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What’s Happening in Master Data Management (MDM) Land?

by Andrew White  |  October 5, 2017  |  10 Comments

One of my colleagues shared a short note published by a vendor on LinkedIn that commented on how Gartner’s views the current MDM market.  Of course I had to read it and in reading it I saw an opportunity.  Firstly all vendors have a unique view of the market.  That is useful and important – but it is only one view.  I myself worked for a vendor for 9 years before joining Gartner so I was very familiar with this idea.  But once I joined Gartner, and now after 16 years, I appreciate more fully that what we see is different.  Our lens tends to be much broader and much wider since we touch to many more organizations, more regions, more users, than many vendors added together.  So i comment on this vendor’s point of view not from any negative criticism but from an alternative perspective.

Ramon Chen (Chief Product Officer) of Reltio noted in his post ( that MDM is positioned in our recent Information Governance and MDM Hype Cycle in the “trough of disillusionment”.  If you read the note you will note however that technically MDM is out of the trough and just nudging up the first parts of the ramp up to the “plateau of productivity”.  But let’s not quibble about that.  What was interesting were Ramon’s observations on the MDM market.  Here are his comments and my initial thoughts on his comments

  1. The landscape is littered w/failed projects that use legacy on-premises MDM tools that are 12+ yrs old

Partially true.  There are many failed and struggling MDM implementations.  The part that is not totally true is the age of the technology.  This is because the main reasons for the failures have little to do with technology.  They range from:

  • Tackling too much data at the same time.  There is huge confusion in the market about what is master data and what is not (e.g. application data)
  • Assuming MDM was a ‘data’ program whereas those that know how to ‘do” MDM learn quick that it is about business process/outcome improvement, much less about data per se.
  • Not aligning to an (business) outcome – which is most easily noted when IT says it is “doing MDM” and business leaders are not even involved
  • Not establishing effective (as in right-sized) governance (too many folks, too big a program, not designed to operate at the speed of business)
  • Not even attempting operational governance (i.e. information stewardship)
  • Conflating MDM with a data quality tool or project or an entity resolution workload or a data matching effort or relationship discovery.  All are are useful.  None ‘are’ MDM; they may contribute to it.
  1. Gartner continues to ignore successful Cloud MDM deployments happening today

Not at all.  There are just few of them.  Also be clear about the last response to the first question.  Just doing entity resolution or graphing or discovering some relationship concerning customer data is not MDM but helpful to those implementing it.

  1. Coincidentally the companies they recognize as MDM leaders w/12 year old tech aren’t truly multi-tenant cloud enabled

What has that got to do with a business outcome?  Multi-tenant is an important architectural aspect for vendors only.  It actually removes one of the cost-penalties that vendors incur in the cloud.  Single tenant SaaS leads to higher costs to vendors and they would then pass this on to clients.  With multi-tenant, costs are lower to the vendor and so costs to clients can be lower.  This has no impact on the quality of your MDM program.  In fact, there is a small argument that multi-tenant apps would lead to a standardization of the business processes the apps would support.  Thus the value of MDM might be more easily achieved by your competitors using hte same MDM solution.  But that’s a nit.

So there you have it.  What do you see “out there”?


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 What’s Happening in Master Data Management (MDM) Land?

  1. Ramon Chen says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for taking the time to start this discussion based on my linkedin post. I agree with you that failures are not all to do with the age of technology. I would however respectfully suggest that multi-tenant cloud is not just a vendor cost benefit. It’s about agility, ala no impact upgrades 3 times a year to our customers, vs. the long upgrade cycles and large migration projects that take place every 18 months, that hinder businesses’ ability to respond to competitive pressures, and market conditions. The use of a logical data model (and the polyglot capabilities of using NoSQL, Graph and document stores), vs. fixed relational is similarly about being able to be agile, and to scale to internet-scale volumes elastically in the cloud. Contrasting with how challenging it is to create a relational model that will stand the test of time, and requires multiple changes often before the project is deployed.
    Thanks again for replying and posting here, I believe it’s an important discussion point, and as ever, there are multiple points of view. Companies should select what’s best for them. My LinkedIn post was to surface that MDM alone has not fulfilled its potential, and that there are opportunities today to look beyond.

  2. Matt Gagan says:

    Thank you for the post Andrew. Focusing on your reasons for MDM failure: most of these I tend to agree with. A couple of comments, though:

    1) Re. your first-listed reason: Master data, or not Master data:

    We can constrain ourselves to defining MDM in the same way that folks have limited themselves over the last decade or so, basing our definition of master data on the limitations imposed by the serving technologies – meaning, “if there’s too much of it, or if it changes too quickly, I can’t handle it, so it’s not master data”.

    …Or we can ask why MDM solutions even exist – what use are they? The answer is often to be able to support a 360º View of the Customer/Product/etc. To that end wouldn’t it be better to consider a solution where the master data entities themselves, as well as a relevant set of application data, are brought together into a solution where state-of-the-art matching and merging take place, resulting in an operational data store containing the reliable set of necessary data to fulfill the 360º View, delivered in context, via a modern web UX?

    2) Re. your third reason: ‘Not aligning to an (business) outcome – which is most easily noted when IT says it is “doing MDM” and business leaders are not even involved’:

    This is exactly what a modern data management PaaS solution addresses, by being the seamless gateway to data-driven applications, including as described above.

  3. Andrew,

    While Ramon makes some interesting observations, I couldn’t agree more with your points about MDM being about business outcome much more than data. I have seen many projects go by the wayside because the team lost perspective along the way; what clearly started as a strong business initiative to address a pressing business need, shortly became yet another data project. By the time the project was eventually delivered, there was a substantial mismatch.

    To be clear, every company today is in the data business. Whether they manufacture cars, bake cereals, sell shirts, they all depend on the availability and accuracy of data. It is a necessity, it is a matter of relevancy, it is a matter of survival… Yet, I would recommend that all of us practitioners bring a different viewpoint to the table stating it is not merely about data, whether consolidated or mastered; it is about managing outcomes, not IT plumbing, powering business users to shape their future.

    If MDM is to solidly establish itself in the “Plateau of Productivity,” we vendors must take the lead bringing in a business-first mindset to our customers and guiding them all the way.


  4. Tarun Jain says:

    If I am reading between the lines correctly, what is being asserted here, on one side is that decade old technology is out of the trough and just nudging up the first parts of the ramp up to the “plateau of productivity” meaning it is here to stay and get more productive over time, while the other side considers key components of the “decade old” technology to be insufficient or obsolete to address challenges and needs that can truly get it to the “plateau of productivity”.

    Almost sounds like debating iPhone vs Blackberry in 2007. Ten years later, we all know one with better foundation and execution won.

  5. Matt Gagan says:


    I agree regarding the disconnect between objectives and results that can result from projects and their phases being too ambitious and/or lengthy, and from the business not continuing to be present and actively informing a project’s direction throughout.

    These two vectors: project duration vs. continued buy-in, pull in opposing directions, so successful delivery is dependent on providing a short Time To Value. Business relevance of the deliverable itself is driven by an agile approach: frequent, iterative business-centric prototyping, the approach itself relying on agile configuration capabilities and adaptive solution components.

    Responsibilities of the vendors should ideally be customer-success driven. Unfortunately, though, too often, the business model of that vendor can drive behavior.

    For example, if you provide a cloud only solution your revenue is entirely subscription-driven. Here, customer success is critical to maintaining happy and successful customers, thereby maintaining your own revenue stream, so a good cloud solution provider will have a dedicated customer success program.

    Conversely, the traditional on-premise-software vendor revenue model focusing mainly on license revenue does not demand that the vendor ensure a customer be successful with the software.

    Many vendors, especially those seeking to strategically create their identity in a particular space, will focus their attention on particular customers’ success. Without the right attention, though, it’s easy to see how projects can lose their way, and we all, as an industry, suffer.

  6. Ramon Chen says:

    These are all great points Christophe, Tarun and Matt! I’m for one excited that we are having a dialog about all of the processes, technology, and opportunities to drive better business outcomes. Technology is indeed just an enabler, however IT’s inability to deliver value in an agile manner to business is leading to a shake up in the status quo. I’m hoping that Gartner will shed light on innovation that can help enterprises move towards a plateau of productivity, rather than just keeping score on the status quo on individual technologies.

  7. Christophe Marcant says:

    Hi Matt,

    I agree with your comments on focusing Time to Value and business relevancy.

    As far as why it is not always taking place, i have a different perspective. I think in many cases the joint team (client+vendor+SI) get so caught up in the daily technical challenges (Data-first) that they collectively forget why they are in that same room together (Business-first). This remains true even when the team is mixed (tech + business).

    I don’t necessarily agree that being an on-premise vendor means less concern for customer success. If your sole source of revenue are those licenses + support/service, then the only way to be successful is by way of positive customer endorsements to foster more volume of business. Those endorsements will only take place if those customers are indeed successful. Approaching them and caring for them with that business-first mindset becomes then essential.


  8. Andrew White says:

    Response to Matt and Ramon:

    Ramon, you make some good points. The main one concerning multi-tenant SaaS apps is much larger than just MDM and concerns all cloud apps. I would agree: they can provide agility in terms of new capabilities to clients more frequently. However, this assumes the vendor keeps innovating their offering in a profitable manner.

    Second, and this is my main point, a multi-tenant SaaS app will result in any such innovation being available to all clients at the same time. This harks back to the rise (and predicted fall) of the trading exchange from the era. This impact won’t take place quickly, I’ll give you that, but the logic is sound and it will influence behavior and how markets operate.

    Separately I also agree that discovery and graph are more easily achieved in the cloud assuming more data is accessible. But we should note that cloud data is not automatically more open. There are hundreds of companies only now discovering that their cloud apps are far less open than when they were on-premises. Cloud can be very open, if we deliberately make it so. It’s just not a given.


    I think the ‘master data and not master data’ point was misunderstood. It is not a constraint at all and nor does it make ‘no sense’ in context to customer360. The point we make might be clearer with more detail:

    • Not all data is equal
    • Some data yield more vale/risk than others

    When data is not classified, and governance and stewardship not graduated, leveraging these two points, we end up with crazy MDM programs that are too slow, too big, and too expensive. Too often we hear business users saying that “it is not relevant to me”. By classifying data and graduating governance and stewardship, the work is broken up into bite-sized chunks that better align value, cost and return to effort. Thus out three rings of information governance relate to pace layered strategies that recognize systems of record, differentiation, and innovation. Customer360 becomes achievable because it includes a lot more than just customer master data.We have written multiple research notes on this concept at Gartner.

    Your point seems to focus on persistence of the resulting data. This makes sense since you are speaking as a software vendor. Yes, centralizing all the data is one approach. It is not the only approach. The very claim, made admirably by your colleague Ramon, can be used to argue that distributed hubs in the cloud can just as easily connect and share as one large hub can. MDM, and the other ‘zones’ we identify in the three rings of information governance, might better be placed nearer their publishing or consuming systems.

    This whole thinking, spanning MDM, applications data management (regional and local data), governance, sharing, and persistence, we have wrapped up in what we call a data hub strategy. See Use a Data Hub Strategy to Meet Your Data and Analytics Governance and Sharing Requirements ( Such hubs, virtual or physical, act as mediators to enforce information governance policy, act as a clearing house through which data sharing is managed, and route requests for data (virtualization) or act as a persistent store. This is three layers. The result is a networked set of hubs, part of the infrastructure, acting as upstream/downstream and even primary sources of data (system of record and/or system of reference) policy, enforcement and integration.

  9. Ramon Chen says:

    Thanks Andrew for continuing the dialog. It’s really great that you’ve taken the time to discuss this in an open forum. I really appreciate your perspectives, and the opportunity to provide our view. We do believe that we have good input to share, and of course are disappointed that we have not been included in the upcoming MDM Magic Quadrant purely due to the revenue threshold of $15M. As you may know we ended 2016 at $13.5M and were ranked 153rd on the Inc 5000 fastest growing private companies in America. We believe that this, together with the list of large companies using our platform shows there is significant interest in cloud, and the concepts we are offering. Looking forward to briefing you and the MDM analysts at Gartner in the future on our progress. Thanks again.

  10. Salema Rice says:

    I would like to share my point of view
    from a customer perspective regarding the value that of Informatica. As our Partner in the MDM space, they are not just a vendor of a software product, they have earned that seat at the table. From the very first day, before we even began our assessment. Yes, they are a highly “experienced, proven” MDM vendor that also continuously transforms themselves to ensure their technology and company overall is ever changing in order to stay aligned with the ever changing needs of their customers whether that’s cloud, subscription, big data, etc.) – but not once have they ignored their existing investments and critical business being run on-premises. They enabled us to create a hybrid enterprise to operate without any deployment bias.

    Informatica’s end-to-end solution, enabled our organization to maximize the business value by delivering a unified view of all our mastered data.

    This approach ensured a better customer experience, better decision making and regulatory compliance.

    Remember, MDM is NOT just about matching and merging. It’s about creating a complete and single view of your customers relationships across the enterprise and across the globe.

    With their new Data Governance (Axon) addition and Big Data appliance along with Relate 360 and the latest innovations through augmented intelligence via ‘Claire’ these are game-changers. We can now enable even more connections to transactions, interactions and the Internet of Things.

    The new graph technology within the big data product, allows us to visually see the relationships among households, social groups and even social networks. This alone is a huge competitive advantage for any organization. The technology empowers an organization wanting to become digitally enhanced. Using big data combined with master data we can now enrich our assets and harness data never before imagined in order to network the world’s population.

    Beyond this, their expertise, honesty and advice go well beyond the word vendor. We collaborate so that we know that we are getting the most out of their products and their future enhancements have always been aligned with our needs and wants.

    From a partner perspective they invest in educating us, help us plan for the future, innovating, and of course troubleshooting with the highest degree of delivery.

    Even from a vendor deployment professional services perspective I’ll tell you honestly, to this very day, I have never hired an Informatica Professional Services Contractor that wasn’t best-in-class. Never. And quite frankly I can’t say that about any other vendor I have ever worked with. Thank you.

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