Recently TopQuadrant partnered with Malcolm Chisholm, a thought leader in master and reference data management, to conduct a webinar on reference data management entitled: The Foundations of Successful Reference Data Management. Click here to watch the recorded webinar or to download the associated white paper.

Throughout this well-attended webinar Malcolm shared insights into reference data and why effective reference data management is critical to organizations. He pointed out that the importance of reference data, the fact that enterprises that manage reference data well gain significant benefits, and the centrality of reference data make it a good place to start an MDM or data governance project. Without a doubt, this is one of the reasons why interest in reference data is high across all industries as you can see from the distribution of the webinar attendees shown in the chart below:
Industry Participation

In addition to industries specifically listed, the ‘Other’ category included participants from many sectors including manufacturing, retail, transportation, media and entertainment.

During the webinar we collected answers to the following questions that we asked in two quick polls to understand how our participants assess their organization’s current reference data management practices:

1. How would you best describe your organizations’ reference data management program?
2. What does your organization use today to manage reference data?

Here are the collected results of responses to the first question.

State of the RDM programs

A key indication is that the level of satisfaction with current reference data management programs is pretty low.

– Less than 10% said that they had an effective program in place.
– About 25% of attendees were about to start a program.
– A little over 40% said that while they have a reference data management program in place, it needed work.

This means that more than 80% of organizations that already made progress in implementing some reference data management program felt that it still needed to be improved.

Responses to the second question, which allowed a multi-choice response, were well aligned with this finding. Participants had an option to identify all systems they were using for managing reference data. Here are the responses.

RDM Tool Usage

As you can see, homegrown systems and spreadsheets are the main ways in which reference data is managed. One interesting fact is that the majority of the webinar attendees used more than one type of tool. In fact, 26% used three or more different tools and tool types.

RDM Tool Usage 2

This means that even with a reference data program in place, organizations are still struggling with identifying and deploying a supporting tool for a solution that can address all their reference data management needs, and ensure the consistency of the reference data used across all their systems.

One key indication from this poll is that spreadsheets are the most inadequate tool for completely addressing enterprise reference data management needs. 97% of those who use spreadsheets have to use them in conjunction with other tools.

In this respect, ERP systems are not much better – 91% of those who use ERP systems for reference data management have to combine them with other tools. ‘Other tools’ was a catch-all category. 75% percent of those that use tools in this category also use some other kind of tool.

One may think that homegrown systems designed specifically to address the unique needs of an organization would have the best chance of satisfying all its reference data management needs. However, our poll results show that this was not the case. 69% of the organizations using homegrown reference data management systems have to supplement them with other tools in order to address all their needs and specific requirements.

We discovered that the best results are apparently achieved by using specialized MDM/RDM vendor products, with a little over half of the users (53%) able to use such a tool for all their needs. This is significantly better than spreadsheets or homegrown systems. Yet, still nearly half of the users have to supplement these systems with other systems.

In our next blog, we will report on the interactions we had during the recent Enterprise Data World 2015 conference including some insights we have gained on some of the common shortcomings in the reference data management products. In conjunction with sponsoring and exhibiting and giving talks at EDW 2015, TopQuadrant announced the release of its new product, TopBraid Reference Data Manager. See Press Release.