In the previous blog post, I introduced the concept of Master Data Management as a methodology to improve data quality by creating a “master” version of important information. Master Data Services is Microsoft’s technology for implementing Master Data Management. It is included in SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and SQL Server 2012 Enterprise and Business Intelligence editions. For the sake of this series of posts, I’ll be focusing on the SQL Server 2012 version, since there are quite a few changes.
One of the most fundamental elements of a Master Data Services solution is defining what the master data should be. You have to define what data is important to the company. This information is referred to as entities. For example, you might decide that a customer should be an entity, or a product, or a service offering. Each of these entities then has various attributes, such as contact name, billing address and date of last contact for the customer example. Every individual customer would then be what’s called a member of the entity “Customer.”
A significant part of planning an MDS implementation is working out what these entities are and what are the key attributes associated to the entities. A significant part of the implementation itself is bringing in the members of these entities and making sure that the attributes are properly populated with accurate information.
Master Data Services provides the framework and tools to maintain this data model and these members going forward. There are some core tools that are included in Master Data Services to enable this.
Master Data Manager
This, as the name implies, is for managing master data. This is the primary tool for Master Data Services, used for creating data models, uploading data, creating business rules and more. It’s a web-based tool, updated in SQL Server 2012 with a nice Silverlight interface.
Master Data Services Configuration Manager
Again, the same sums it up. This tool is used for configuring Master Data Services, specifically the databases and web services. You’ll need to have a database to store master data information, whether the source information, a synchronised copy or just a registry (as discussed in the previous post), and this is the tool you’ll use to set that up.
Master Data Services add-in for Excel
This add-in can be used for a lot of the same functions as the web tool, such as managing entities and uploading data. It’s intended to be accessible to end users while allowing more experience master data professionals to handle data in bulk.
There are other tools for developers around deploying data models and interacting with Master Data Services as a web service. Together, these tools form the technical component of a Master Data Management solution. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s not enough to just focus on the technology part when implementing one of these solutions. It’s vital to processes by which data quality will be maintained and the people who will be doing it. As part of the planning of an MDS implementation, you should consider who among the users will be making use of each of these tools.