Merging MDM silos

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Most vendors in the master data management (MDM) space have either started with customer (CDI: customer data integration) or product-centric (PIM: product information management) products. However, the whole market has now recognised (or, at least, I hope it has all recognised) that this sort of siloed approach is a no-no.

A classic example of why it is a no-no is in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. In this market, ask yourself who the customer is. Is it a doctor? Or a patient? Or a hospital perhaps? You could argue that the patient is the customer and that the doctor (prescriber) is the supplier and that the hospital or pharmacy is a location. This would certainly be true, at least in some senses, in the National Health Service. On the other hand, it probably isn’t the case in the United States where the hospital is an employer and doctors fall within human resources. And it certainly wouldn’t be the case for pharmaceutical companies, which have two markets: for prescription drugs where they target doctors, pharmacies and hospitals and over-the-counter drugs where it is pharmacies only (and patients indirectly).

So, if you are an MDM supplier focusing on this market you need to have a very flexible data model (or approach to data models) and you need to offer an environment which extends beyond conventional uses of the term “customer”. Having focused on the pharmaceutical sector from the outset, this is what Siperian does.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Siperian can offer all things to all people. In particular, its support for products is limited when compared to specialist PIM vendors such as FullTilt. In particular, while it can handle ERP-style synchronisation and support hierarchical information against products for analysis purposes, it does not have the sort of facilities you would need when handling product catalogues. Outside of that, however, Siperian can handle pretty much all types of data.

The key to this ability is that Siperian is metadata-driven and has a flexible approach to data models. This tends to mean that implementations are shorter than they otherwise might be and the fact that you can install Siperian using a registry, repository or hub-based approach adds to the flexibility of the product.

Siperian was founded in 2000 (work began on the product the year before) but until the last six months or so it has more or less been limited to the pharmaceutical sector (at least, that’s where its sales and marketing were focused) and the United States. However, the company has now opened a UK office (and has European customers) and it is also starting to branch out into other sectors, notably financial services.

In practice, probably the biggest competitors to Siperian and, indeed, all the MDM vendors, are home-grown solutions. These will gradually diminish as companies recognise that it is easier and less expensive to invest in a formal MDM solution. More important, therefore, is how Siperian and the other pure play vendors can compete with the big boys in the market: IBM, Oracle and SAP. At present it is clear that Siperian has a substantial advantage over each of these. IBM has two data models at present that you need (potentially) to have to tie together and it will be some time before these are unified, while Oracle seems to be happy to have multiple solutions and SAP has yet to come to market with a mature product. Much of this will change, of course, but for the time being, Siperian (as well as some of the other pure plays) offers significant advantages when compared to the big boys. Maintaining that advantage will be key to its continued success.