Mar 08 2022

Master Data Management Guides Agencies Through Supply Chain Difficulties

The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Food and Drug Administration and the Air Force rely on MDM to keep the acquisitions flowing.

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the Department of Veterans Affairs needed to mobilize quickly to manage the emergency situation. Master data management proved valuable for determining what key medical equipment was available within the agency to treat the surge of patients.

“At the very beginning, we had to quickly integrate data across the enterprise for timely decisions. We needed to understand: How many ventilators did we have? How many beds did we have? How many healthcare workers did we have in each facility?” says Denise Kitts, chief data technology officer in the VA’s Office of Information and Technology.

“Master data management pulls in all that data from different sources so we can have it in near real time, with an interactive ­dashboard for leadership to make decisions on a day-to-day basis,” she says.

Agencies typically use MDM to keep multiple copies of data in alignment. Now they’re tapping it for an emerging use case: In addition to the VA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Air Force are among those leveraging MDM to help manage the supply chain.

Tools such as IBM InfoSphere and Informatica’s Multidomain MDM can help establish a “master” version of data across disparate data stores, eliminating duplication and ensuring accuracy.

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At a time when supply chain disruptions are affecting consumer behaviors and government operations, some see potential in MDM’s ability to drive deeper insights. “Even a physical supply chain has a data back end,” says IEEE member Yale Fox.

MDM can offer a streamlined way to synchronize product and location data across the supply chain.

To manage the supply chain, “reliable master data management is crucial to effectively reduce manual intervention,” Gartner reports. “Otherwise, false or insufficient data will always require manual adjustments. Data accuracy has to be paramount.”

RELATED: Agencies should be cautious about cyber when searching for replacement products.

Master Data Management Helps the VA Support Veterans

At the VA, leadership turned to MDM for ­supply chain management during the early days of the ­pandemic. The agency built upon its existing expertise with MDM to meet the needs of this new use case.

VA was already using Infosphere, along with Oracle WebLogic Server and IBM WebSphere Application Server, to drive effective interactions with its user base through the agency’s “master ­person index.” Integrated with more than 300 ­applications across the VA, the MDM-driven index “essentially has solved the problem of understanding who our ­customers are,” Kitts says.

“Whether you’re a customer or a caregiver, a dependent or an employee, your authoritative identity is within that system,” she says.

Another MDM implementation, VA Profile, supports identity management to drive more effective service delivery.

Denise Kitts,  Chief Data Technology Officer, Office of Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs
It allowed us to make real-time decisions about moving equipment at a time when there was a shortage of equipment, masks and supplies for healthcare workers.”

Denise Kitts Chief Data Technology Officer, Office of Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs

“We deliver so many different types of clinical and nonclinical benefits, and we have dozens of systems providing these services,” Kitts says. “With VA Profile, we can share information and authoritative customer data across all those systems to look and act like a ­single entity for the customer.”

“If veterans want to update their information, they only have to do it once, and this master data management solution propagates all that data and synchronizes everything, so the veterans don’t have the burden of making 10 ­different phone calls,” she says.

By applying MDM to drive deeper insights into the supply chain during the pandemic, “it allowed us to make real-time decisions about moving equipment at a time when there was a shortage of equipment, masks and supplies for healthcare workers,” she says.

DIVE DEEPER: How to keep federal supply chains resilient and secure. 

FDA, Air Force Turn to MDM to Get Visibility into Data

At the FDA, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research works to ensure that safe and effective drugs are available. The agency uses Informatica’s Multidomain MDM to ­manage relevant regulatory data, and to better understand the global drug supply chain.

By reaching across data from formerly disparate systems, MDM “helps us gain increased visibility of the data and optimize data management work processes” in support of an effective global supply chain for needed pharmaceuticals, says Shanthi Vigneshwaran, CDER supervisory operation research analyst.

The Air Force also uses Informatica to support the supply chain. With more than 327,000 active personnel, nearly 5,600 aircraft, and missiles and satellites around the globe, it’s using MDM to track parts and expenditures.

LEARN MORE: Find out how to protect your agency’s supply chains with trusted security partners.

Before applying MDM, according to an Informatica case study, the Air Force lacked visibility into its data. In some cases, it took weeks or months to manually extract needed information from stovepiped systems.

To lower the cost of delivering defense services and gain deeper insights faster, USAF used MDM to integrate 26 discrete source systems and databases. This improved speed and availability of data while introducing new reporting tools and dashboards.

$600 million

The value of excess parts that the Air Force identified after applying MDM to the supply chain

Source:, “Air Force Knowledge Services,” Jan. 28, 2022

USAF leadership recouped $300,000 in excess equipment in just one week thanks to MDM, the case study says. This modernized approach has shortened reporting time from six months to less than an hour and helped end users generate about 20,000 reports a week.

To get the greatest benefit from MDM as a supply chain resource, IT managers must also think about the human element. 

Agencies need “an interdisciplinary team to have conversations about how to do this, what could go right, what could go wrong and everything in between,” says IEEE’s Fox.

EXPLORE: How agencies should approach supply chain risk management.

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