A Single Version of the Truth? Ask Fox Mulder

Loraine Lawson

There's a lot of debate about what the recession-that's right; I said it - will mean for IT, tech workers and various IT-related initiatives, including Web 2.0 and SOA, which is already slowing.


But there's one tech area that's thriving, in part because of the economic slowdown: master data management.


A recent Gartner survey found investments in master data management grew 24.1 percent in one year. That figure is based on MDM software sales, which are expected to tally $1.3 billion by year end.


That kudzu-like growth rate makes MDM one of the fastest-growing software segments, according to this CRM Today article.


Why would companies invest in something so expensive and labor-intensive at a time like this? Gartner research director Chad Eschinger said it's because MDM promises to give organizations a single view of master data across the enterprise, which could turn up opportunities for growing revenue, reduce costs and risks, and help with other business concerns such as compliance.


Let's hope so. MDM promises a "single version of the truth," but other technologies have made similar promises. Recently, I was researching ETL and uncovered this gem from 2004:

"'ETL allows teams of business users to operate from one version of the truth,' says Chet Phillips, IT director for business intelligence at Motorola Inc. in Schaumburg, Ill."

Now I ask you: Did ETL give you one version of the truth?


In 2003, business intelligence tools promised "one version of the truth."


I could go on, but you get the idea. As Frank Buytendijk pointed out, the search for that one version of the truth has been going on since the dawn of IT.


Enterprise Systems ran an article aptly titled, "Is One Version of the Truth Still Achievable?" The article looks at recent Aberdeen Group research on achieving "one version of the truth."


It found that, yes, best-in-class companies do adopt MDM at a higher rate than the rest of us, at 31 percent compared to 15 percent in the "everybody else" category. But they also adopt data integration tools, mapping tools, metadata management tools and data cleansing/quality tools at a higher rate.


The key word in all of this talk about MDM is "potential," as CIO.com senior editor Thomas Wailgum recently pointed out


"Ahh, the dreaded 'P' word: potential. Even with $1.3 billion in 2008 sales, MDM is still dogged by its potential label. The simple reason is that it's just plain hard to do. And even harder to do well."

The truth may be out there, but did you ever notice even Fox Mulder never found it?

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