Master Data Management Takes on the Cloud, Big Data and Social Media

    Master data management is growing up so fast on me. One of my first interviews was about MDM, and we spent most of the time talking about its recent growth spurt from customer data integration and product information management.

    It’s like MDM has turned into a teenager, with its head in the cloud. All I hear about is it’s social media this and Big Data that. It makes you want the simpler times, when MDM took years and many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement, doesn’t it?

    No. I guess it doesn’t. But it does make you wonder: Is MDM really ready to leave the comfortable world of on-premise and take to the cloud? Is it mature enough for Big Data? And just how far does all this social network integration go?

    I started thinking a lot about this last month, actually, after talking with Steve Jones, the global lead for MDM at Capgemini. He shared some of the MDM initiatives the services firm is working on with IBM and Informatica.

    For instance, Capgemini is working with IBM on something called Omni Channel, which is a way to support multi-channel sales such as that people can shop online with their smartphones while in the store, and actually get the cheaper online price but make the sale in the store. MDM will be a key part of the puzzle for supporting that type of integration, he explained. The company would also marry social media data and location data to allow retailers to better market to customers based on where they are.

    Everybody hates being marketed to, but let’s face it: Who wouldn’t be more inclined to buy a detergent if you knew your five cleanest  — or perhaps most environmentally aware — friends used it?

    “The cool thing about MDM is MDM provides you with the ability to do that cross-reference between those channels,” Jones said. “And it’s the combination of the campaign-management pieces with MDM, which then means organizations are able to seamlessly switch between channels in the way that historically haven’t been able to do.”

    Informatica, meanwhile, is working on two approaches to social MDM: One that ties in customer data from Facebook and another that allows business users to collaborate on data for better data quality and clear data governance.

    So far, the only MDM social tool I’ve heard of is IBM’s offering with Capgemini and Informatica 9.5’s support for some social data governance, with the additional social MDM features expected in another release later this year. That means social MDM is more of a prototype than something organizations can actually deploy at this point.

    Informatica recently announced its new Cloud MDM, a master data management solution built on

    I asked Ravi Shankar, the company’s senior director of MDM product marketing, why Informatica would opt to build an MDM solution for only one platform.

    He explained that often organizations have multiple divisions using, which creates different views and information about the same set of customers. This solution is designed to address that problem, giving organizations a cloud-based solution for creating a “single view” of these customers.

    Oh, and it can also do things like cleanse data, enrich data from third-party providers, and integrate data from on-premise applications, if you so choose.

    But it does beg the question still: Why one platform and not multi-domain MDM for the cloud?

    As one analyst (mea culpa — I can’t find the original reference) pointed out, MDM vendors aren’t keen on cannibalizing their on-premise MDM market by moving it to the cloud, particularly since it’s unclear whether enterprises will follow.

    Informatica isn’t alone in tentatively testing the water with cloud-based MDM. It’s still an emerging field, according to Gartner, which considers the dominant cloud MDM vendors to include Cognizant, Data Scout — which was recently acquired by Informatica — IBM, Informatica, Oracle and Orchestra Networks are among those with MDM-in-the-cloud solutions.

    But what does it mean to say cloud MDM? Here are four important issues CIOs and other IT leaders should know about this shift to cloud MDM:

    1. Remember yesterday, when I said MDM was growing up so fast and seemed like a teenager, with its head in the clouds? Well, it’s important to remember that this cloud MDM is still immature — at least according to Gartner, Forrester and other experts who watch this space.

    “Cloud is coming for MDM,” Gartner MDM analyst John Radcliffe told TechTarget in April said. “But it’s not there today.”

    As far as I can tell, not much has changed since then.

    2. The term “cloud MDM” may not mean what you’d think it means. Actually, it seems to vary by vendor. For instance, some are application- or platform-specific. Informatica’s Cloud MDM is only for users; for the full multi-domain MDM solution, you’ll need to invest in on-premise.

    Others, like Liaison Technology, are actually offering something best called MDM as a service. It’s a hosted solution, and it manages your MDM for you, rather than giving you a self-serve solution. There are also industry-specific cloud solutions for master data, like Cognizant, which used Informatica’s MDM to develop a cloud MDM solution specifically for pharmaceutical companies.

    And some vendors even have used the term to refer to on-premise solutions that will integrate cloud data.

    The one company that does claim to offer a multi-domain MDM solution that equals its on-premise tool: Orchestra Networks. Hub Solution Designs confirmed this after a briefing, but here’s the caveat: The company’s solution has been available for nearly a year, and yet, Gartner and Forrester still say cloud MDM is “immature.” I’ll be honest: I’m not sure what that’s about and I’ll let you make of that what you will.

    3. The real question isn’t whether MDM in the cloud is possible; it’s whether it’s smart.

    “Assuming you are comfortable with your master data living outside your firewall (which is a big assumption), the short answer to the first question is, ‘Yes, MDM can be easily deployed on cloud infrastructure,’” wrote Jon Case, an MDM product manager at IBM, in a recent post on the questions he’s most frequently asked about cloud and MDM.

    Radcliffe told TechTarget that’s the main concern organizations express: the security risk of storing master data in a public cloud. He predicts that the internal MDM will eventually be the central point for managing both cloud and on-premise data in hybrid IT environments.

    But security concerns aren’t the only potential issue with cloud-based MDM, as Gartner’s Andrew White explained in full last year.

    4. Cloud-based MDM seems to be working well for some best-in-class companies — at least, according to this recently released Aberdeen Group report, “Master Data Management and the Cloud.”

    In a survey of 173 organizations, Aberdeen found that 16 percent of the organizations considered “best-in-class” have moved to cloud-based MDM — meaning, using a software platform or Web-based portal interface to connect both internal and external data — compared to four percent of other organizations.

    “This type of MDM-as-a-service offering provides an alternative to more traditional, on-premise solutions,” the report notes. “While the overall adoption rate of these cloud solutions is still low, Aberdeen’s research shows that the Best-in-Class are leading the investment curve: They are four times as likely as all other companies to have implemented such a solution.”

    A happy coincidence: That report is available for free download as of today — but I’m not sure how long that will last.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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