MDM as a Vendor Fight to Own Enterprise Data

Loraine Lawson

I'm a writer. It's neither my job nor my nature to to be speechless.


So, while I'm perusing content, I'm often wondering what I'm going to write. If I chatter to myself a lot, it's probably a good candidate for a post. If I don't, I'm probably not writing about it, or I need more caffeine-I don't always know which.


Today, I wasn't wondering at all as I skimmed through a recent TDWI article called "MDM at a Crossroads." The subtitle was enticing enough: "Most data- or information-integration vendors tend to have ulterior motives when it comes to MDM." But to be honest, the content felt stale.It was assessing how the recent MDM buyouts and announcements affect the market as a whole, and I've already read and written about that once or twice.


I'm not a journalist who hears a sound bite and moves on. I'd be more profitable if I were, but that's just not me, so I kept reading all three pages, the voice in my head muttering, "We've covered that."


Things unexpectedly perked up on page three of the article, which includes this meaty quote from Jill Dyche, a principal with Baseline Consulting:

[These] acquisition[s] start to reveal the dirty little secret that vendors don't want you to know about MDM: Once you invest in an MDM technology and on-board a system or two, you're pretty much on the hook. It becomes foundational, not only from an IT perspective ... but from a business-enablement perspective. MDM is the new ERP. It's really, really hard to de-commission. ... The vendor that owns MDM can become the de-facto owner of its customers' enterprise data.

Wait! What?

The vendor that owns MDM can become the de-facto owner of its customers' enterprise data.



As Peter Boyle often said on "Everybody Loves Raymond": Holy crap.


But after thinking about it, I suppose it's not THAT surprising. After all, it's an extensive, cumbersome initiative that promises to clean up and, really, own your most critical data.


Interestingly, one reader, an EDS BI consultant, argues that companies could have avoided this level of-dare I say-entrapment if they had pursued data and information models:

The real dirty little secret re: MDM and data integration is that if companies had continued their investments in enterprise data/information models that were fathered by the data driven, information engineering approaches popular in the late 1980s and 1990s, there would be no need for a MDM or data integration strategy today. Master data is nothing more than corporate level reference data ...

And that's all I have to say about that. I do hope, however, that Dyche's comments-and the reader's response-generate discussion from others involved with data integration and MDM.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 3, 2010 7:34 AM Garnie Bolling Garnie Bolling  says:

Great post Loraine, wow, and holy crap is right...

But I disagree with the last part, where the EDS consultant in BI said ... if they only followed the data/information models... 

Of course if everyone followed the same industry model, sure... that is utopia..

I have yet to meet a customer / client / organization that has not grown, acquire, divest or shrink, that will stick to a data model.

The key to success in some industries is having an edge, differentiate from their competitors, which a) focuses on the different data / processes b) reporting on different points of view of the raw data.   So no one is going to follow a model 100%.   even within a company, there is going to be a need to focus on different data... 

The highly regulated, and soon to be more regulated industries with requirements to follow a model (say banking) can follow a model, but no two banks act the same... even though by regulation they might work on some of the same data model...

As for your observation on the New ERP... I agree... heck I work for a vendor (IBM) in Master Data and Information Management solutions... so I am speechless... imagine that  

thanks for the article... keep it up... I enjoy your posts and commentary.

Mar 4, 2010 4:01 AM Marty Moseley Marty Moseley  says:

Hey Loraine -

Great article and great comments from folks too.

I'll not pick apart the TDWI article, even though there were some things that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up (DQ is really an element of ETL! ugh... don't get me started!).

But Jill is on target wrt the importance of MDM, although I choose not to speak to the motives of MDM vendors.

I also agree w/ Garnie (my new colleague within IBM - Garnie, we must meet!) that the EDS consultant has missed the main reason for MDM.  It's not that they were or were not following EI principles.  It's that companies got on the ERP bandwagon (& the CRM & the DW/BI & the ecommerce bandwagons) and were acquiring systems left and right because EI takes waaaaaay too long and tends to build Rube Goldberg "solutions." It's because companies have these large inventories ofr dis-integrated systems that we need MDM.

Thanks again, Loraine, for posting!

Mar 4, 2010 4:23 AM Jill Dyche Jill Dyche  says:

Holy crap is right!

The anonymous EDS consultant has a point when he says that life would be a lot easier if we had stuck to our guns and continued to maintain our original data models. But Garnie's right when he says, "I have yet to meet a customer / client / organization that has not grown, acquire, divest or shrink, that will stick to a data model."

The issue here, and the promise of MDM, is how to handle data that's constantly changing. Merely having a complete data model won't address the ongoing volatility of dynamic reference data. Regardless of what all those crazy consultants (and I'm one of 'em) say about the importance of data management practices, true MDM involves automating the reconciliation of master data across systems.

So go ahead and conform those dimensions and eradicate those dangling foreign keys. But if you really want to address your constantly changing master data, invest in MDM.

Thanks, Loraine, for a great post!


Mar 4, 2010 11:42 AM Ken O'Connor Ken O'Connor  says:

Great post Loraine,

We are at a crossroads.... We can continue with bespoke approaches to Data Management, or strive for a vision of a standards based approach.

In every facet of life, standards provide the "plumbing" that enable creativity to flourish.  The amazing apps we now see on the web, and on Iphones etc. were only made possible through the use of "standards".

MDM vendors can only take control of an Enterprise's Data assets if they impose a proprietary approach.  An open, standards based approach will enable Enterprises to tender for MDM services and replace underperforming service providers.

Rgds Ken 


Mar 4, 2010 12:02 PM R R "Ray" Wang  says: in response to Garnie Bolling

Jill makes a good point about lock-in with MDM ala ERP.  This would really only happen if the MDM products were successful at addressing all types of data.  Even then, one could argue, other MDM products could consume existing ones as new data sources.

However, the point is there that if a vendor becomes successful at MDM, they will have a good base to start with in the stack and if they are fortunate, they could own the stack from underneath the DB and ERP vendors.

Mar 4, 2010 12:28 PM Yves de Montcheuil Yves de Montcheuil  says:

At least, use open source for your MDM projects.  This decreases significantly the vendor lock-in issue.

Mar 4, 2010 12:44 PM Garnie Bolling Garnie Bolling  says: in response to R "Ray" Wang

Ray, agreed...  well said...


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