An Open Letter to GS1, RE: GDSN Marketing

Dear GS1,

How have you been?  I’ve been fine, done a bit of writing since we last met and gotten a little greyer.  How are the kids?  My two kids are doing great but I have to admit, after raising two I don’t know how you do it with 125 kids, or whatever the number of M.O.s there are today.

The reason I’m writing to you today is to offer you my thoughts on your Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) Marketing campaign.  That campaign would be more effective if it focused on demonstrating the distinction between internal master data (and programs associated with improving its quality), and externally shared master data (and the significantly different kinds of programs needed to improve its quality).  And especially to show that many (most?) of company master data is, in reality, externally shared master data, either incoming or outgoing.  That’s the step that I see missing from your campaign.

Companies who are already familiar with the kind of programs that are designed to improve their internal master data need to be taught to see the special characteristics of the externally shared master data which they could publish for the benefit of their trading partners, or which they could consume from the trading partner who “owns” that data.  These are the characteristics that make the externally shared master data unique from the purely internal master data.  This is the epiphany that your marketing campaign should seek to impart.

Your campaign should acknowledge the existence of internal master data—the kind that benefits from the traditional data quality management programs but which would not benefit from the use of GDSN.  By separating this kind of data from the externally shared kind of master data you will help companies recognize on their own why they may have had so much difficulty elevating and sustaining the quality of this class of data in past data quality efforts.  Once that realization occurs, the need for, and the value of GDSN will become obvious and you will no longer need to “sell” anyone on it.  They would seek it out instead.


It’s really pretty simple.  All you need to do is to define a new term for the externally shared master data, a term that makes it clear that it is distinctly different from internal master data.  I have proposed the term “Supply Chain Master Data” (SCMD) in the past (here, here, here and here) because I believe it accomplishes that goal.  SCMD is MD that is shared within a supply chain.  I offer that term to you (it isn’t protected as far as I know)—or make up your own.  As long as you talk about SCMD as a special class of MD and how it’s quality can benefit from the application of GDSN I think you will get a lot more agreement because it will finally make sense to people, especially those who are new to GS1.

Whether you pick up my suggestion or not I wish you luck in your current marketing campaign.  I look forward to see you at our next meeting.  Say hi to the spouse and kids.

Sincerely, Your Friend,


5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to GS1, RE: GDSN Marketing”

  1. Dear Dirk,

    Firstly – very nice.

    Here in Europe we have another point, the upcoming Germany serialization trial for example might not use GS1 AIs at all because the existing local healthcare number (PZN) does not fit into the GTIN.
    GS1 have addressed that recently by proposing an NTIN (National Trade Identification Number).
    But the main point is that companies in Germany did not want to pay GS1 for another round of GLN numbers, when they already pay for the local PZN.

    So your recommendation to GS1 for the GDSN marketing to focus customers minds on what they should be really thinking about (ie how to manage the data quality of shared data) seems much less like “buy GDSN to solve all your data issues” which would get a resounding no thanks, certainly from companies in Germany.


    Terry Crawford

  2. Dirk,

    I couldn’t agree more. Data Quality is enhanced by using authoritative data, improving accuracy of data collection and validating the data collected against authoritative data. Moreover the data is maintained where and how it makes sense from the perspective of the data owner to support its own needs as well as the needs of the supply chain and customers.

    This all reminds me of EPC Global and the ONS server proposals for RFID data repository work back in 2005 . US DoD said back then we weren’t going to host that kind of data outside of our control and I seriously doubt many users in the US Federal Government would want to do that here.


  3. Dirk,

    Thank you for your note.

    I absolutely agree with you that improvement of Data Quality starts as a strategic enterprise endeavour; first addressed by an organization for their master data. As you know once that information is published or shared and becomes part of the “information supply chain” it runs the risk of being corrupted or manipulated in a way the original owner would not approve or anticipate.

    Our position regarding Data Quality and GDSN is that Data Quality is essential for GDSN or any data synchronization program to be successful. Benefits increase for all who rely on synchronized information when trading partners work together, utilizing global standards to ensure data quality. In a shared environment, Data Quality is everyone’s responsibility.

    I believe strongly that Data Synchronization, for which GDSN is an enabler, is only one area where improving Data Quality may increase efficiencies for trading partners. It is just one link in the information supply chain as data moves from B2B2C.

    For an organization, Data Quality must be addressed strategically at the enterprise level as part of an Information Governance (IG) program supporting the unique supply chain and marketing process for that business.

    To be successful an IG program needs to include (in my opinion) policies, procedures, organization and technology, specifically supporting Information Governance; and it must have executive level championing.

    If you or your followers are interested in more detail I would be more than happy to discuss it.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Liz Crawford
    Director Data Quality
    GS1 Global Office

  4. After publishing this essay in its original form I discovered that I had mis-read GS1’s Data Quality webpages. That is, I had mis-interpreted what was being said there. In fact, I interpreted it to be saying that GDSN was necessary to ensure data quality. In fact, it says almost the opposite: that before you begin publishing your master data you should embark on a significant data quality program. That will save your trading partners from receiving bad data and all of the issues related to that.

    Because of my mis-read of that webpage I have removed my snarky comments about it…since all they did was demonstrate what a boob I am!

    But my core message remains intact. The result is a shorter and more pertinent essay.


  5. Hi Dirk,

    as you pointed out in your last comment on your blog you misunderstood the message GS1 is trying to give regarding Data Quality and GDSN and that GS1 actually states that Data Quality is a prerequisite for doing GDSN.

    But you are still trying to make the point that companies should distinguish between externally shared master data and internal master data and that external master data would benefit from GDSN.

    Actually only the data quality at Data Recipients may benefit from GDSN. And here it depends on the definition of data quality. If you are looking from an EDI perspective (orders, invoices, despatch advises, …) one key aspect is that suppliers and retailers (data sources and data recipients) have the SAME data. Otherwise electronic processes like orders, invoices, … simply do not work.

    From my perception GS1 is very well aware of this and also working on getting that into every particpant.

    Have you for example looked into the GS1 Data Quality Framework ( The DQF is integral part of GDSN and should be implemented BEFORE companies are implementing GDSN. The DQF is very much tailored to the requirements of companies in retail industries and of companies who have to exchange item master data with their business partners. For this target grouop it is from my perspective exactly the right approach to achieve Data Quality.

    Just to answer your question – no, I am not from GS1. But I am working at large customers in retail industry and help them to improve their data quality and afterwards to implement GDSN. One of the means I am implementing at my customers is the GS1 DQF and that is always very successful.

    Is that the right approach for healthcare? I am not sure. What I see is that also healthcare does need global standards (for identification, data synchronisation, etc.). And I have not seen any standard which has really been globally adopted. The GS1 system is a real global system of standards and which has already proven that it can be adopted globally. Even in healthcare some countries have already implemented those successfully …

    So why not benefit from that?

    Just my $0.02

    I am not sure whether this is

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