What is Master Data?
Updated on July 12, 2021 | by Alex Smith
Before examining the question of “what is master data?” it may be beneficial to understand a few of the most common data types. Data tends to hold complex relationships with other forms of data. By touching on a few types of data that help to make up master data, we can gain insights into the definition and usage of master data through context.
Metadata and Master Data
This type of data is commonly referred to as “data about data.” This nickname is somewhat of an oversimplification but can serve as the foundation of understanding its more complex form. Metadata can tell you all about data without actually giving specific data. For example, when you navigate a Microsoft Word document without clicking on the document, you first see its metadata. You will read things like file size, creation date, and author. You will not read the actual contents of the document itself. Conversely, master data can tell you everything about specific data. In other words, master covers the specifics of meta.
Transactional Data and Master Data
Transactional data differs from master data in that it relates directly to worldly affairs—for example, ticket stubs, invoices, and sales. Transactional data are unit-level transactions. One way to visualize transactional data is by imagining purchasing a movie ticket. The physical action of buying a ticket creates transactional data regarding you and the movie theatre. You’ll see master data on the movie ticket, like the time of the showing and the seat you reserved. Essentially, master data describes transactional data.
As mentioned above, master data is related to many other data types because it encompasses or describes it. Master data is a data collection that ensures consistency across organizations. Today, many businesses have separate applications and systems, so implementing a master data management solution can help ensure unity across each platform. A physical clothing store with a CRM or POS system, an online store, and a rewards app all demonstrate a business model that benefits from master data management.
Customers provide their name, phone number, and email address when purchasing items online to obtain reward point eligibility. This input creates a user profile that integrates into the master database. The next time the customer checks out in the physical store, the cashier may ask for their phone number to determine if they have signed up for reward points. The customer has never used the cashier’s POS system, but the POS recognizes and provides their information when the cashier enters the customer’s phone number.
This consistency has been made possible because both the POS and the store’s website pull mutually agreed upon and shared information from its master data. Suppose the customer then downloads the store’s app that allows them to track their reward points. In that case, all they need to do is enter their phone number, and the master database will recognize them from their in-store and on-site purchases to fill in the rest.
The data model mentioned above about the customer with the rewards account is an example of one of the most common types of master data. Customer data can include more than just basic information like name, email address, or purchase quantity. More examples of customer data include demographics, like gender or frequented store location. Businesses may use customer data to find relationships between customers. A company may then utilize this customer data to target its audience in marketing efforts better. Employee data is similar to customer data and another cohort of master data.
Additional examples of master data include product data, reference data, and analytical data. Some software companies can offer valuable resources that can help you or your company better understand master data and its effect on company operation efficiency. You may consider visiting TIBCO’s site for more in-depth information regarding master data, including on-demand webinars.