The Other Side Of Master Data Cleansing

master data cleansing

Any company, be it a next door store or a global oil and gas corporation, collects, stores and distributes data. Over time, inconsistencies, errors, and other kinds of failures happen and mount, and that’s where a procedure of master data cleansing steps in. With all the benefits cleansing can bring, we at Synopps know from our experience that there are not only Pros, but also Cons to it.

What’s Master Data?

Briefly speaking, master data (MD) is everything that your business is dealing with: clients and what they buy (products), suppliers and what they sell to you (components, services, raw materials). The name of a client is a MD. The address where he or she lives — is another MD. Characteristics of a shampoo you manufacture and sell is also MD.

What kind of problems occur to MD and where do they come from? Every enterprise has its own story, happy or not, with MD, but inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and missing information are typically caused by the similar factors common for most businesses:

  • information is getting out of date. Products come to the shelf, products go away from the shelf. Clients live and, unfortunately, die. They relocate. Their priorities are changing;
  • company’s staff may make errors when putting information into a corporate database. We all are just human beings, after all.
  • there are various approaches to information entry across various units of a company. What’s input as “Mr. Brown” in a computer at a marketing department can be put as “Jeorge Brown” in a sales department two stores down the stairs.

Why Is Keeping Consistency, Accuracy, Availability, Transparency Of Master Data Important?

There is a number of reasons you should keep your MD in order, we would dwell on basic ones of them:

  • any unit of information requires resources, be it working time or money, so duplicates lead to excessive spending of these resources;
  • when you don’t have properly managed data, you don’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on in your business, just like a doctor that cannot take a patient’s temperature or measure his blood pressure. Our experiences shows that it usually causes excessive purchases and mistakes in client base governance translating eventually into the loss of customers and artificially inflated expenses;
  • you’re blocked on your way to being a data-driven company. While there is much noise about big data and the benefits of using it, there are also requirements for a company willing to use this tool for magical discoveries of hidden relationships, potential markets, customers’ not-so-obvious tastes, and so on. The first requirement is having a well tuned and adjusted data governance system in place. And the master data cleansing procedure is the first step to accomplishing this first requirement.

 MD Cleansing Pros

The benefits of cleansing — the answer to the question why you should embark on this (rather long) journey are on the surface:

  • you want to streamline your expenses and optimize your revenues. Cleansing is a good option to get additional incomes without a lot of investments, the development of a new business strategy, or even launching new products. Removing duplicates, unnecessary purchases, reduction in empty run of transport and inventories are typical consequences we see in our clients’ cases during the first weeks of our work;
  • the implementation of uniform standards for data collection, storage, and distribution across an enterprise. That’s usually a stage realized after or during the MD cleansing to  bring more clarity, better governance, and, at the end, higher revenue;
  • sometimes non-compliance with regulations occurs because of an inappropriate data management system. Less fines gives more profit, and less attention from the public and the press helps maintain a high level of reputation. 

MD Cleansing Cons

While the ups of MD cleansing are evident, the downside of the procedure is not that widely known, and not everyone guesses that it exists at all. Well, it does, and we prefer to warn about it in advance. What the downs have in common is that not every stage in the lifecycle of a business is good for bringing order to master data. When the winds of change blow or are going to blow, it’s better to wait for things to settle.

Look at the following situations:

  • your business is on a rapid growth track. Sounds good as growth indicates you are moving in the right direction. But are you sure it’s time to consolidate your databases and spend resources for finding and correcting errors and duplicates?
  • a business model is set to change. Times come when we must radically transform the way we’re doing business. Streamlining information flows within the company means a risk of spending resources in vain as current MD may become stuff for a second hand shop tomorrow;
  • the arrival of a new management team. That’s a variation of the point mentioned above. New blood often means a new business model with new master data needed;
  • a transformation of an enterprise. Removing departments from a corporate structure, adding new circles and squares to a management scheme, redistributing functions between business units — all these movements in a corporate puzzle cause changes in information flows;
  • the absence of data-literate culture in the company. Well, that’s a rather philosophical question: what should come first, the culture or the order in MD? It depends. We’d recommend you start with culture thus establishing the right context for the cleansing procedure.


Every pro and every con is not absolute. While master data management is needed for all businesses as well as the cleansing procedure, it’s anyway an individual operation strongly depending on the corporate’s practices, business goals, and strategy. The experience of shows that an in-depth analysis is needed to find the best solutions for a client to meet its needs. No cliched decisions, only individual approach. 


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.