After securing that agreement — and defining each piece of data in the ledger — the IT staff could go back to the individual product lines’ ledger systems and create the reports that the enterprisewide ledger required, Gopal says. That enterprise ledger is delivered through an Oracle PeopleSoft ERP system and Kalido data repository.
Because definitions and details about financials were inconsistent, Nationwide’s IT staff had to create data translation and cleansing rules, so the output matched the enterprisewide ledger’s format and definitions. Nationwide uses a commercial ETL (extract, transform, and load) tool from Informatica to perform the data conversion and import into the enterprise ledger.
That tool identifies any mismatches, kicking out the data and alerting IT. That process allows IT to see whether the problem is a technical one, such as a bad report file, or an unauthorized change to the master data format. If a frontline financial system changes how it defines data, IT adjusts the ETL rules to ensure the output matches the enterprisewide ledger’s standards. The standardized reports are generated from a variety of tools, including those from Essbase, Hyperion, IBM, and Kalido.
Beyond the consistent definition of data and the creation of ETL rules to produce data conforming to that standard definition, Gopal says a key change in Nationwide’s data management was the adoption of governance around its data. A committee of IT and business managers decides what the enterprisewide ledger should have, so the data definition and underlying data architecture do not drift in the future. “Before this effort, there was no assurance that the data we received was repeatable,” he says.
Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck went through a similar process when it decided two years ago to standardize its data around product information. The catalyst was the deployment of an ERP system, which touched multiple departments and exposed data inconsistencies, recalls Joe Solfaro, executive director of information management at Merck. The company’s effort is now focused on understanding the data and developing a data architecture, which involves IT, business analysts, and outside consultants poring through the various databases, software
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Merck is focused on understanding its data governance needs — what Solfaro calls “stewardship” — so each data element has a clear owner accountable for its consistency and definition. Although he expects to use some sort of data broker to manage data flow and translation to the standard definitions used by its SAP ERP system, Solfaro’s team isn’t focused on specific technologies right now. Only after the architectural and data definition work is completed in mid-2007 does he expect his team to determine the right technology implementation for ensuring data consistency. “It’s a forensics activity at this point,” Solfaro says.
Don’t lose sight of the vision
While both Nationwide’s and Merck’s efforts are focused on specific projects, they also are keeping an eye on the larger master data management goal.