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The recent release of Hyperion System 9 was not, basically, a surprise. Amongst other things (not least, the front-end user environment) the company introduced a unified platform for its entire product suite and is claiming that it is the first CPM (corporate performance management) vendor to do so.
This is certainly true when it comes to Cognos, whose financial applications are not unified—as opposed to integrated—within the Cognos 8 platform, and Business Objects, whose acquisition of SRC is recent enough that the products are not yet fully integrated, let alone unified, with the XI platform. On the other hand, SAS has had a unified platform for some 18 months though, of course, SAS does not position itself as a specialist CPM vendor.
However, there was one element of the release that is almost (see below) unique amongst these vendors and which creates a significant market advantage for Hyperion. This is the introduction of Master Data Management (MDM) as a part of the platform. The exception referred to above is DataFlux (part of SAS), a vendor intent on providing master data management for real-time environments such as customer data integration – but, as we shall see, this is not the sort of MDM that Hyperion is offering.
Now, MDM is one of those terms that the industry has latched onto and it is widely used to mean different things by different companies. What Hyperion means by MDM is the ability to store reference data specifically for CPM environments. In other words, this is not about reference data that is accessed at run time by operational systems such as customer data integration but about relatively static data such as product information.
‘Relatively’ is, however, a relative term and large environments can have many (and I mean many) changes that need to be put in place on an on-going basis. To appreciate the benefits of master data management at the heart of a business intelligence (or CPM) solution, consider the impact of introducing a new product: all your product sales reports need to be updated, relevant cubes have to have the new product inserted into relevant hierarchies, all your dashboards need to be updated, plans and budgets need to be refreshed, as do forecasts, and so on. This is a nightmare without an MDM solution in place but much, much easier if it is. So this is a very significant advantage for Hyperion.
Having said that, in the longer term MDM probably needs to be abstracted from the BI environment and, indeed, the operational environment, because you really want to have just one MDM platform across the whole organisation. However, nobody can do that yet and at the moment all we have are point solutions. Note, though, that you could implement Hyperion MDM as a stand-alone solution and it will support non-Hyperion applications even though this is not a market that the company is targeting. Indeed, it is specifically not targeting it, as it does not want to be seen to be stepping on the toes of partners like SAP.
Much will become clearer in the MDM market over the next few years but, for the moment, this feature of Hyperion System 9 gives the company a very significant advantage over its closest rivals, none of which can do this stuff. In particular, the difficulty involved in implementing change without the benefit of MDM can be so great that companies are sometimes prepared to implement sub-optimal plans rather than go through the pain of making those changes. With Hyperion System 9 and MDM that need never be the case.