Master data is information that is key to the operation of a business. It is the primary focus of the Information Technology (IT) discipline of Master Data Management (MDM), and can include reference data. This key business information may include data about customers, products, employees, materials, suppliers, and vendors. While it is often non-transactional in nature, it is not limited to non-transactional data, and often supports transactional processes and operations. For example, analysis and reporting is greatly dependent on an organization's master data. Because master data may not be stored and referenced centrally, but is often used by several functional groups and stored in different data systems across an organization, master data may be duplicated and inconsistent (and if so, inaccurate).
Thus Master Data is that persistent, non-transactional data that defines a business entity for which there is, or should be, an agreed-upon view across the organization. Care should be taken to properly version Master Data if the need arises to modify it. The versioning of Master Data can be an issue.
Master Data Defined
Reference Data is the set of permissible values to be used by other (master or transaction) data fields. Reference data normally changes slowly, reflecting changes in the modes of operation of the business, rather than changing in the normal course of business.
Master Data is a single source of basic business data used across multiple systems, applications, and/or processes.
Enterprise Master Data is the single source of basic business data used across all systems, applications, and processes for an entire enterprise (all departments, divisions, companies, and countries).
Market Master Data is the single source of basic business data for an entire marketplace. Market master data is used among enterprises within the value chain. An example of Market Master Data is the UPC (Universal Product Code) found on consumer products.
Market Master Data is compatible with enterprise-specific and domain-specific systems, compliant with or linked to industry standards, and incorporated within market research analytics. Market master data also facilitates integration of multiple data sources and literally puts everyone in the market on the same page.
Excerpted from Master Data Management for Media: A Call to Action for Business Leaders in Marketing, Advertising, and the Media, a Microsoft White Paper by Scott Taylor and Robin Laylin, January 2010
Master data and Master reference data
Master data is also called Master reference data. This is to avoid confusion with the usage of the term Master data for original data, like an original recording (see also: Master Tape). Master data is nothing but unique data, i.e., there are no duplicate values.
Material Master Data is a specific data set holding structured information about spare parts, raw materials and products within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. The data is held centrally and used across organisations.
Vendor Master refers to the centralised location of information pertinent to the Vendor. Often this will include the Legal entity name, Tax identification and contact information.