Archive for April, 2013

I follow Gartner and Forrester blogs on a regular basis. Both consultancy firms (is it right to call them that?) talk a great deal about Master Data Management (MDM), its benefits, pitfalls and the lot. They, being professionals, would have done detailed analysis and dozens of surveys to arrive at a conclusion on what MDM is, what to do and what not to do with it. I have learnt a good deal about the topic from these blogs. But I do find something missing.

Wikipedia describes MDM thus:

“Master Data Management (MDM) comprises a set of processes, governance, policies, standards and tools that consistently defines and manages the master data (i.e. non-transactional data entities) of an organization (which may include reference data).”

Other sites essentially describe the same thing in different terms. In short, it is a mechanism to arrive at and maintain a single version of truth about the customer’s data, held by an organisation. A common example used to illustrate this is using a customer of a bank. Let’s say a customer buys an insurance policy from his bank and a week later he gets a call from the same bank, trying to sell a similar kind of policy. Such a thing is quite normal (and annoying) and most of us would have faced it. Why would this happen? Doesn’t the bank know that you have just bought an insurance policy? This would suggest that either the bank does not have an MDM solution in place or that the MDM solution is ineffective.

Take another example. I have a savings account and a credit card with a large international banking corporation. I had applied for both at different times and, unfortunately, in one I had expanded one of my initials while in the other I had not. To escape the hassle of maintaining multiple logins for each product, I had initiated a request for the accounts to be merged, However it was declined due to difference in the names in their database. I was a disappointed to say the least.

In both situations, it is customer who has to compromise and live with the situation, to let the bank manage his or her data. Customer  or User experience (UX) – this, I think, is missing from what MDM is taken to mean.

Like the 12 principles of Agile, one of the tenets of MDM should be to be an enabler in creating a seamless, consistent user experience for the customer. It is unlikely that any MDM implementation would be wide enough in scope to actually define the UX component of the business. However, from the perspective of enterprise architecture practice of the organisation, the MDM solution should open gateways for the UX to offer a consistent experience.

An MDM solution, then, should look at how well existing business processes dealing with UX can be integrated. And propose changes to these processes and the associated IT components.

Drawing1

Wikipedia can then say:

“Master Data Management (MDM) comprises a set of processes, governance, policies, standards and tools that consistently defines and manages the master data (i.e. non-transactional data entities) of an organization (which may include reference data), allowing its customers to have a consistent, seamless user experience.”

Cricket-itis

Posted: April 21, 2013 in Sports

I suffer from a rare affliction, which I call Cricketitis. The medical community can diagnose its symptoms very easily, especially in India. It manifests itself as an abject boredom and disinterest with following cricket, in any media. The incubation period can be quite lengthy and it may take years for the condition to reach its final stage. Unfortunately there is no known cure. I will only have to harden my will and hope my family will still love me despite my condition.

I used to follow cricket regularly and sat watching matches whenever they were telecast, at whatever time. I remember sitting and watching a India-Pakistan match on the eve of my 10th standard mathematics exam. It was a close match and I sat there chewing my nails [I don’t chew nails per se but its a nice figure of speech :-)] before a boundary won us the match. I read books on cricket and cricketers, read opinions in daily newspapers, idolised ‘the Wall’ and argued with classmates on why he was the best. I was elated when the boys in blue won and got frustrated and angry when they didn’t. Ah, the good old days!

The first signs of impending trouble coincided with the first season of IPL. Cricket suddenly looked like a movie with scripts, superstars, theatrics and drama queens. I didn’t manage to watch even a single IPL game, even in the first season, fully. I persevered with watching One-dayers and Tests (of course Dravid had not retired yet!) for another couple of years. By the time the World Cup happened in 2011, the condition had reached the final stage. I got incontrovertible proof of this when I decided to go have dinner in a popular restaurant during the World Cup final, simply because it would be easier to get a table and parking!

Two years on I have learnt to live with it. I do not get into conversations about cricket and do not worry too much when two-bit players are ‘auctioned’ for a few millions during the annual IPL tournament. I do have hope, however, that society at large will become aware of this and be show some empathy towards the sufferers. I have come to recognise that there are other things I can do with my time. What if one counts the number of matches India plays in a year, multiplies that by the number of hours in each game, and that by the number of people who match a sizeable portion of each game? How many hours would this be [this will be an enlightening statistic]? And what if India diverts its attention, talent and ability in another direction for even half this many hours? Where would that take us?

I have learnt now that my wife does not care that I don’t watch cricket and I have not become an outcast because I do not know who won the last IPL season. Ah! Cricketitis seems to be bliss.

The Vidhana Soudha, the seat of Karnataka's le...

The Vidhana Soudha, the seat of Karnataka’s legislative assembly, is located in Bengaluru. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Karnataka goes to polls in May this year. And as usual there are increasing amounts of press coverage for our politicians and expert predictions of what the outcome will be. A leading newspaper calls it the ‘dance of democracy’. Call it thus or showmanship or a shameless scramble to get a seat in the assembly, we, as citizens, will have to make up our minds and vote to the most suitable party or individual around. Hope you all have registered in the appropriate constituency. I have not. For various reasons I have ignored-slash-forgotten about it. And now it is too late do anything. Come to think of it I had not voted in the last assembly elections either. Agreed that I should be voting but looking at the state of Karnataka politics, one wonders if there is a point. How do you decide which party or individual to support? Close you eyes and press the button which comes to hand first?

Schools teach political sciences as a mandatory subject (or at least they used to). In it there were very detailed descriptions of how an election works in a democracy, with India being taken as an example. One of the points I remember of this process is that each party which wants to contest an election publishes a manifesto, which contains ‘election promises’. Parties contesting elections will publish these and one can get a copy by visiting the local offices of the party in question. How many people do this before voting to understand what the party is promising in return for their vote? I don’t know any who has done so.

Another method can be to see what each party has done in other states and cast your vote hoping they do the same in the next term here. An obvious example is Gujarat. Even though both Karnataka and Gujarat are governed by members of the same party, the state of governance is vastly different. The situation in Karnataka is, well, a mess. It does not look like there is any hope for significant improvement even if the incumbent party returns to power with full majority. This in turn means good performance in one place does not mean good performance elsewhere.

In any election, people are brought to power by the ‘aam aadmi’ based purely on trust. One trusts a particular party or individual and so the vote is cast in favour of that party or individual. How does a party then establish trust then? By ‘governing’, in its purest sense. This is idealistic prattle of course. But there is at least one way to establish some trust. The Election Commission records cases pending against candidates which the candidates need to specify in their applications. One can find out how many and which types of cases are pending against candidates, if any of course. A consolidated view of this statistic across Karnataka should yield interesting results, to say the least. If you are keeping up with this, then the vote would go to the party fielding less number of such individuals. To take this to the next logical point, if in a ward all candidates are equally, lets say, controversial, then the populace should abstain. This would force re-election for that ward. And, if the parties in question have any common sense, they will field a different set of candidates.

Something like this would obviously be a long-term process. And just because a case is registered against a person, does not make that person guilty. I like to think that the populace can make up their minds on guilt based on extensive news coverage such things tend to attract. It would be a start nonetheless. The present system needs a refresh. It is too muddled up, too opaque. Better minds than mine can come with better mechanisms but a change in the angle of the rudder is required, however small.

So who will you vote for?