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What is Master Data?

Industry experts have several ways to define master data. It is commonly referred to as business-critical data about parties, places, and things.

Definitions From the Experts

Gartner Definition

Master data is the consistent and uniform set of identifiers and extended attributes that describes the core entities of the enterprise including customers, prospects, citizens, suppliers, sites, hierarchies, and a chart of accounts.

Phillip Russom – TDWI

Master data is having “consistent definitions of business entities (e.g., customer or product) and data about them across multiple IT systems and possibly beyond the enterprise to partnering businesses.


A clear description of master data includes customer data items, like IDs. This data type is considered master data versus quantitive data related to a single transaction, customer ID or other data (such as addresses and phone numbers), which are continuously used by a business to analyze customer behavior, establish contacts, or drive high-level research.

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The Common Theme in Master Data

No matter where it comes from, the definition of master data has several common themes.

  • Master data is critical for operational and analytical business decision-making.
  • Master data is scattered throughout the enterprise.
  • Master data establishes a standard definition for business-critical data that is shared across the enterprise and collectively represents a “single source of truth.”

How does Semarchy define master data?

Master data is your business-critical data that is stored in disparate systems across your enterprise. The Five Categories of Master Data:


Everyone who conducts business with the enterprise, including customers, prospects, suppliers, and partners


Actual places and how they are segmented, such as geographies, locations, subsidiaries, sites, and zones.


What the enterprise sells or manages, such as products, services, or assets

Financial and Organizational

Reporting and accounting categories, including organization structures, sales territories, chart of accounts, cost centers, business units, profit centers, and price lists.

Reference Data

Smaller lists of values that give context to other master data and/or transactional data such as lists of countries, states, industry sectors, classifications, etc.

Other Types of Data

To really understand master data, it’s important to take a look at other data in the enterprise that isn’t master data – but can sometimes look like it.

Transactional Data

Transactional data describe business events and it is responsible for generating the largest volume of data in the enterprise. It resides in the CRM, ERP, SCM, or other systems

Log Data

Log data records events or takes snapshots of process states at moments in time. It is extremely important to system operational efficiencies and preventive maintenance applications. most big data, such as sensor data, machine data, and change-in-state data, are examples of log data.


Metadata is data that describes other data; it is the underlying definition or description of data. Master data, reference data, and log data all have related metadata.

Big Data

Big data has many different definitions, but the most common is from Gartner’s Doug Laney. He characterized “big data” by 3vs: volume, variety, and velocity. Quite simply it is the combination of the previous four types of data: log data, transactional data, reference data, and master data.

Master Data Management is simply the complete management of master data. It includes the cleaning, governance, tracking, and control of all master data. Master Data Management consists of a set of processes, disciplines, and technologies. Ready to see how Semarchy’s Unified Data Platform helps you manage Master Data?