I recently read the article “What is Master Data Management?” by Guy Holmes in the recent (Q2, 2015) PPDM Foundations Journal. There was one statement he made that thought-provokingly captured the definition of master data: “The key difference [from transactional data] is that master data elements tend to repeat in other data sets, and therefore consistency is key to quality”.
Differentiating transactional data from master data is a very common concept within the data management community. I also like to take it one step further and differentiate between master data and reference data, the latter being something that might “repeat” outside of an organisation, and therefore being a candidate for industry/international standardisation.
Continuing Guy’s line of reasoning: if (1) master data is shared across systems within an organization, and (2) reference data is shared across systems within an industry; then what category of data might be shared across systems but also across industries? Metadata?
I sketched a diagram around this thought, which indicates the “sphere of influence” of that data category – pragmatically, its applicability to be used/shared by systems.