Business Case: Applying Master Data Management for Location and Real Estate Data

Originally published 7 September 2010

Location Data: Why Should You Care?

Location data is potentially the master data that most requires enterprise-wide distribution:
  • Employees and service providers need authorized access to the buildings;
  • Corporate services, suppliers and maintenance staff have to search new properties, manage leases, bill and rebill, evaluate real estate portfolios and define investment strategies;
  • Facility managers need to manage building operations, construction, modernization, maintenance, repairs, and services;
  • Human resources, finance, sales, marketing and the rest of the supply chain all rely on up-to-date information from property agencies so that they can fulfil their remits in an efficient manner.
All these functions are delivered through a myriad of business applications that need to share common master data. In addition, location-related data evolves on a day-to-day basis and thus needs to be rapidly synchronized across these heterogeneous systems.

This is why location and real estate data is often considered as a perfect launch pad for master data management (MDM) initiatives. It is simpler and less risky to jump-start an MDM initiative with this data set than with products or customers, and provides significant value due to its capacity to federate data and distribute across businesses and their corresponding applications:
  • Providing location-related information for individuals (often for internal or external business directories) and complete access details (site address, building, floor, office, geocoding for mobile or m-commerce applications, etc.);

  • Management of equipment and services for each site (e.g., for retail banking networks, MDM would reference services such as a reception, equipment such as an automated teller machine together with accessibility information, such as disabled access, etc.);

  • Physical access management and on site security;

  • Management of real estate information (management of properties, rentals, leases, etc.) and maintenance (management of specifications, equipment maintenance and network/electricity equipment requirements, etc.);

  • Management of premises (anticipation of staff movements, organization of removals, management of business continuity plans) and re-invoicing of premises to internal or external entities’ renting space;

  • Centralization of data required to meet regulations (fire exits, smoke detectors, fire procedures, etc.);

  • Office planning (layout, division of office space, etc.).

Which organizations should be used to maintain real-estate information?

Maintaining real-estate agency data is often entrusted to a service dedicated to property management operations. This service will usually control the management of all premises in which the group’s activities are carried out (headquarters, localized and specialized sites, subsidiaries, etc.). As a general rule, this entity is also usually responsible for management of leases, maintenance interventions, etc.

MDM initiatives related to location can provide rapid benefits. Stakeholders are well identified, and there are fewer issues relating to management of information quality. The initiative can be rolled out with little change management and provides immediate value. In general, due to the diverse and varied requirements, management of this information is normally carried out by a relatively “handcrafted” method, via Excel spreadsheets and other paperwork, which can lead to organizational difficulties. Master data management provides information faster, with lower costs and enhanced quality of service for data certification, enrichment and distribution to a wider audience. Data management has the potential to become a cornerstone to this activity, whether for geographical or organizational data.


One simple example can be used to understand a complete data acquisition and distribution process orchestrated by a location master data repository:
  1. A new building is acquired by the company. It is first declared in the relevant ERP system and information is then imported into the location master data repository.

  2. This then feeds the real estate design system, enabling definition and validation of the plans of each building (buildings, floors, offices, use of space, etc.)

  3. This data is exchanged with:
    • The employee master data repository in order to cross-reference employee-related data and deal with future use of office space, and
    • Real estate maintenance applications that will manage security access systems, equipment such as elevators, etc.

  4. Once the occupancy of each premises has been validated, this data is delivered to the stakeholders and systems in charge of establishing the network and electricity, security management (availability of access passes for employees and visitors), organization for moving in/out of offices, etc.

  5. Finally, this data is distributed on a wider scale: on intranets, Internet sites, applications for re-invoicing, those for management of maintenance, etc.

  6. The master data related to this new location will now be linked to the employee master data to update employee data to update applications and directories when an employee changes office, for example.
What type of MDM is required for real estate data?

Real estate data is not static. It must provide rich and evolving data, as shown by the development of geo-localization applications, enabling clients to easily find and access the nearest agency or property. It must be flexible enough to extend itself to existing applications and enable just-in-time synchronisation between the various applications:
  • ERP for financial management

  • Computer-aided design systems

  • All systems managing employees and roles (LDAP directories, HR systems, etc.)

  • Specific business applications (maintenance and construction, computerised maintenance management information systems, access control systems, time and attendance systems, etc.)
Due to the diversity of the interfaces as well as the need to handle constantly evolving data, the location master data management system needs to be very open and flexible. This is not just for data input (by sourcing data from source applications and, in rare cases, through direct user input), but also to redistribute this data, once certified, across the IT system in alignment with sometimes complex business rules. For example, while some data must be distributed immediately upon its creation or updates, other data may have to pass through human validation processes, or system-defined rules. In case of a move, for example, the directory providing contact details will be updated only once the move is complete, whereas the office zoning map software requires data on the property as soon as it enters into the system, prior even to the move, in order to anticipate the layout of the premises, different offices, etc.

The other key characteristic of this data is that it is often closely linked to other master data (employees or equipment for example). Therefore, the location master data cannot be implemented as silos in the same way as other MDM systems.

  • Jean-Michel FrancoJean-Michel Franco
    As Innovation and Solutions Director for Business & Decision, Jean-Michel Franco designs and markets value propositions on an international level. Franco has dedicated his career to developing and broadening the adoption of innovative technologies in companies. He started out at EDS by creating and developing a new business intelligence (BI) practice. Franco then joined SAP EMEA to develop the business in the areas of BI and ERP solutions and later became Director of Marketing Solutions in France and North Africa. He may be contacted by email at
  • Julien PeltierJulien Peltier
    Julien is a senior consultant with more than ten years’ experience at Business & Decision. He specialises in information management and master data management (MDM), where he has developed specific knowledge relating to organisation and location master data management solutions. He now engages in enterprise-level MDM blueprints, solutions’ design and roll-outs.

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