Focus on Strategy, Not Technology, for MDM, SOA Success


Reading a recent post by Gartner analyst Andrew White, I wasn't surprise to learn that SOA is being deployed primarily as a means of simplifying integration.


I also wasn't surprised to see that White strongly disapproved of the integration-only approach:

"Given my background in Supply Chain, I would argue that there is potentially far greater value to the business from SOA at the strategic level, that is, in the rapid orchestration, and re-orchestration, of business applications supporting new, evolving business processes. The baby steps of 'simpler integration' are fine, but SOA needs to be more relevant to business if IT is to leverage the approach and support the business."

But I must say, White departed from the known script when he advocated MDM as a potential cure for what ails SOA. He admits the case studies for this are rare-to date, he's found only two customers out of 45 he interviewed who opted to map MDM strategy to SOA strategy.


As I read it, the argument seems to be that MDM can solve some of the data problems SOA faced by resolving ongoing data quality and, ironically enough, integration issues:

"Today, IT has to incur this cost with yet more integration work that seeks to link each stove pipe of data to the next with ever more complex point to point or spaghetti integration. ... Clearly, if every SOA-based application interaction had to incur the costs of data reconciliation, mapping, clean up etc, then the cost of building and maintaining that SOA-based application would exceed what it costs today without SOA. The bottom line: SOA needs MDM to help with the evolution of the information infrastructure."

White sees MDM and SOA as deeply connected, with MDM giving SOA a boost through strategic direction.


But the catch is-MDM is itself sometimes falling prey to implementations that focus too much on technology or tactical issues, according to Ravi Shankar, senior director of product marketing at Siperian. When that happens, MDM can actually become a silo, which would be pretty annoying, since it's supposed to be a tool for eliminating silos.


Shankar wrote a lengthy piece on the topic, recently published on MyCustomer.com. Like White, Shankar sees the solution as focusing on strategic business goals, rather than specific technological problems as the key to success:

"With a business-focused approach to MDM, the organization can deploy a complete solution rather than an incremental one. It is still an incremental approach - where the focus is aimed at solving a circumscribed business problem - but one in which you are putting in place the complete set of tools needed to solve larger master data issues."

I interviewed Shankar about this very topic recently. During our Q&A, he offered this piece of advice:

"What you really need is (to) truly look at the business problem that you're trying to solve. If you are starting today, have a path. Where are you going in the next three to five years? ... And that is the way you can not get into an MDM silo and you can leverage your investment in a technology and scale it across the enterprise and reuse what we have done in the first implementation for the second one."