Master Data Specialist – interview with Kunal Doerbali
Every organization works with data. But as companies grow, processes become more complex. The amount of data increases and more and more organizations face the challenge: how do I organize my business information?
Kunal Doerbali, Master Data Specialist at Altares Dun & Bradstreet, advises companies on how they can uncover the maze of data and streamline crucial business processes through Master Data Management. With years of experience in IT, Supply Chain Management, Master Data Management, Sales, E-business and warehouse management, he has insights into the solutions and structures that are needed to get more out of your data and ultimately increase your ROI.
Olbico sat down with Kunal to inquire about his vision on Master Data Management.
Why do you think Master Data Management has taken such a flight?
“Every department has a number of issues. Those problems become greater as they disrupt the processes in your business operations and that often involves Master Data.
Take for example an SME business with a million turnover per year with dirty data. A sales manager goes to visit his customer. He wants to have a simple sales report to prepare the visit, but it appears so that his client has four accounts in CRM. These accounts are created under different names and each account has its own revenue and contracts. In addition, the customer is part of a larger holding and all four accounts together account for half of the turnover. The sales manager can make a mistake by making a wrong estimate of the sales value of that customer. For example, he doesn’t offer the customer a decent pricing proposal, which means that there is the risk that the relationship will be disrupted and you ultimately lose a customer and turnover.
In the meantime, the financial department is also bothered by dirty data. For example invoicing is error-prone, because the company name or other important information is incorrectly entered into the system and the relationship between these fields is unknown. This costs an organization time and money and it affects multiple processes within your business. Master Data plays such a crucial role that proper and complete decision-making cannot take place without accurate or complete data. It is the foundation to build on.”
“Every department has a number of issues. Those issues become bigger as they disrupt the processes in your business. Master Data plays such a crucial role that without accurate or complete data proper decision-making cannot take place. It is the foundation to build on.”
What kind of situations do you encounter in your daily advisory practice related to master data?
“There are organizations that have been around for so long that they use hundreds of systems. These companies are big players in the world. Some systems are so outdated that they still run on AS400. You simply cannot add new fields, because no developer supports the system anymore. If you just started tinkering with the fields of Master Data, the house of cards would collapse completely. Some people call that trying to repair an airplane while it is still in the air.
I have seen some extreme examples. There was this financial institution, where onboarding a customer costs as much as 16,000 euros. This is due to the many checks that each department must comply with that cost a lot of time and money. Like the credit checks, compliance checks, research costs, personnel costs, invoicing or identity checks. In the meantime, all kinds of parties are involved that have slightly different data: suppliers, ministries of foreign companies, collection agencies, courts, etcetera.
That immediately outlines the need to start with the basics, so with your Master Data. All systems should have one truth.”
“I have seen some extreme examples. There was this financial institution, where onboarding a customer costs as much as 16,000 euros.. That is because of the many checks that each department has to comply with that cost a lot of time and money. That immediately outlines the need to start with the basics, so with your master data, having one truth in all your systems.”
Being such a company, should you even continue working this way?
“The question is whether such an organization should still invest in linking and improving that existing structure, or if it’s better to start all over again, from scratch. Companies that dare to take risks, really have ‘guts’, because they understand the effect on the long term. But setting up your processes for Master Data Management, from data governance and ownership to the software architecture, can take years. The advantage is that you are in control and can make a huge efficiency improvement. The disadvantage is that this often runs alongside your existing processes in order not to lose sales and by that time your systems may already be outdated. Working agile can of course partly solve this.”
“Companies that really dare to take a risk and have guts often start completely from scratch.”
What is involved in the process of Master Data Management?
“Organizations that have started in the last couple of years have a more strategic idea on how to use and organize Master Data.
They start with the basics: the definition of which information fields they will or won’t use. For example, consumers, companies, suppliers, product information. Which departments need what kind of information, and how that data overlaps. Then what software or systems they need to manage that, and how they can be integrated. Varying from an ERP, CRM, PIM, CMS or for example an HR system. In this way, they prevent storing too much information that is not being used or data that quickly becomes obsolete. Plus that they can get even more information from their systems, or enrich more easily with new solutions.
How that architecture and processes should be set up, differs per company. It required a real tailored approach. It strongly depends on the complexity of your processes, the dependence on other parties and the technical feasibility.
To use an example of that complexity, think of Zalando. A product or article in their webshop has hundreds of fields for the descriptions and categories that a customer can subsequently filter and search for. And if you sell Adidas or Nike through such a webshop, each brand will also deliver different fields. For example, when a product is yellow, it can be ocher yellow or golden yellow. Do they count as one color or do all those different colors have their own field? The trick is to streamline that through Master Data Management. Such a thing can never be entered without automation.
The realization that Master Data Management does not pay for itself immediately is also an important insight. Having perfect data produces more indirect results. After all, it’s about how you organize your business efficiently and it takes time before you reap the benefits. You have to investigate how different departments use data and what they need for their KPIs.”
“How you design your software architecture for Master Data Management requires a tailored approach. It depends on the complexity of your processes, dependencies on other parties and the technical feasibility. “
What role can a Master Data Manager play in tackling those issues?
“Companies that think they can solve all the aforementioned pain points, just by hiring a Master Data Manager, will be disappointed.
In my view, the Master Data Manager is never the owner of Master Data. Master Data flows through your entire organization. C-level management must understand its importance on the long term and must take ownership and be in full support. To succeed in Master Data Management, it should be a direct derivative of the vision and long-term strategy of your company.
Having said that, the role of a Master Data Manager is very relevant and valuable. He/she can visualize the requirements that the Master Data must meet. A finance manager often only sees the pain of the department’s own challenges, while the Master Data Manager has to map data from the entire organization.
The Master Data conducts conversations with all data owners in the organization to get to the core of what is needed to make better decisions and visualize how much data entry costs, or precisely what the ROI is when investing in better solutions. Instead of plastering errors and defects of existing systems, a structural solution is being sought and the Master Data Manager helps to constantly monitor and improve the quality of your data.”
The Master Data Manager has strategic insight on how to optimize Master Data. In short: a helicopter view of data in your organization. Ultimately, the Master Data Manager will only work operationally and in a facilitating capacity, but ultimately, it is necessary to have C-level managers decide to make those investments.”
“Data is too important to put in the hands of one person, the Master Data Manager. You need buy-in at C-Level and to succeed in Master Data Management, it should be a direct derivative of the vision and long-term strategy of your company.”
If someone asks you the question: why do I actually need Master Data Management? What do you say?
“Actually, the most important question to ask yourself is: are processes disrupted because Master Data is incorrect or incomplete in my organization? If the answer is yes, then you actually have a Master Data Management issue.
It is important that you learn to recognize those signals in time. The answer to how to solve that problem is never the same and sometimes you need a lot of patience to find the right approach. But in all cases, Master Data Management delivers enormous structural improvements and added value for all pivotal functions in your organization. In this digital age, you cannot live without Master Data Management. “