Master data

Master data represents the business objects that contain the most valuable, agreed upon information shared across an organization.[1]

It gives context to business activities and transactions, answering questions like who, what, when and how as well as expanding the ability to make sense of these activities through categorizations, groupings and hierarchies. It can cover relatively static reference data, transactional, unstructured, analytical, hierarchical and metadata.[2] It is the primary focus of the information technology (IT) discipline of master data management (MDM).

Master data is usually non-transactional in nature, but in some cases gray areas exist where transactional processes and operations may be considered master data by an organization. For example, master data may contain information about customers, products, employees, materials, suppliers, and vendors. Though rare, if that information is only contained within transactional data such as orders and receipts and is not housed separately, it may be considered master data.[3]

Types of data

As previously stated, master data is a trusted source of common business data used across multiple systems, applications, and/or processes. Yet other data types and distinctions exist[3][4]:

  • Reference datarepresents the set of permissible values to be used by other (master or transaction) data fields. Reference data classifies and describes data and normally changes slowly, reflecting changes in the modes of operation of the business, rather than changing in the normal course of business.
  • Enterprise master datarepresents the single source of basic business data used across the entire enterprise, regardless of location.
  • Market master datarepresents the single source of basic business data used across a marketplace, regardless of location. This stands in contrast from enterprise master data in that it can be used by multiple enterprises within a value chain, facilitating “integration of multiple data sources and literally [putting] everyone in the market on the same page.”[4] An example of market master data is the UPC (Universal Product Code) found on consumer products.

Master data management

Main article: Master data management

Curating and managing master data is key to ensuring master data quality. Analysis and reporting is greatly dependent on the quality of an organization’s master data. Master data may either be stored in a central repository, sourced from one or more systems, or referenced centrally using an index. However, when it is used by several functional groups it may be distributed and redundantly stored in different applications across an organization and this copy data may be inconsistent (and if so, inaccurate).[5] Thus, master data should have an agreed-upon view that is shared across the organization. Care should be taken to properly version master data, if the need arises to modify it, to avoid issues with distributed copies.[6]


  1. ^Dreibelbis, A.; Hechler, E.; Milman, I.; et al. (2008). “Chapter 1: Introducing Master Data Management”. Enterprise Master Data Management: An SOA Approach to Managing Core Information. Pearson Education. pp. 1–3. ISBN 9780132704274.
  2. ^Wolter, R.; Haselden, K. (November 2006). “The What, Why, and How of Master Data Management”. Microsoft Corporation. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  3. ^ Jump up to:ab van der Lans, R. (2012). Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems: Revolutionizing Data Integration for Data Warehouses. Elsevier. pp. 119–121. ISBN 9780123978172.
  4. ^ Jump up to:ab Taylor, S.; Laylin, R. (2010). “Master Data Management for Media”. SlideShare. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  5. ^“The Elephant in the Room – Master Data and Application Data”, Andrew White, Gartner, 14 January 2014
  6. ^Dreibelbis, A.; Hechler, E.; Milman, I.; et al. (2008). “Chapter 3: MDM Reference Architecture”. Enterprise Master Data Management: An SOA Approach to Managing Core Information. Pearson Education. pp. PT207–09. ISBN 9780132704274.


Ofer Abarbanel online library