Unified Customer MDM and Supplier MDM

When blueprinting a Master Data Management (MDM) solution one aspect is if – or in what degree – you should unify customer MDM and supplier MDM.

In theory, you should unify the concept for these two master domains in some degree. The reasons are:

  • There is always an overlap of the real-world entities that has both a customer and a supplier role to your organization. The overlap is often bigger than you think not at least if you include the overlap of company family trees that have members in one of these roles.
  • The basic master data for these master data domains are the same: Identification numbers, names, addresses, means of communication and more.
  • The third-party enrichment opportunities are the same. The most predominant possibilities are integration with business directories (as Dun & Bradstreet and national registries) and address validation (as Loqate and national postal services).

In practice, the problem is that the business case for customer MDM and supplier MDM may not be realized at the same time. So, one domain will typically be implemented before the other depending on your organization’s business model.

Solution Considerations

Most MDM solutions must coexist with an – or several – ERP solutions. Many popular enterprise grade ERP solutions have adapted the business partner view with a common data model for basic customer and supplier data. This is the case with SAP S/4HANA and for example the address book in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Oracle JD Edwards.

MDM solutions themselves does also provide for a common structure. If you model one domain before the other, it is imperative that you consider all business partner roles in that model.

Data Governance Considerations

A data governance framework may typically be rolled out one master data domain at the time or in parallel. It is here essential that the data policies, data standards and business glossary for basic customer master data and basic supplier master data is coordinated.

Business Case Considerations

The business case for customer MDM will be stronger if the joint advantages with supplier MDM is incorporated – and vice versa.

This includes improvement in customer/supplier engagement and the derived supply/value chain effectiveness, cost sharing of third-party data enrichment service expenses and shared gains in risk assessment.  

Available Solutions

Check the list of innovative solutions in the MDM space here.

Direct Customers vs Indirect Customers

When working with Master Data Management (MDM) for the customer master data domain one of the core aspects to be aware of is the union, intersection and difference between direct customers and indirect customers.

Direct customers are basically those customers that your organization invoice.

Indirect customers are those customers that buy your organizations products and services from a reseller (or marketplace). In that case the reseller is a direct customer to your organization.

The stretch from your organization via a reseller organization to a consumer is referred to as Business-to-Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C). This topic is told about in the post B2B2C in Data Management. If the end user of the product or service is another organization the stretch is referred to as Business-to-Business-to-Business (B2B2B).

The short stretch from your organization to a consumer is referred to as Direct-to-Consumer (D2C).

It does happen, that someone is both a direct customer and an indirect customer either over time and/or over various business scenarios.

IT Systems Involved

If we look at the typical IT systems involved here direct customers are managed in an ERP system where the invoicing takes place as part of the order-to-cash (O2C) main business process. Products and services sold through resellers are part of an order-to-cash process where the reseller place an order to you when their stock is low and pays you according to the contract between them and you. In ERP lingo, someone who pays you has an account receivable.

Typically, you will also handle the relationship and engagement with a direct customer in a CRM system. However, there are often direct customers where the relationship is purely administrative with no one from the salesforce involved. Therefore, these kinds of customers are sometimes not in the CRM system. They are purely an account receivable.

More and more organizations want to have a relationship with and engage with the end customer. Therefore, these indirect customers are managed in the CRM system as well typically where the salesforce is involved and increasingly also where digital sales services are applied. However, most often there will be some indirect customers not encompassed by the CRM system.

The Role of Master Data Management (MDM) in the context of customer master data is to be the single source for all customer data. So, MDM holds the union of customer master data from the ERP world and the CRM world.

An MDM platform also has the capability of encompassing other sources both internal ones and external ones. When utilized optimally, an MDM platform will be able to paint a picture of the entire sell-side space where your direct customers and indirect customers are.

Business Opportunities

Having this picture is of course only interesting if you can use it to obtain business value. Some of the opportunities are:

  • More targeted product and service development by having more insight into the whole sell-side space leading to growth advancements
  • Optimized orchestration of supply chain activities by having complete insight into the whole sell-side space and thereby fostering cost savings
  • Improved ability to analyse the consequences of market change and changes in the economic environment in geographies and industries covered leading to better risk management.

This list has a presentation of some of the most innovative MDM and adjacent solutions for getting a combined view of your direct customers and indirect customers. Check out the list here.

Interenterprise MDM and Data Quality Management

When working with Data Quality Management (DQM) within Master Data Management (MDM) there are three kinds of data to consider:

1st-party data is the data that is born and managed internally within the enterprise. This data has traditionally been in focus of data quality methodologies and tools with the aim of ensuring that data is fit for the purpose of use and correctly reflects the real-world entity that the data is describing.  

3rd-party data is data sourced from external providers who offers a set of data that can be utilized by many enterprises. Examples a location directories, business directories as the Dun & Bradtstreet Worldbase and public national directories and product data pools as for example the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).

Enriching 1st-party data with 3rd-party is a mean to ensure namely better data completeness, better data consistency, and better data uniqueness.

2nd-party data is data sourced directly from a business partner. Examples are supplier self-registration, customer self-registration and inbound product data syndication. Exchange of this data is also called interenterprise data sharing.

The advantage of using 2nd-party in a data quality perspective is that you are closer to the source, which all things equal will mean that data better and more accurately reflects the real-world entity that the data is describing.

In addition to that, you will also, compared to 3rd-party data, have the opportunity to operate with data that exactly fits your operating model and make you unique compared to your competitors.

Finally, 2nd-party data obtained through interenterprise data sharing, will reduce the costs of capturing data compared to 1st-party data, where else the ever-increasing demand for more elaborate high-quality data in the age of digital transformation will overwhelm your organization.    

The Balancing Act

Getting the most optimal data quality with the least effort is about balancing the use of internal and external data, where you can exploit interenterprise data sharing via interenterprise MDM through combining 2nd-party and 3rd-party data in the way that makes most sense for your organization.

Interenterprise MDM is an emerging discipline in the data management world and one of the topics you can find on the Resource List at this site.

What is MDM? – and the Adjacent Disciplines?

This site is list of solutions for MDM and the disciplines adjacent to MDM. As always, it is good to have a definition of what we are talking about. So, here are some definitions of MDM and an Introduction to 9 adjacent disciplines:

Def MDM

MDM: Master Data Management can be defined as a comprehensive method of enabling an enterprise to link all of its critical data to a common point of reference. When properly done, MDM improves data quality, while streamlining data sharing across personnel and departments. In addition, MDM can facilitate computing in multiple system architectures, platforms and applications. You can find the source of this definition and 3 other – somewhat similar – definitions in the post 4 MDM Definitions: Which One is the Best?

The most addressed master data domains are parties encompassing customer, supplier and employee roles, things as products and assets as well as location.

Def PIM

PIM: Product Information Management is a discipline that overlaps MDM. In PIM you focus on product master data and a long tail of specific product information – often called attributes – that is needed for a given classification of products.

Furthermore, PIM deals with how products are related as for example accessories, replacements and spare parts as well as the cross-sell and up-sell opportunities there are between products.

PIM also handles how products have digital assets attached.

This data is used in omni-channel scenarios to ensure that the products you sell are presented with consistent, complete and accurate data. Learn more in the post Five Product Information Management Core Aspects.

Def DAM

DAM: Digital Asset Management is about handling extended features of digital assets often related to master data and especially product information. The digital assets can be photos of people and places, product images, line drawings, certificates, brochures, videos and much more.

Within DAM you are able to apply tags to digital assets, you can convert between the various file formats and you can keep track of the different format variants – like sizes – of a digital asset.

You can learn more about how these first 3 mentioned TLAs are connected in the post How MDM, PIM and DAM Stick Together.

Def DQM

DQM: Data Quality Management is dealing with assessing and improving the quality of data in order to make your business more competitive. It is about making data fit for the intended (multiple) purpose(s) of use which most often is best to achieved by real-world alignment. It is about people, processes and technology. When it comes to technology there are different implementations as told in the post DQM Tools In and Around MDM Tools.

The most used technologies in data quality management are data profiling, that measures what the data stored looks like, and data matching, that links data records that do not have the same values, but describes the same real world entity.

Def RDM

RDM: Reference Data Management encompass those typically smaller lists of data records that are referenced by master data and transaction data. These lists do not change often. They tend to be externally defined but can also be internally defined within each organization.

Examples of reference data are hierarchies of location references as countries, states/provinces and postal codes, different industry code systems and how they map and the many product classification systems to choose from.

Learn more in the post What is Reference Data Management (RDM)?

Def CDI

CDI: Customer Data Integration is considered as the predecessor to MDM, as the first MDMish solutions focused on federating customer master data handled in multiple applications across the IT landscape within an enterprise.

The most addressed sources with customer master data are CRM applications and ERP applications, however most enterprises have several of other applications where customer master data are captured.

You may ask: What Happened to CDI?

Def CDP

CDP: Customer Data Platform is an emerging kind of solution that provides a centralized registry of all data related to parties regarded as (prospective) customers at an enterprise.

In that way CDP goes far beyond customer master data by encompassing traditional transaction data related to customers and the emerging big data sources too.

Right now, we see such solutions coming both from MDM solution vendors and CRM vendors as reported in the post CDP: Is that part of CRM or MDM?

Def ADM

ADM: Application Data Management is about not just master data, but all critical data that is somehow shared between personel and departments. In that sense MDM covers all master within an organization and ADM covers all (critical) data in a given application and the intersection is looking at master data in a given application.

ADM is an emerging term and we still do not have a well-defined market – if there ever will be one – as examined in the post Who are the ADM Solution Providers?

Def PXM

PXM: Product eXperience Management is another emerging term that describes a trend to positioning PIM solutions away from the MDM flavour and more towards digital experience / customer experience themes.

In PXM the focus is on personalization of product information, Search Engine Optimization and exploiting Artificial Intelligence (AI) in those quests.

Read more about it in the post What is PxM?

Def PDS

PDS: Product Data Syndication connects MDM, PIM (and other) solutions at each trading partner with each other within business ecosystems. Product data syndication is often the first wave of encompassing interenterprise data sharing. You can get the details in the post What is Product Data Syndication (PDS)?

Duplicates vs Nodes in MDM Hierarchies

Identification of duplicate records is a core capability in both Data Quality Management (DQM) and in Master Data Management (MDM).

When you inspect records identified as duplicate candidates, you will often have to decide if they describe the same real-world entity or if they describe two real-world entities belonging to the same hierarchy.

Instead of throwing away the latter result, this link can be stored in the MDM hub as well as a relation in a hierarchy (or graph) and thus support a broader range of operational and analytic purposes.

Individual Persons and Households

In business-to-consumer (B2C) scenarios a key challenge is to have 360 degree view of private customers either as individual persons or a household with a shared economy.

Here you must be able to distinguish between the individual person, the household and people who just happen to live at the same postal address. The location hierarchy plays a role in solving this case. This quest includes having precise addresses when identifying units in large buildings and knowing the kind of building. The probability of two John Smith records being the same person differs if it is a single-family house address or the address of a nursing home.

Companies / Organizations in Company Family Trees

In business-to-business (B2B) scenarios a key challenge is to have 360 degree view of these customers. Similar 360 scenarios exist with suppliers and other business partners.

Organizations can belong to a company family tree. A basic representation for example used in the Dun & Bradstreet Worldbase is having branches at a postal address. These branches belong a legal entity with a headquarter at a given postal address, where there may be other individual branches too. Each legal entity in an enterprise may have a national ultimate mother. In multinational enterprises, there is a global ultimate mother. Public organizations have similar often very complex trees.

Products by Variant and Sourcing

Products are also formed in hierarchies. The challenge is to identify if a given product record points to a certain level in the bottom part of a given product hierarchy. Products can have variants in size, colour and more. A product can be packed in different ways. The most prominent product identifier is the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) which occur in various representations as for example the Universal Product Code (UPC) popular in North America and European (now International) Article Number (EAN) popular in Europe. These identifiers are applied by each producer (and in some cases distributor) at the product packing variant level.

Another uniqueness issue for products is around what is called multi-sourcing, being that the same product from the same original manufacturer can be sourced through more than one supplier each with their pricing, discount model, terms of delivery and terms of payment.

Solutions Available

When looking for a solution to support you in this conundrum the best fit for you may be a best-of-breed Data Quality Management (DQM) tool and/or a capable Master Data Management (MDM) platform.

This Disruptive MDM / PIM /DQM List has the most innovative candidates here.