Are Organizations Ready for MDM in the Cloud?

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10 Critical Myths and Realities of Master Data Management

Prevalent myths surrounding MDM alongside an explanation of the realities.

Today, data integration company SnapLogic and MDM provider Orchestra Networks launched their new master data management cloud offering, Smartdatagovernance.com.


Orchestra Networks had announced a cloud MDM offering a few months ago, but the partnership with SnapLogic gives it some serious legs. SnapLogic can provide that connection between other cloud and on-premise data reserves, making it easier to actually master your data in the cloud. (If you'd like to see some snapshots and get the basics on the solution, check out Mike Vizard's IT Business Edge post on the announcement.)


When SnapLogic contacted me about the then-embargoed news earlier, I admit that I was both impressed and perplexed. Impressed because MDM is neither easy nor lightweight technology; perplexed because I just couldn't see why you'd want to put your master data in the cloud.


Being naturally shy and unwilling to offend (ahem), I sent SnapLogic's PR person, Laura Masterson of LEWIS Pulse, an email:

I am curious about the very idea of master data management in the cloud. Why would you even want to do that?

Masterson explained there are several reasons why cloud and MDM make sense. She wrote:

MDM in the cloud is significant for several reasons, mainly because it's more affordable, flexible, and organizations see a faster ROI than traditional solutions. MDM is hard (in general), many project fail or don't achieve ROI ... Now that we have the cloud, it makes it even more difficult because all data is spread out over multiple data sources.

It's true. MDM is hard and expensive. But the technology is only part of the problem. A large chunk of MDM's difficulty relates to the discipline of master data - the process of establishing who owns what (governance) and defining your terms (what constitutes master data?), and all of the people and process stuff that goes into MDM.


It turns out, Smartdatagovernance.com may be able to help with that, too. One of the things - besides on-premise and cloud integration - that SnapLogic brings to the table is data governance capabilities.


But perhaps more importantly, offering MDM by the cloud may be the way to get business users more involved with MDM - to, in effect, get IT out of the way, just as Salesforce did with CRM.


Masterson sent this explanation offered by Christophe Barriolade, president and CEO of Orchestra Networks:

Master data is the DNA of every company Owned and shared by all lines of business, this "single version of the truth" is the building block of every critical business transaction. A successful MDM program starts with the business and keeps them in the loop, from the definition of a data model to the governance of master data over time. Our cloud MDM solution delivers a web-based, self-service experience to business users, delivering results in just weeks.

But then again, master data is not CRM, which makes me wonder: Is it really a good thing to make MDM more widely available, more "self-service"?


Back in June, when Orchestra Networks first announced the MDM offering, Gartner Research VP Andrew White expressed similar concerns about the general idea of cloud-based MDM:

is "MDM" really destined for the cloud in its entirety? Gartner's position has been clear - yes, over time, selectively. But there are numerous barriers. The technology is not really a barrier - it is more of a challenge. The real barriers are well documented - spanning clear line of sight to business case and business sponsor, change management, establishment of governance and so on. So a cloud-based MDM offering does seem to offer some benefits, in removing some of the more tactical IT challenges, but does it alone help make the real barriers easier to overcome? I wonder.

He did think that the cloud offering would be good for MDM's adoption overall, mostly because it will allow companies to try MDM without committing to a long-term project and major expense.


He wasn't so sure, however, that enterprises would trust a full-blown MDM implementation to the cloud, suggesting it might wind up being an option used by small- and mid-sized businesses.


His colleague, Gartner Research Vice President John Radcliffe, said earlier this year that the majority of organizations were skeptical about moving their most important data into a public cloud, according to TechTarget.


Radcliffe suggested MDM will take a more circumvent path into the cloud, with in-house MDM solutions being integrated with cloud-based applications or departmental-level projects happening first. That's mixed news, given that departmental MDM silos are already a major barrier to enterprise-wide MDM for 71 percent of companies, according to an Aberdeen Group survey conducted earlier this year.


But as The Byrds and Proverbs said, there's a time and a place for every purpose, right? Radcliffe believes that includes cloud-based MDM.


"We can see potentially quite a lucrative future for [some] cloud-based MDM services," he told TechTarget. "It's small at the moment, but potentially by 2015 maybe 10 percent of MDM will be in the cloud."