IBM massages its MDM messaging

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Readers may recall that I have been
somewhat critical about IBM’s marketing of MDM in the past, because I thought
its message around multiform MDM was too restrictive, in that it focused only
on the need to support multiple data domains and the need to address multiple
business issues. However, I am now pleased to say that the company has extended
this message to include multiple deployment styles.

I think this is particularly important.
Previously, IBM’s messaging had tended to focus on MDM hubs. But the problem
with hubs is that they take a long time to deploy. For many companies, a
registry style approach, where you store pointers to source systems, is a far
more realistic, “quick win” option, at least initially. So, IBM is now
emphasising that it can do this too. Moreover, you can move iteratively towards
a hub. For example, you have a set of master data supported by pointers but
then you decide to extend your master data by adding some new fields. Should
this go into all the source systems? Probably not: so you extend your registry
with the new master data fields so now you have a hybrid registry/hub. And IBM
already has customers doing this.

However, IBM is not just changing its
messaging but also its products. It has announced the IBM MDM Server (shipping in Q1 2008) which replaces, and extends, what was previously known as
the IBM WebSphere Customer
Center. The IBM WebSphere
Product Center
remains in place.

Let me explain this. One of the major
business issues around product information management is how you introduce new
products, change products from one category (hierarchy) to another, manage
different hierarchies that may be present in different countries, and so on.
This requires workflow and collaborative capabilities which is why this type of
MDM is often referred to as collaborative MDM. And this is the core strength of
WebSphere Product Center.
Moreover, you don’t generally need this sort of capability for customers or
suppliers, for example.

However, there are business issues that are
typically common across business domains. For example, the need to synchronise
data across multiple applications or the need to support analytics (who is my
best customer, which is my best selling product in Albania and so on). These have all
been brought together in the new IBM MDM Server. So, in a nutshell, the idea is
that if you need workflow and collaborative capabilities then you go with WebSphere Product Center
(even if this is not for products per se) and if you need analytical
capabilities or the ability to synchronise across data sources (IBM calls this
operational MDM) then you go for the MDM Server. Of course, if you need
collaboration and one or both of the other sets of capabilities then you need
both products, which integrate with one another via IBM Information Server. At
some point in the future IBM intends to merge the two products, with MDM Server
becoming the common platform for all MDM deployments.

There are, of course, new facilities being
introduced (for example, there will be support for product bundling) but my
main point is that IBM is now clearly on the right track, not just in terms of
its technology (which was always the case) but also in terms of its messaging.