There's no doubt that master data management is a crucial function in a world where far too much data quality is suspect.
But with all the activity surrounding the acquisition of MDM providers as part of attempts to build suites of data management tools, you can't help but wonder what's happening at the application layer that results in the need for massive amounts of investment in MDM.
According to Charlie Lawhorn, senior vice president for marketing and business development for Stibo Systems, which makes a product information management (PIM) application that includes MDM functionality, horizontal MDM deployments are an IT approach to a data quality problem. But from the perspective of the business, MDM should really be solved first within the individual business applications. That means for MDM to truly be effective, it needs to be embedded into enterprise applications and business process management systems.
Otherwise, adds Lawhorn, what most companies wind up with is multi-million dollar MDM projects that never provide any real value because it's all an exercise in good IT housekeeping.
Lawhorn has a point, and hopefully, the acquisitions of Initiate Systems by IBM and Siperian by Informatica are pushing MDM in that direction. After all, the fact that MDM needs to be a discrete IT process is really the problem in the first place.