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MDM is not an infrastructure solution…it is a business solution…

by Andrew White  |  February 9, 2010  |  8 Comments

Did you notice the slight change in messaging and positioning that Informatica is making with its acquisition of Siperian?  Siperian was focused on messaging a business solution; whereas in the latest marketing information from Informatica, the Siperian stuff is described as a “MDM infrastructure”.

I think this is a talking point.  What does this signal?  Is it a “toned down” message to try to avoid competitive positioning between Informatica and other vendors that sport MDM?  Yes, I think so.  Why say, “infrastructure”?  Well, to me that signals IT and technology and integration and pipes and data stuff.  For me, MDM certainly IS part of this; but more importantly MDM is a business solution; MDM focuses on “process integrity”, not just data quality.  Process integrity helps assure the business processes do not create bad data, or through inaction, alow bad data to creap into the business.

Such a message might imply a desire to seek out IT as the potential buyer of its new wares.  However, for me, this is a shame.  It could be a legitimate strategy for Informatica, but I think it runs the risk of doing MDM, the discipline, a disservice, and hence might water down what organizations are truing to achieve with MDM.

What do you think?  Yay or nay?  Does a vendors marketing positioning signal a broader change in the market, or is this just one view among many?

Category: informatica  mdm  siperian  

Tags: informatica  mdm  siperian  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on MDM is not an infrastructure solution…it is a business solution…

  1. Paul Haley says:

    Thank you for the blog, Andrew. Although I agree with your paragraph concerning integrity I cannot conceive of MDM as a solution in the general sense. Generally, a solution is something used in the operation of a business to address a specific business function. If line staff use an application it is generally a solution. If that application uses things (like databases or message buses) they do not become solutions. They remain tools or technologies. If an application is used only by IT it has not crossed into a solution to a business problem (assuming a line between business and IT persists).

    It may simply be more honest of Informatica to position MDM as infrastructure. Perhaps MDM targeted to specific problems, such as management of product information by marketing or procurement might be a solution or customer information by sales, but generic MDM not focused on a particular business user remains simply technical infrastructure.

  2. Andrew White says:

    Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. I am sorry to say that I don’t agree.

    We do not recognize anything called “MDM” that is not targeted at the business problem of achieving and sustaining “single view” of certain things (master data). I do not know what “generic MDM” is. I would argue that any technology, not focused on a particular business need, is just that – a technology. MDM, as represented by the grouping of technologies, assembled and orchestrated in such fashion, as to help business users/stewards assure “single view” of product, or customer, or whatever, for any and all purposes across the organization, is an (MDM) solution.

    I do agree with your view on what is a tool, technology, and “solution”, but for me MDM is not “just” about integrating disparate sources of data for a specific use. “Data integration” is about, among other things, linking data across databases using messaging services. But that is not the same as MDM. IT is pretty good at “data integration” and has been for some time. It is for this reason that, but not this alone, that makes selling MDM so hard. This is an insidious problem – IT has gotten pretty darn good at coping with bad data that many business users do not even perceive the problem! So the “need” for MDM is not always clear. IT needs to be less good at coping with rubbish – to help demonstrate the root issues…

  3. Paul Haley says:

    The objective is critical to the business, no doubt. We have a different semantics for the phrase “business solution”. I think MDM is a technical solution unless it is embedded within an application used directly by people other than IT. Generic MDM can be sold to a CIO but not to an executive outside of IT. In the CXOs mind it is technology but not a solution. When you start talking about correct customer or product information, however, then you can get the business to agree that you are offering a solution.

    If this is a distinction that Informatics is making, they are doing themselves and their market a service (and I think CIOs will appreciate it).

    By way of analogy, we could argue about whether SQL is a solution to the business problem of remembering who your customers are. If that’s what you would call a business solution, let’s just write it off to ambiguity.

  4. Andrew White says:

    Hi Paul,

    I think we are getting to the root of an important point. So this is a good dialog that does appear in many MDM client interactions.

    Firstly, I don’t know what “generic MDM” that can be sold to the CIO is. MDM has lots of good technical bits, is partly infrastructure, but has application stuff that is used by business users, often in the role of steward. If what is being sold to the CIO does not support this, then it is not MDM (as far as we are concerned) though it might be lots more lovely data integration. Hence we would say that MDM is not a technical solution. We define it as a technology enabled discipline used by business and IT to achieve so on and so forth.

    So I do think Informatics is missing the boat, or deliberately trying to message to a different audience. They would like to suggest that the CIO can achieve “MDM” without recourse to the business. I don’t think that is possible. Of the hundreds of end user interactions on the topic, the only 5 (in 5 years or so) that are doomed to failure were those where the client question to me was: “we just implemented MDM and we would like some ideas and help on how to now engage the business”. What on earth were these people doing? They basically tried yet another technical solution (call it data integration) to what is a part technical but also business problem, and called it MDM! Yikes. Not good. MDM cannot be sustained, as a living process, without business engagement – even leadership.

    So semantics aside, I don’t know that we disagree. We might just be saying two good points, but mixing up the words that describe it.


  5. Paul Haley says:

    Yes, I appreciate the discussion and your perspective. If Informatics is suggesting that MDM has value without communicating business benefits they are definitely missing the boat! I emphatically agree with you that technical solutions that do not address business problems make no sense. The CIO that allows such a thing will not last long. Most likely it is mid-tier IT that was sold a bill of goods (i.e., technology in search of problems). I hope that is not Informatics’ target market / sales strategy! I guess I was taking a more optimistic view!

  6. Hi Andrew,

    I agree with your point of view. What I see in the market are two kinds of MDM projects: “real” MDM projects and “infrastructure” MDM projects.

    The “real” MDM projects consider MDM as a new kind of business process. In those projects the focus is on organisation, processes and a supporting IT infrastructure and if those projects are successfully done you get the full blown benefit of MDM througout the whole organisation.

    Most “infrastructure” projects are only triggered by one business challenge, e.g. e-commerce. Customers are then looking only for a tool to manage there master data better then the business solutions are capable to by itself. Also here customers get a benefit out of introducing a MDM “infrastructure/tool”, but they do not get (and they are not targeting for) the whole benefit of MDM.

    So, if you are a MDM technology vendor, how to position yourself? Actually you want to serve both business scenarios because from a technology perspective both scenarios have similar requirements.

    But if you want to position beyond being a technology vendor you have to clearly convey the message that you can do pure MDM-tool projects but that MDM itself is a new business process and brings completly different benefits to your organisation.


    PS: Thank you very much for your great blog!

  7. Ravi Shankar says:

    We appreciate the concerns raised in the post. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify.

    First, we agree 100% that MDM is a business solution. But, let me categorically state that we (read Informatica) are not repositioning Siperian Multidomain MDM Hub for only IT. Siperian has been enormously successful in messaging, calling upon, and selling to the business side. In fact, the “customer centricity” solution we announced for Banks last month is an ardent continuation of extolling the value of MDM to business for cross-sell/ up-sell and customer service. This trend will continue at Informatica as we’re continuing the solution messaging to the business for other industries as well. Please read our blogs for business at

    It’s our position that there are two approaches to MDM – a single platform approach (we call this “infrastructure MDM”) and multiple MDM applications approach (“Application MDM”). Infrastructure MDM means having a single platform for all data domains, that can accommodate multiple architectural styles and handle any business use case. This approach provides maximum flexibility to absorb any data model, support user-definable business logic & workflows and customizable user interface. This has been proven by customers like J&J (Gartner MDM Excellence Award Winner 2008) and Merck (Gartner MDM Excellence Award Finalist 2009). In contrast, “Applications MDM” approach requires multiple MDM applications – one for each data domain and architectural style, and hence are useful for only certain kinds of use cases (either customer-related or product-related).

  8. Ken O'Connor says:


    Great debate – thanks for opening up this topic.

    Socrates tells us “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

    As information quality professionals it is critical that we develop a shared understanding of the terms we use – terms such as “MDM”.


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