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  • Writer's pictureMaciek Lasota

Maximizing Data Potential: A Guide to Reference Data Management

On the path to achieving excellence in Data Management

Implementing Reference Data Management is a significant step on a data-driven journey, it's worth taking the time to understand it.

In Data Governance, our goals are to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of the data that drives our business operations and fuels company products. This data stewardship initiative aims to empower us to make better-informed decisions, provide quality reporting for our clients, and support our organization in reaching its business goals.

Reference Data managment as central hub

Why is it crucial to understand how significant it is for future company growth?

Let’s start with the definition of reference data.

It's the set of fixed values or codes used to categorize and classify data within a company, commonly used across different systems and applications.

There are two types of Reference Data based on mandates:

  •  Internally defined – Client segments, Business Regions, Product Categories.

  • External standards – like ISO lists of countries or currencies

You can refer to a standardized list of countries, currencies, or product categories that is universally accepted. This list remains relatively static and serves as a reference point for maintaining consistency. When different teams or systems communicate with each other, they rely on this agreed-upon list to ensure everyone is aligned and data can be easily migrated. These reference data examples are essential for maintaining uniformity.

Main Benefits of RDM:

  • Ensure data consistency and accuracy across reports, products, systems, and processes. Supports effective decision-making and trustworthy reporting by providing reliable reference data across the company's data landscape.

  • Easy integration and interoperability between different systems and products. This integration eliminates data silos, promotes data sharing and collaboration.

  • Enables new reporting & AI capabilities with benchmarking, grouping, reports etc

How does this impact you as a data user?

Whether you work in sales, marketing, data engineering, finance, or any other department, you use data. When you create a marketing strategy, develop a new report, or interact with customers, reliable and consistent data is important. Think about the times when you retrieve customer or client information, group products, or analyze performance metrics. Reference Data ensures that these data points are consistent, reliable, and understood by everyone in the organization.

Imagine the situation when your sales team interprets product categories differently than the Product team, or when customer locations are inconsistently recorded across departments. This can lead to concerns about data privacy, as inconsistent data handling may compromise personal information.

This lack of data harmony can lead to misunderstandings, errors, and ultimately hinder collective efficiency. Implementing Reference Data Management directly addresses these challenges by providing a standardized source of data. This will help everyone understand the information better and make it more useful in daily work.

How To Involve Data Users:

User's active participation is crucial! Using a centralized repository like Business Glossary serves as a point of knowledge for any data-related information and should cover Reference Data information.

Training and awareness sessions should be provided to equip users with the knowledge and tools needed to ensure a successful implementation that elevates our data practices and, consequently, our overall performance.



How To Implement Reference Data:

1. Data Governance Framework:

Reference Data is not a standalone effort but an integral part of our broader Data Governance framework. This ensures that it aligns seamlessly with our organizational goals, policies, and standards.

2. Collaborative Approach:

Implementation involves collaboration across departments. Work closely with data stewards, data owners, systems owners, and other stakeholders to ensure that reference data is aligned with business needs.

3. Robust Metadata Management: 

To fully realize the benefits of Reference Data, we will invest in robust metadata management. This involves connection with Data Dictionaries and documenting the origin, usage, and dependencies of reference data as well as data lineage to ensure transparency and traceability.

4. Establish data quality standards:

Define and enforce data quality standards and measures for reference data. This includes implementing validation rules, data cleansing processes, and regular data audits. By maintaining high-quality reference data, we can minimize errors and enhance data quality.

5. Training and Awareness:

Comprehensive training and awareness sessions will be conducted for all teams involved, ensuring they understand the data workflows. I believe that an informed and empowered team is crucial for the success of Reference Data implementation.

6. Centralize reference data management architecture:

Going forward, create a designate a central repository for reference data to ensure consistency and avoid duplication and inconsistencies. This centralized approach allows for easier management, updating, and sharing of reference data across systems and applications and implements data integration mechanisms that integrate reference data across systems and applications. Achieving seamless data integration can be realized through data mapping, data transformation, and data synchronization techniques, thereby enabling  a more efficient and integrated data ecosystem.

So, why should users care?

As data users, the success of our individual roles and the collective efficiency of our organization rests on the quality and consistency of the data we interact with. Reference Data and Data Governance as a whole isn't just an IT initiative. It's a collaborative effort that empowers each one of us to contribute to a more effective, data-driven workplace.

Commitment to understanding and leveraging Reference Data not only benefits your day-to-day tasks but also push the organization toward reaching business goals.

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