Over just a couple of short years, every MDM product in the universe has become multi-domain, the enterprise software edition of Extreme Makeover. Let’s not even get into data governance…

Why is multi-domain important? Because in the beginning of MDM, companies started with a single domain — in almost all cases either customer master or product master. As such, they chose MDM software based on specific requirements for customer or product data. When the first domain is done, companies move to the next domain, and find themselves facing an unappetizing choice. They either have to use the existing software — which is not well suited for the second data domain — or support another platform. So the argument for multi-domain is cost containment. By standardizing on one multi-domain MDM platform, companies can save on license cost and support cost.

However, missing in this discussion is a huge prize: by having all domains of master data on a single platform, it becomes possible to achieve integrated master data.

If you can associate employees and organization master data with financial general ledgers, you’d be able to do sophisticated cost allocation. You can manage market segments, which are typically combinations of organization, product and customer. Parts and components can be associated with the supplier master. You can associate all location oriented domains (customer, supplier, HR) to a common geography hierarchy. Physician can be associated with clinics, products, and therapeutic Areas.

One of my favorite graphics in data management is Teradata’s data and business value pyramid, which show the value data integration. When two overlapping areas of data are integrated, a whole new set of business value are created in terms of questions answered and business processes enabled. The same concept applies to master data.

Finally, if you have integrated master data, you’d be doing a big favor for data warehousing, BI and analytics. Integrating master data is the single biggest challenge when building data warehouses.

When evaluating MDM technology, it is not enough that a vendor can claim multi-domain. Look for the capability to interelate different domains of master data and their hierarchies. In the real world, these relationships can be complex; so look for sophisticated modeling capabilities that would allow you to manage these relationships.