Analyst Coverage: Andy Hayler
Master data is data that is shared between computer systems: data such as “customer”, “product”, “location”, “asset”, “contract”, etc. Large organisations have many systems which store such information and the management of multiple and competing definitions of this data is known as master data management (MDM). See “The full spectrum of MDM offerings” here.
MDM continues its transition from a niche into a mainstream technology. Customers face a choice between platform vendors, combining MDM with data integration and data quality technology, and independent vendors not tied to a specific integration or data quality technology – see the Market Update here. The organisational aspects that support an MDM program, involving business ownership and dispute resolution, is known as data governance.
Master Data Management (MDM) continues to be a rapidly growing segment of the enterprise software market. Large organisations, despite their efforts in recent years to consolidate ERP systems, still have multiple applications generating competing customer, product, asset and location data, amongst other data domains. MDM technologies promise to provide that elusive ‘single version of the truth’ but, in reality, that goal remains far off for most companies. Every one of those competing applications has a business owner, and ownership is power. In order to resolve inconsistencies of data definitions once and for all, it is necessary to change the way in which businesses currently operate, and that is beyond the remit of most IT departments.
We see three key trends in the MDM market at present. The first is the dawning realization that MDM technology on its own is not sufficient to address some of the key barriers to consistent master data within an enterprise, which are as much about human factors around control and ownership, and internal politics, as much as technical issues. Data governance has emerged over the last couple of years as an important trend, encouraging businesses to take ownership of their data, and to design processes that allow disputes over data ownership to be effectively resolved. Data governance initiatives, usually led by business rather than technology staff, assign ‘data stewards’ within the business with responsibility for ensuring the consistency and quality of key shared data. Data governance is not in itself a technology, but technology can support it, so most MDM vendors have recently added workflow support or modules to assist data steward roles and activities.
Broadly, MDM is moving from a phase of pilot projects into one of broader deployment. Many enterprises have now cut their teeth on implementing MDM in a single, limited area, such as “customer data in Europe”, or “product data in Asia”. They are now seeking to broaden the reach of these initial MDM initiatives, which is why data governance is gaining increasing prominence. Alongside these broader deployments, the trend noted in earlier market updates towards ‘multi-domain’ technologies continues to gain ground. Companies are reluctant to introduce multiple MDM technologies, one for each major data domain, so most MDM vendors now proclaim their multi-domain abilities, whether or not they were ever actually designed with this in mind.
Data quality is increasingly seen as an integrated part of an MDM project, whether or not the technology used for data quality (such as matching and de-duplication) comes from the MDM vendor or via a partner technology. Vendors continue to build out functionality in response to customer demands, and some have begun to flirt with support for social media data, which is all the rage at present and clearly has some relationship to master data such as “customer” and “brand”.
In the market, there has been gradual consolidation as large platform vendors have purchased MDM technologies. There is a clear divide now between such broad platforms, offered by IBM, Oracle, SAP, Informatica and Software AG (and to an extent Teradata and SAS), and independent vendors such as multi-domain specialists Orchestra Networks and Kalido, product data specialists Stibo, Agility Multichannel, Heiler, and Riversand, and others such as Visionware, who have carved out a niche mainly in local government. Figure 1 shows an overview of the current state of the MDM market. In addition to those vendors shown on the diagram, it should be noted that there are a number of other providers, for example some that specialise in master data within the financial services industry (such as Cadis, Golden Source, Verdantis and Smartco).