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I will admit that sometimes during meetings, my mind will wander off on a tangent.  This happened to me recently at a meeting with a customer where we were discussing master data management.  We had the traditional hub and spoke diagram up on the whiteboard, and for some silly reason the phrase “one ring to rule them all” popped into my mind.  I started imagining SAP NetWeaver MDM in the center as the ring, and all of the customer’s applications as different groups:  one as the Elves, one as the Hobbitts, one as the Dwarves….   Well, you get the idea.

As we continued the discussions, it became apparent that the customer’s ideas of master data management differed greatly from my own.  The basic issue from my perspective is that the customer had no plans to develop a central management strategy.  This customer had multiple applications in the organization for entering data about their customers, and they were planning to continue that.  As they saw it, each application would update the central data repository anytime anyone who used any of the spoke applications to update the spoke’s customer data.  Basically, they planned to allow any user in the organization to update the master data record without having any type of review of the information for accuracy or quality.  This is not how SAP NetWeaver MDM, or any other MDM solution, is intended to work.

The fact is that SAP NetWeaver MDM SHOULD be the one ring to rule them all.  If you are not planning on going through all three steps of the master data process, consolidation, harmonization, and central management, then you are probably better off just using good old traditional EAI to link the separate applications.  SAP NetWeaver MDM is a tool.  Master Data Management is an organizational strategy for improving the quality of the data within the enterprise.  To use the tool without the strategy is greatly reduce the potential benefit of the tool.

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