I don’t, as a rule, blog about vendor briefings. As you can imaging there are many, many vendors that want to brief Gartner analyst. They all want to influence us, get their message into our heads etc. I remember when I worked for a software vendor – I had the same ideas. If I were to blog about such meetings I just feel like I would be offering free exposure – even if some of it was negative. But in this case, I just had to blog. Let me explain why (and then offer up some free exposure).
When we started our coverage of Master Data Management (MDM) we conceived of a business-led and IT-supported process to assure quality and semantic consistency of master data across an organization. At the time this seemed like a simple enough suggestion: surely organizations could do this? If they can govern their master data that links core business processes, surely then can then do a good job of governing the other application data? Of course we have all learned that MDM is not easy. MDM remains a big challenge for many organizations and there are many reasons for this – too many for me to cover here else I would lose my train of thought.
But if I look at what happened in the software vendor universe and how it has evolved in context to MDM, I can honestly say that I have been a little disappointing. I will paraphrase a number of points I have made in research notes and on stage at events: overall the so called “MDM” software vendors have focused more on solutions that support data quality, data modeling, and data integration, and much less on what is needed to govern and steward information”. Put another way, MDM vendor have “gone down into the weeds with comfortable IT-centric data integration tools” and not “gone upstairs to the business user with solutions that help with setting end enforcing [information governance] policy”. This observation led to a research note in 2012 called, “The Emergence of Information Stewardship Solutions“. This note included a mockup of a screen/UI I envisaged would eventually be needed by business users operating in the role of (business) information steward. This in turn led to the notion that the work of the (business) information steward is not a full time job, but it should be “sold” as “13 minutes of work a week – what your information steward should be doing“. And this was just stewardship – the work of enforcing information governance policy – it was ignoring the work of policy analysis and setting.
This led to other ideas: if we can just figure out how to ‘add’ such support to MDM tools and implementations, we could do the same for ERP apps, and other business apps, and data warehouses, and in fact any data repository in which we need to actively govern the data.
But reality has set in. I have been disappointed in that software vendors have been slow to fill the gap we envisaged. Some vendors have and continue to make attempts – when and if they perceive the opportunity. Kalido, now part of Magnitude Software, was an early vendor. SAP and IBM have made inroads, some of these recently. Collibra, Datum, Orchestra Networks and BackOffice Associates are doing some good things here too – and there are others. That real challenge though is this – we are all wrestling with new ideas for work we have not done effectively in the past (as business users of technology) and the way in which software vendors, trying to make money, perceive opportunity for new products.
Master Data Management, as Gartner originally defined it, implied the need for this capability. The market did not evolve as we thought: virtually all traditional MDM software offerings in the market are pretty week when it comes to supporting information stewardship and governance. So many MDM implementations rarely get past the periodic running of a data quality tool to determine duplicates. The solutions to help operational support for (business) information stewardship and governance continues to want.
In 2012 a colleague of mine, Regina Casonato, wrote about Global Data Excellence as a cool vendor in our note, Cool Vendors in Information Governance and MDM. I just took a briefing from this vendor and I am happy to say they have evolved quite nicely from that early beginning. The software solution provides a pre-packaged framework that allows the selection of data, business processes, business process outcomes and business rules, which should be modeled for financial impact. Based on interrogation of the real transaction (i.e. past) and planned business data, the solution can help identify the financial impact of “bad data” – that is – poorly governed information – on business outcomes. It is an intriguing idea.
It is not easy to do – and takes a lot of data, modeling, thinking, and mapping of a generic model to a specific model. It requires a lot of business knowledge – not technology knowledge – to make sense of all the rules and the impact on outcomes. But it is a fascinating line of thinking to explore. It could replace what didn’t happen today in many organizations, or that rather fat check and project you would have had to do with that system integrator of old. This is an interesting example for how IT and software can bring new solutions to old problems (that MDM solutions should have done by now but has not, so far).
But as I sat there, listening to the briefing, I moved beyond my old thinking: what MDM (tools) need are tools like this one, in order to provide the additional support for stewardship (policy enforcement) and governance (policy setting). My mind clicked – and I suddenly thought: If you adopt this kind of approach, and you are able to manage the enforcement of data and rule change in the target/legacy/cloud business app, then such a solution like Global Data Excellence does not even need MDM solutions as defined by the market today! I wrote down in my notes, “[T]his is not so much the missing link [in MDM land], as much as it is an alternative future”. Perhaps a little grand, but perhaps it’s worth exploring?
This was an eye opener for me. Is this possible? Am I going crazy? I suspect a Global Data Excellence type solution, without an attendant MDM solution, would work for small organizations. If the organization is large enough, or if the level of automation needed across the application landscape great enough, then classic MDM, DQ and DI tools will still be needed to execute the changes in data, policy and rules modeled in Global Data Excellence, or some other information governance/stewardship application. So I am excited at the new ideas now bubbling around in my head. So I just had to blog. I hope you find the analysis interesting and thought provoking.