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01 Dec 2013

MDM and SOA: Be Warned!

Introduction
"You will waste your investment in SOA unless you have enterprise information that SOA can exploit." – Gartner

This quote from Gartner, Inc. describes the relationship between service-oriented architecture (SOA) and master data management (MDM) very vividly. An essential principle behind SOA is the reuse of components and the flexibility of using these components to support new functionalities or processes. MDM provides universal components (or services) for consistent data maintenance and distribution. Here the architecture concepts and principles of SOA run into MDM.

This article begins by giving a brief motive for using MDM and a conceptualization. It will then go on to present typical variants for possible MDM architecture concepts, and illustrate the interplay of MDM and SOA with reference to the architecture pattern.

Motive
Increasing pressure from competition means that business models and underlying business processes have to be adapted in ever shorter cycles. At the same time, globalization and the digital networking of companies are making interaction with external business partners even more complex. Securely exchanging high-quality data is crucial for increasing efficiency in processes. This is where the central issue, the quality of information, and therefore its security in transactions, evaluations, and reports, all stem from. Once a company is no longer in a position to provide a consistent and consolidated view of its central business objects, implementing a company-wide policy for master data management becomes a good idea.

Unfortunately, in many companies today it is common for IT systems to be unable to keep up with fast changes in organization, business, and even technology. As a result, on the companies' side, a vast, ever-growing web of IT systems with known integration problems comes into being. This heterogeneity accounts for a variety of challenges when using master data that include differences in:
  • data structures and formats in master data
  • specifications and understanding of the master data values in the participating organizational units
  • validations and plausibilities (data quality)
  • processes and responsibilities concerning data sovereignty (data governance)
  • business processes with partially conflicting functionalities in the application systems
  • organizational units that have different systems for master data maintenance.

The result of these problems is inconsistent information about underlying business objects, the master data. As we have already mentioned, data is essential input for all processes. If this source of information runs dry or costs for the interaction based on the data become too high, the value of the information becomes questionable and the company becomes faced with serious concerns. MDM on the business side and the SOA approach on the IT side can counteract this problem together.

BARC's analysts assert: "Over half of all IT experts believe data quality … to be the biggest challenge". BARC goes on to say that "75 % of participants think master data management is the most important trend for their company" [REF-1].

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