Getting end users to see past the technology to the business process can be a real issue. Data is often viewed as "a technology problem" rather than "an enterprise asset," exacerbating the rift between technical and operational personnel. The real value from data solutions such as master data management (MDM), however, is derived from applying it to business processes, according to executives at Siperian, an MDM platform provider. The vendor, which helps organizations clean, integrate, and manage all of their important data, has launched its newest product -- Business Data Director -- to aid the business side in gleaning the value of MDM without compromising the data.
When talking about MDM, most people in a given organization are likely to defer to the technology staff or to one of a handful of data stewards. However, according to Anurag Wadehra, Siperian's senior vice president of marketing, a new group of people wanting to create and consume master data has emerged: business power users. They aren't spending eight hours a day working with data-governance processes, but they want to be able to access and add value to the real-time master data. Siperian's new Business Data Director is geared toward these people, Wadehra says. The Web-based application enables business users to collaborate on the data within the Siperian MDM Hub while adhering to data-governance processes.
A key feature, according to Jill Dyche, cofounder and principal at Baseline Consulting, is the focus on time-of-entry data correction. Business Data Director, she says, makes sure the user isn't entering duplicate or erroneous data. This proactive approach to data quality is a differentiator for Siperian as an MDM vendor, Dyche says, adding that time-of-entry data quality is hot right now and is a focus of several providers of data quality tools.
Dyche notes that Siperian's release also aligns with the larger industry trend of empowering business users with enterprisewide customer data. At recent MDM Forums, she says, there has been increased interest, especially from CRM stakeholders. "CRM people are realizing our customer data is moving across systems -- and it's not specific just to analytics," she says, emphasizing that enterprise data involves far more than what a single silo or application could comprise. Until now, however, business users have been unable to create and consumer master data without security concerns and degradation of data quality.
Siperian believes its Business Data Director addresses this concern by letting technology staffers or data stewards configure the MDM application for business users. "Data stewards and I.T., for the first time, can go to the business counterpart and tell them, 'Here's that data you want, and I can give it to you without breaking the integrity of data,' " Wadehra says. Wadehra and Ravi Shankar, Siperian's senior director of product marketing, both point out that the solution also addresses larger trends of supporting data governance and stewardship.
With Business Data Director, the technology department can turn to a salesperson, for example, and say, "Tell me your business problem and how data can help you." Gartner analyst Andrew White authored a recent MDM report addressing several of the key issues facing the industry, in which he wrote that getting buy-in from upper management has been a struggle for MDM. A solution to that issue, he added, is to make MDM programs business-oriented -- and not based on its technology infrastructure. That's not easy, though. "I.T. organizations often go into an MDM initiative thinking that technology will be the biggest challenge," White wrote. "They find, to their surprise, that the issues relating to people, organization, and politics are far more difficult." That point speaks to Siperian's release, which Shankar says holds two key value propositions for organizations:
- Configurability: As needs change, technology staffers can tune the dials to make the application in a manner specific to the business problem at hand.
- Extensibility: "Master data is only one type of data," Shankar says. With Siperian's application, the user can integrate the data into say, Salesforce.com, to see all the data hierarchies gleaned by the MDM tool.
In August 2008, Siperian topped the Forrester Wave on Customer Hubs, in which Forrester analyst and report author Ray Wang called Siperian "the smartest kid on the block." Wang praised the vendor's expertise in data acquisition, data cleansing, relationship and hierarchy management, event management, reference data management, data stewardship, and architecture. Baseline Consulting's Dyche notes that Siperian tends to get a lot of analyst recognition for its purpose-specific approach. The company has also been recognized recently for its extensive partner ecosystem -- making MDM more of what Dyche calls an engine than just an operational-reconciliation technology.
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