Mastering Your Master Data
"The Master Piece" (January 2008) is good, as far as it goes, but most master data management (MDM) projects are so fatally flawed by the time that they get to the discussions of data quality and governance as to be a waste of money, although they may not have realized it yet.
When the discussion hits the data quality/management point, IT often thinks, "The business can't come to an agreement on the [product/customer/brand list]." IT considers this a business problem and pushes for business decisions. At this point, the project folds (probably the best case), the data dictionary from an existing system is chosen to be the "master data," or one business unit succeeds in beating down the others. The latter two options allow the project to save face, but at the expense of not actually accomplishing MDM.
MDM is the nerve center for the flow of information throughout the enterprise as well as to partners and customers. It must support all significant information-management and -control processes, as well as decision-making from all functional areas of the enterprise. The implication of this is that the requirements must embody a deep, business-level understanding of the cross-functional development, use, and transmission of information (not data) as part of an enterprise business architecture -- and this needs to be described in a way that is actionable at an IT level. The business generally can't give you a comprehensive cross-functional view, and almost certainly will fail in describing the requirements in an actionable manner.
IT departments that are just emerging from the pipe-and-box model may well find themselves out of their league trying to implement MDM. Better-developed IT departments need to step up to become a real part of the business, destroying the IT/business divide, and staff themselves accordingly with people who understand not just data, but business information.
Eagles Recover a Fumble
Please note: In the Insight article, "CRM Scores for Sports Franchises" (October 2007), the Philadelphia Eagles ended their relationship with Epic Cycle last season. In addition, site traffic did not increase 100 percent with the redesign. However, the site did see a traffic increase of 100-plus percent during the team's Super Bowl appearance.
Director, Interactive Services
Shut Your Big Blog
I was a Quixtar Distributor. While I'm not part of the lawsuit ("Power to the People," December 2007), I have posted many things about the company. Quixtar is trying to silence us by suing anonymous bloggers and not saying who they are -- that way, everyone thinks they are next. (The people affected by that lawsuit were notified by the respective companies, and I am not one of them.)
The bottom line is that the distributors wanted lower prices -- prices comparable with Wal-Mart's. Quixtar refused to lower its prices, saying that it couldn't. However, in the U.K., Quixtar did lower its prices -- a lot. That's the number-one thing that everyone is complaining about. Quixtar has inflated the prices, and yet we can't get out to shop somewhere else -- there is a six-month rule that is holding us hostage. Oh, and there's a two-year rule that says that we can't "solicit" people in our old business even if we find a better opportunity. Quixtar is saying that we are its property, and I am not allowed to bring my friends, in-laws, brother, sister, etc., with me for another opportunity that is more in line with the market. I can't talk to my sister for two years according to its rules! This is another area that the bloggers are concerned about.
SSG Howard A. Crosby Jr.
Command Chaplain's Operations NCO
HQ USCENTCOM / CCCH
Regarding Marshall Lager's Insight article "Something Special in the Air" (October 2007), I don't believe Southwest has announced broadband service. Several months ago the CEO announced that the airline was looking at options for providing broadband. No formal announcements have been made about dates or service providers as far as I know. FYI, I work on PR for AirCell, the broadband provider for American Airlines and Virgin America.
Senior Editor Marshall Lager responds: While Southwest hadn't yet deployed or even officially announced in-flight Wi-Fi at the time of our article, the airline was strongly considering doing so throughout much of 2007, according to several sources, including Engadget (July 8) and InformationWeek (Sept. 18). Since then, as I'm sure you know, Southwest formally announced in January plans to test satellite-delivered in-flight broadband Wi-Fi data access, using technology from the firm Row 44, later this summer.
Letters may be edited for length or clarity.