I write a lot about master data management, but the sad truth is, most of the focus is on MDM solutions that revolve around customer data integration. That’s probably because the other flavor of MDM - product data - tends to be geared toward specific, vertical industries and is more B2B focused.
Whatever the reason, I think we’ll hear more about product data MDM, and the vendors who offer it, in 2013. Why? Because vendors on both sides are starting to compete in the same space as they move toward adding cross-functions to their MDM solutions.
Stibo Solutions is among the companies making the shift. Its STEP MDM solution traditionally played well in the product MDM space, but in recent years the company has focused on adding the customer domain to build what’s called multi-domain MDM. That’s an MDM solution that can be used to master both customer and product data — and in some interpretations, whatever data you might want to master.
I asked Charlie Lawnhorn, Stibo’s senior vice president of North America, whether product and customer MDM were that far apart, from a technology standpoint. He explained that any MDM has supplying systems and consuming systems, and in that way, both solutions will look similar.
"At a novice level, it's easy to look at it and say, 'Oh, if we can do product. We can do customer.' But that's not the truth," Lawhorn said. "There's a lot of distinctive differences and very specialized practices and focus in each domain."
Few companies have the deep domain expertise across all the domains, which may be why Gartner considers multi-domain immature, he added.
"If I look at the systems piece of it, with product we have to connect to data pools like the GDSN. With customers, we have to connect with data pools like Experian or DNB or Trillium or you name it, right? So although there are similarities across those, the actual tools in marketplaces, both consumption of this information in and validation and then the extraction of it out, there are different tools," he said.
Stibo developed its customer domain by treating it as a separate business, he explained. The company tested out the customer domain as a beta with its established customer base first. It worked with development partners, he added.
"The beauty of Stibo being 200 years old is we have the luxury of thinking more than two years out," Lawhorn said. "So we've actually been taking a methodical approach to the entry into the market, rather than just pretending that we do customer because we do product."
There are benefits to using one MDM solution rather than two. Obviously, it's more efficient to manage one system over two, both from a technology and a data governance standpoint. The latency issues caused by the integration layer are one, Lawhorn said.
But it turns out there are also unique opportunities that come with multi-domain MDM.
"The business world is starting to pick up on MDM now and say, 'Wait a minute, if I can get to a single view of a customer and if I can get to a single view of a product and I can link those things together effectively, what you're telling me is I can drive omni-channel commerce? I can drive targeted promotions to an audience of one across my business? I can start to do that both in the B2B world, but also the B2C world?'" he said. "We’re just now starting to see tons of use cases pop out around how multi-domain really matters."