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The Appeal of Single-Solution Master Data Management
Can your master data and your customer data just get along?
Posted Aug 31, 2010
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Lately, companies across industries have been warming up to the idea of multidomain master data management (MDM) and its promise of synthesizing corporate data about customers, products, vendors and locations, in a uniform manner using the same processes and tools. Customers today have a wide range of choices for MDM, from custom applications to single-domain products, and industry-specialized products to multidomain generalists.

The Evolution of MDM

Over the past decade, there has been growing awareness and appreciation for MDM solutions that are not dedicated or limited to only one subject area or domain, such as customer data integration (CDI) or product information management (PIM) solutions. Nor are organizations convinced that the best solution for their particular business need is a data management software platform whose claim to fame is based on exclusively serving only that particular industry.

There's every indication that as the MDM marketplace continues to mature, so does the appeal of a single MDM solution. However, it needs to be, flexible enough to comprehensively expand and support several subject areas, disparate processes and industry-specific use cases throughout the enterprise - while requiring only one investment in software, services and training. This precept is, of course, the ultimate promise of true master data management.

Thus, in a competitive sales cycle, where two account executives are on either side of the issue, there is a list of pros and cons that represent a potentially misleading dichotomy.

Single-Domain / Subject-Specific

Multidomain / Subject-Neutral

Specialist

Generalist

Depth

Breadth

Industry-specific processes & terminology

Non-restrictive, highly configurable

Single subject area template

Non-restrictive; highly Configurable

We know your industry

You know your industry

The "You" vs. "We" Debate

A stated strength of the single domain or subject-specific MDM camp, such as CDI, is, "we know your industry." Conversely, the "You know your industry" argument made by multidomain vendors may seem a bit glib until an organization starts to dig deeper into its broader implications. One of those being that "You" are the knowledge experts when it comes to your business requirements and enterprise computing environment which includes your software applications, reporting requirements, databases, tools, web services and industry-critical data feeds. Equally important, "You" know your business' data model, and how it drives your company's ability to understand and maximize the use of business data across business units and geographies.

On the other hand, one might argue that if your data model is customer-based, or CDI-focused, that would be reason enough to select a single-domain, or an industry specific solution. In this instance, and even with rich functionality a given, an organization would undoubtedly ask why they should consider a multidomain MDM solution that may fall short of CDI best practices or require post-procurement configurations and extensions. Finally, how does a data manager approach the CIO with his recommendation for a multidomain solution whose reputation has not been made in specific subject or industry use cases?

Justifying and purchasing a CDI solution only to subsequently require an alternate platform to manage customer hierarchies or a product or vendor master will undermine the rationale of managing enterprise-wide master data and result in even more data silos. This was one of the key challenges that led to the birth of MDM in the first place.

So, can a multidomain MDM solution support CDI and more? Let's consider a high-level view of functionality that contribute to a solid and effective CDI solution:

  • Pre-templated data model of Customer and/or Counterparty
  • Support for appropriate architectural styles of MDM
  • Address validation
  • Matching/cleansing as part of data acquisition
  • Adaptors to industry-specific data feeds such as Dun & Bradstreet
  • High-volume processing that can support tens of millions of records that are typical requirements of B2C organizations

Specific adaptors for data cleansing, address validation and custom acquisition are integral pieces in the CDI paradigm. For a multidomain MDM vendor to successfully compete with specialist CDI vendors it would have to incorporate these tools and one or more prescribed model templates. Complicating the choice for multidomain vendors is the fact that certain CDI functionality is not necessarily reusable for other subject areas.

Nonetheless, the standard templates, high-volume processing, and generic cleansing capabilities of a good CDI solution can also be used in a subject-neutral context.

The question then becomes, is it easier for a multidomain vendor to add specific adaptors and support the MDM consolidation approach, or is it more efficacious for a CDI/PIM vendor to become a multidomain solution supporting multiple styles of MDM? Ultimately, the answer depends on the underlying architecture and approach taken by the vendor. 

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About the Author

Charles Greenberg (cgreenberg@datafoundations.com) heads product marketing at Data Foundations (www.datafoundations.com), a leading vendor of master data management and gov ernance software and solutions.

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Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" below.

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the August 2010 issue of CRM magazine — revealing the winners of the 2010 CRM Market Awards — please click here.

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