Bad data is lost money. While enterprises invest significant amounts of money into digital technologies including analytics, at the heart is a very fundamental principle – dad master data always leads to poor information and as a result, any planning or decision made based on such information is very circumspect. Assessing the quality of master data is the foundation of understanding the overall data quality in any enterprise. Money and effort spent on creating and maintaining clean and high quality data always generates significant returns in the long run. The cost of poor data manifests itself in the form of shipment returns, poor customer satisfaction, incorrect billings, high credit risk, loss of trust and has an impact on the business performance.
Together with clean and accurate data, enterprises will also need to maintain audit trails around when a certain master data was edited, created or extended and the corresponding documents on the basis of which such changes were done. Typically enterprises will need to open multiple applications or folders before which they can have access to all this information. Supporting documents will typically be stored in emails or shared folders, while the data itself is accessed from the related master data application or ERP. If the sales team needs to create a new customer master in order to ensure an urgent sell during say a month end, the central team struggles to figure of if there is already a duplicate record or if this needs to be created afresh. Error rates are very high when the process is run manually.
Good practices in this field include having an application that can automatically validate new or edit requests in master data records with existing records in transactional applications, have the capability to manage workflows and mobile approvals based on the enterprise policy and attach supporting documents or records while automatically creating, changing or extending a master data record. In a shared service environment, this becomes all the more crucial since process owners would ideally like to focus on value added activities and leave the manual, labor intensive tasks to technology tools. With web forms, request for creation or change can be easily sent together with supporting documents. With automated workflows and approvals which are mobile enabled, also tying into pre-defined or role based approvers, the process gets far more agile and well governed. Email notifications are automatically sent to approvers and process workers informing the status or any action pending. Such tools have also strong track audit trails about who made changes and when and what documents were produced as supporting information. Chances of frauds are far lesser or eliminated as a result. Through a de-duplication check, process owners can easily track if two different records are in fact one and the same before making any changes.
Master data to an enterprise is equivalent to an enterprise’s central nervous system. It is the backbone of all enterprise information and therefore needs to be maintained in really good health. A consistent understanding of the way master data is maintained, kept clean and accurate is absolutely imperative for enterprise success. It not only drives regulatory compliance but also makes the enterprise more agile and responsive to business needs. It is the onus on every line of business teams to understand the seriousness and take ownership of this initiative.