Master data represents the business objects which are agreed on and shared across the enterprise. Commonly confused with Reference Data – information that is key to the operation of a business – it also can cover transactional, unstructured, analytical, hierarchical and meta data. It is the primary focus of the Information Technology (IT) discipline of Master Data Management (MDM).
While master data is often non-transactional in nature, it is not limited to non-transactional data, and often supports transactional processes and operations. For example, Master data may be about: customers, products, employees, materials, suppliers, and vendors, and it may also cover: sales, documents and aggregated sales.
Types of master data
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 common business data used across multiple systems, applications, and/or processes.
Enterprise Master Data is the single source of common 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 common 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.
Master Data Management
Curating and managing master data is key to ensuring master data quality. Analysis and reporting is greatly dependent on the quality of an organization's master data. Master data may either be stored in a central repository, sourced from one or more systems, or referenced centrally using an index. However, when it is used by several functional groups it may be distributed and redundantly stored in different applications across an organization and this copy data may be inconsistent (and if so, inaccurate). Thus Master Data should have an agreed-upon view that is shared across the organization. Care should be taken to properly version Master Data, if the need arises to modify it, to avoid issues with distributed copies.
- "ENTERPRISE MASTER DATA ARCHITECTURE: DESIGN DECISIONS AND OPTIONS", Boris Otto & Alexander Schmidt, Institute of Information Management, University of St. Gallen
- "What Is Master Data?", Roger Wolter and Kirk Haselden, Microsoft Corporation, "The What, Why, and How of Master Data Management", November 2006
- "The Elephant in the Room – Master Data and Application Data", Andrew White, Gartner, 14 January 2014