SOA's role in master data management explained

At Pfizer, SOA decoupled data from applications

SOA has a critical role to play in the development of Master Data Management, or MDM.

At Pfizer, SOA decoupled data from applications

I hadn't heard much to date on how these two enterprise-changing forces can work together. But Martin Brodbeck, executive director for strategic architecture at Pfizer, connected the dots at his keynote address to this week's InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum, held in New York.

Brodbeck was very good at boiling down complex concepts to vital essentials that can be digested by the business. MDM, he explained, is about "creating trusted information assets across your company... it's a single source of the truth."

Pfizer's challenge, being the $48-billion pharmaceutical giant it is, was bringing together data assets from across its global enterprise into a single, centralized data definition. For example, Brodbeck related, "we had four to five definitions of what 'customer' meant."

To help this effort to succeed and deliver, Brodbeck's team turned to SOA to decouple its data from its applications, such as SAP, Oracle, and WebLogic. "SOA is the mechanism through which you begin distributing data," he explained. The team generated a standard set of interfaces for accessing its MDM tool "and deployed it into our SOA architecture."

Pfizer first launched an SOA effort in 2001, but had to retrench its efforts when it didn't provide access to stovepiped systems. "One of the things we learned is you can't do SOA without data, and you can't do it within silos," Brodbeck said. "It's more about farming than fishing."

MDM and SOA have another thing in common -- both require enterprise governance to succeed. Pfizer's MDM governance structure strongly resembles one assembled for SOA, led by a business sponsor. "Master data management is much more about governance than it is about technology," Brodbeck said.

(For more insights on Master Data Management, I recently blogged on business intelligence/data warehouse luminary Claudia Imhoff's session at Teradata, here.)


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