Reference data can be thought of as nouns. A list of staff, customer, assets, or locations are all good examples of reference data. Recall that we can navigate data by dimensions (as shown visually in Figure 12.1), which is simply another term for reference data.
Ralph Kimball introduced the concept of conformed dimensions, referring to reference data sets that are common across dimensional models. For example, locations should be consistent across all analysis. In fact, the term conformed dimension is just a subset of another term: master data.
Master data is reference data that applies across systems, divisions, and departments. In other words, master data is enterprise reference data. A conformed dimension is master data applied to just one of the four information layers described in Chapter 11. Figure 12.2 shows how master data and conformed data map to the four layers of Chapter 11.
Because master data makes it much easier to generate conformed dimensions, it is sometimes stated that master data solutions remove or reduce the need for data warehouses. Master data solves many of the problems faced by complex organizations and makes it much easier to achieve the objectives of the four information layers described in Chapter 11.
Master data management is emerging as a practical approach to data integration. In some ways, it is a combination of an operational data store (providing an operational view of strategic data) as well as a slimmed-down data ...