible MDM solution should provide six basic functions with data: Profiling, Modelling, Integration, Cleansing, Governance and Master.

What types of organisations need to implement this level of data management?

MDM tools should be implemented by any organisation that is currently operating with numerous operating systems, be they an SMB or large enterprise. MDM provides organisations with the capability to streamline their processes and meet strategic objectives. Data is the most valuable asset to any organisation so it is key that the data’s potential is maximised through accuracy.

Can you tell us some of the benefits of MDM?

There are a number of benefits that can be realised with the successful implementation of quality MDM. The general benefits range from improved business performance and increased business agility to increasing revenue and lowering IT and business costs.

If you drill down from these benefits and investigate the granular improvements that contribute to these wider benefits then what MDM provides becomes more evident to business managers. For any organisation that places maximum value in its data, sound MDM creates improved data quality whilst also increasing the ease of searching through data. It is important to understand that data governance and data quality are components of MDM, not separate models.

Do you see the need for MDM increasing over the next year and why?

There will be without a doubt an increased need for MDM over the next 12 months, which I believe will stem from the fact that organisations that have already begun implementing MDM programmes are realising that it provides them with a competitive advantage.

Beyond the benefits that MDM can bring to a company, such as improved efficiency and reduced costs, businesses that are not looking to put MDM into place will soon realise that they will be losing ground on their rivals who are recognising improved performance with quicker business processes.

When looking for a suitable MDM tool, what should people look out for?

A key myth that surrounds MDM is that in order to make it successful to an organisation it requires an actualising of better technology. Successful MDM is less about technology and more about the understanding of how business processes work. One key feature for MDM is that it does not need to be rolled out across an organisation in one fell swoop.

Multi-domain MDM is now technically feasible beyond customer and product data, although there is still an issue surrounding licensing costs. However there is no need to try and master all of your data immediately. No two MDM projects will be the same so a sensible iterative approach to implementation will provide users with tailored MDM to suit individual needs.

How does Talend differ to its competitors in MDM?

Built on open standards, and for complete foundation for data integration, Talend MDM interacts with virtually any system, database, file or application in real time or batch. It includes a data profiling tool that allows you to understand and analyse your data and then extends this with data quality tools that validate, augment and resolve duplicates.

Also provided are data stewardship tools that help teams efficiently collaborate on master data and meet data governance requirements. Additionally, Talend’s unique, flexible Active Data Model allows organisations to quickly model and master any data domain, not just customers or products, and systematically improves access and reliability across enterprise systems.

What advice would you give to someone not yet convinced about MDM?

I can assume that those who are not yet converted to the gospel of MDM will view my opinions as vendor bias so if they still need convincing as to why they need MDM in their business I think Gartner said it best at their MDM 2011 summit: “MDM is now seen as an essential prerequisite for creating and running a well-functioning organisation”.