Workflow vs ERP-centric and Data-centric Master Data Management

Product and Supply Chain Master Data is the most important master data for most companies as it is central to many mission-critical business processes in sales, commerce, design, manufacturing, logistics, customer service and maintenance. Creation of Product and Supply Chain Master Data is an extremely cross-functional exercise that spans many functions within the organization and often the supply chain.


This post is to compare and assess the Business Workflow-centric approach that ZMDM promotes to those of ERP-centric Master Data solutions (SAP MDM/MDG, for example) and Data-centric Master Data solutions (such as TIBCO, Informatica, IBM..).

The first thing that comes to our mind is that Business-centric master data management solutions are designed to serve the needs of New Product Introduction/Component Engineering, Supply Chain Development, E-commerce, Sales Operations, and related business processes. In Business-centric MDM, Master Data Management is usually an extension of new product introduction and supply chain oriented business processes that originate in or involve business stakeholders from different functional areas.

ERP-centric (SAP MDG, for example) and Data-centric master data management solutions (Informatica, TIBCO, IBM, etc..) tend to view master data from the prism of the needs of ERP systems and IT stakeholders that tend to support master data for Extract/Transform/Load (ETL) and Reporting processes.

Summary Assessment of Product and Supply Chain Master Data Management Approaches

The summary below is based on our own internal assessment (but based on actual industry experience) of different approaches for Product and Supply Chain Master Data Management.


ERP-centric MDM

Data-centric MDM

Types of Master Data
Master Data Workflows
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Business Stakeholder Engagement
Supply Chain Readiness


Assessment Facets

Types of Product and Supply Chain Master Data

Many Data-centric MDM solutions tend to have a limited view of master data and often restrict the domains to Customer, Supplier, and, if they are any good, Product. In contrast, ZFlow, due to its foundation in New Product and Supply Chain, deals with all kinds of product and supply chain master data, including Part/Material, SKUs, E-commerce listings, Bills of Material, Routings, Factory and Production Planning information, Suppliers, Customers, Costing, Pricing, and many other types of related master data.

ZMDMERP-centric MDM Data-centric MDM
Bill of Material (with Reference Designators)
Alternate/Substitute Parts
Critical Characteristics
Approved Supplier
Approved Supplier Part
Approved Manufacturer
Approved Manufacturer Part
Purchase Info Record
Pricing Condition
Amazon Listing
Google Merchant Center Listing
Shopify Listing
E-commerce Branding Content
Process Plan

Financial Master Data
Generic Objects


Product and Supply Chain Master Data Workflows

Product and Supply Chain Master data workflows tend to be some of the most cross-functional in an organization. For example, creation or extension of a part/material to a plant can require input, analysis, and review/approvals from purchasing, production planning, design, logistics, and finance teams. Similarly, supplier and customer master data workflows can require input, checks, and reviews from Purchasing, Supply Chain, Sales, Finance, and other teams. Workflow management (design and execution) is one area where ZMDM stands head and shoulders above ERP-centric and Data-centric Master Data solutions. ZMDM is likely the best workflow management solution for cross-functional product and supply chain master data processes.

ZMDMERP-centric MDMData-centric MDM
New Part Request
New Part Release
Create New Material
Extend Material
Create Materials
Create Bill of Material
Change Bill of Material
Create/Change Routing
Approved Vendor Part(s)
Approved Manufacturer Part(s)
Create/Change Purchase Info Record
Engineering Change Implementation
Pricing Master
Pricing Change
New Supplier Request
New Supplier Onboarding
New Customer Onboarding
Install Equipment
Decommission Equipment

Create/Change Material
Create/Change Vendor
Create/Change Customer
Create/Change Financial Master Data Objects
Create/Change Asset Master Data Objects
Generic workflows for New Master Data Objects


Cost (TCO)

The picture below provides a succinct explanation of why ZMDM is a fraction of the cost of traditional Master Data solutions and approaches.


The Total Cost of Operation of an MDM solution looks like the picture below.


Unless money is free and you can get it in unlimited supply, ZMDM is usually a better bet to keep the Total Cost of Operation low (often 1/10th) for Product and Supply Chain Master Data Management.

The reason why ZMDM tends to be 10X better is that ZMDM is an All-in-One Solution that is more or less like a Swiss Army Knife. Many components (integration framework, integration adapters, domain object models, data quality rules, workflows, workflow engine) needed for a complete Master Data Management solution are integrated into ZMDM. ERP-centric and Data-centric solutions require you to purchase separate components in many cases. In addition, ZMDM runs on open-source and cost-effective cloud computing services (Tomcat, MySQL, AWS RDS, Azure MySQL) and does not require the purchase of additional infrastructure components (Java Application Servers, Databases, etc.).


Implementation cost is another area where ZMDM has a significant advantage. The time and effort it takes to design and deploy Master Data workflows with ZMDM is often a fraction of what it takes using ERP-centric and Data-centric Master Data solutions.


Time to value


Master Data Management programs are notorious for taking a long time and behind schedule. The main reasons include the need to design many domain objects, design and set up integration as a separate project using an integration framework, and often the tedious work of designing, testing, and deploying master data workflows. Due to the fundamental design constraints of ERP-centric and data-centric Master Data solutions, the design and deployment of Master Data objects and related workflows tend to be driven by technology with little involvement from business stakeholders. This is usually a recipe for underwhelming results and disappointment.

ZMDM is more or less ready to go for Master Data processes on Day 1. In some cases, many of the out-of-the-box master data domains (Product, Part, Supplier, Customer) and workflows can be used right away without much modification. Since ZMDM includes a sophisticated integration framework that can be used as part of the Master Data workflows, integration related program risks and delays can be more or less eliminated.





No application is an island in the modern enterprise and supply chain. Master Data Management solutions are especially dependent on integration to serve the needs of business stakeholders as well as various master data workflows. Most ERP-centric MDM and Data-centric MDM solutions rely on another integration framework (SAP Process Orchestrator (SAP PO) in the case of SAP MDG, for example) for interoperability with other applications and SaaS solutions. This invariably increases the Total Cost as well as implementation timelines.

ZMDM is unique in this respect and provides out-of-the-box integration to various systems (SAP, Salesforce..) at the level of APIs and their connectivity to various master data objects and workflows. This is one of the reasons why ZMDM is often ready to go on day 1, and TCO is often 1/10th of ERP-centric and Data-centric Master Data Management solutions.


Supply Chain Integration

Supply Chain participants (your suppliers and customers) are key stakeholders in many master data workflows. ZMDM has an in-built model and support for suppliers and customers to access and participate in master data workflows. For all practical purposes, ERP-centric and Data-centric MDM solutions have no real and easy way to accommodate suppliers and customers to participate in Master Data workflows.


Democratizing Product and Supply Chain Master Data (User Engagement)


We strongly believe that everyone in the organization and the Supply Chain can benefit from easy access to Product and Supply Chain Master Data. With this perspective, ZMDM makes it easy for everyone (often thousands of people) in the organization and the supply chain to access and participate in master data workflows. The key feature that supports this model is the fact that ZMDM cost is instance-based and not tied to the number of people who use ZMDM.

ERP-centric MDM solutions mainly assume that only ERP experts and master data analysts should deal with master data. Data-centric MDM solutions are barely accessible to people outside of the MDM team. Both camps make it cost-prohibitive to allow many people to access Master Data and participate in Master Data workflows due to expensive user-based licensing.



Continuous Improvement


The only constant in life is change, said Heraclitus. ERP-centric and Data-centric MDM struggle to support change and the opportunity for continuous improvement. Because of the number of moving parts involved, ERP-centric and Data-centric Master Data solutions make it hard, if not impossible, to support continuous improvement in master data domain models, workflows, and integration scenarios.

ZMDM, on the other hand, is expressly designed to support continuous improvement/change at every level, including master data object models, workflows, and integration scenarios. Changes to existing master data domain models, workflows, and integration maps can be made in minutes, tested, and rolled into production reliably and robustly without impacting existing master data scenarios.



Even though ZMDM comes with a rich set of master data objects, workflows, and out-of-the-box integration, there is always a need to support something out of the ordinary. ZMDM provides several agile capabilities, including on-the-fly master data object design, do-it-yourself workflow design, and extensible integration architecture that can be used to design and implement bi-directional integration using many techniques quickly. The best part is that most of these capabilities are accessible to business analysts via the embedded and comprehensive no-code framework. However, if you have the itch, ZMDM allows the use of Javascript and Java to extend ZMDM to perform magic.