Spatial Master Data Management – What is it and Why Should I Care?

by Dennis Beck on July 8, 2015

About Master Data Management

Master Data Management (MDM) is an architectural approach to software systems that supports a consistent, common and uniform data management scheme across an enterprise. I like to describe it as a “single version of truth”, a term which can be a little easier to understand. Organizations that implement MDM commonly do it in the domain of customer management. Here is the problem they are trying to solve in that area:

  • Customer information exists in the accounting system
  • It also exists in the purchasing system
  • It may also be in the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system
  • A separate set of marketing databases may also contain customer information.

The existence of this duplicate data can cause the kinds of customer-relationship problems that many of us have experienced. We buy a product and realize that we continue to receive new offers for the same product, sometimes at more favorable terms. In more severe cases, organizations that have created duplicate accounts can generate billing and payment issues. All of this results in a less efficient business and less-than-satisfied customers.

Master Data Management can be used to address these kinds of problems. An MDM solution includes different software tools working in conjunction with the procedures and data governance standards necessary to manage this information as a single point of reference across the enterprise. Implementing Master Data Management is a non-trivial effort. It requires a well-conceived architecture and the enforcement of standards and data governance within the enterprise. Adding the spatial component introduces an additional level of complexity.

The Spatial Master Data Management Problem

As the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Computer Aided Design (CAD) has become more and more common, the need for implementing spatially enabled Master Data Management has become important to those organizations that manage large amounts of integrated geographic information. Organizations that stand to benefit from spatial MDM include utilities, telecommunications organizations and government entities. The problem, similar to the one described above, can best be illustrated by the workflow associated with asset management, which is common in utilities, public works and oil and gas, as noted in the diagram below.

Utility Asset Mgmt

During this early phase of the life cycle, asset information can be processed in numerous enterprise systems. It is typically designed in CAD, estimated in a work management system, delivered to the field in a mobile system and stored in a GIS as a spatial system of record. Accounting systems, asset management systems and a host of other applications utilize the same information over the duration of the life of the assets. As the information gets propagated across these systems it often gets duplicated. This creates islands of data that can generate major problems for those organizations that need to manage this mission-critical information.

The problems these organizations experience include duplicate data entry, data integrity issues and an overall lack of capability to use this important information to support advanced applications. Many organizations have tried to address these issues by rigorously storing all spatial information in their GIS databases. This has caused the GIS to become bloated with large amounts of extraneous data, extensive point-to-point interfaces and very little flexibility when upgrading their systems.

Organizations that Rely On Spatial Information Can Benefit from Master Data Management

Spatial Master Data Management can address these issues by providing a properly architected environment for managing the different sources of spatial and non-spatial information that must coexist in an enterprise. Organizations that invest in a spatially enabled MDM solution will typically realize:

  • Faster application deployment
  • Streamlined workflows
  • A reduction in custom applications and interfaces
  • Improved productivity
  • Overall improved financial performance

The next post will discuss the key components of a spatially enabled Master Data Management solution. In the meanwhile, you can find more information about what we are doing with MDM on the Spatial Business Systems website, www.spatialbiz.com/MDM

dbeck

Dennis F. Beck is President and CEO of Spatial Business Systems, Inc, responsible for overall company operations, corporate business development activities and executive consulting in the advanced use of geospatial technologies. Prior to forming Spatial Business Systems Mr. Beck was the Vice President of Global Business Development for GE Network Solutions. In this role Mr. Beck was responsible for managing acquisition activity and expanding the use of GE Smallworld technologies to government and transportation markets. Mr. Beck also oversaw the technical delivery of geospatial technologies to customers in the utility and telecommunications market segments. Prior to that, he was the GIS Program Manager at IBM Corporation, responsible for GIS product management activities for IBM's utility-based geospatial applications. Mr. Beck has also served as an Adjunct GIS professor at Marist College in New York State, USA. Mr. Beck is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineering and has served as the Chairman of the Oracle Spatial North American Special Interest Group. Mr. Beck has a BS in Engineering from Purdue University and a Master's Degree from the University of Texas at Austin and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Texas.

Dennis BeckSpatial Master Data Management – What is it and Why Should I Care?

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