The New Qualities of Trillium's Data Quality

No matter how many times we were told as children to share our things, those lessons don't seem to have translated well into enterprise settings. Departmental assets are often kept as just that: departmental. Data quality projects typically have been no exception, in part because the data itself resides in department-specific silos. As a result, data quality initiatives can occur in various pockets of an organization -- and those initiatives can be overlapping, redundant, or even counterproductive. Business rules are written and rewritten, often in conflict with each other, and reports and analysis are kept walled off from other parts of the organization. The latest release from Trillium Software, a division of Harte-Hanks, focuses on enterprisewide sharing to enable the entire organization to benefit from clean data.

"Customers are looking to maximize their initial investments in data quality processes by spreading best practices in multiple applications in the enterprise," says Len Dubois, Trillium's senior vice president of marketing. "The ability to have a platform that allows organizations to build out their data quality across an organization is crucial."

Version 12 of Trillium Software System, the vendor's enterprise data quality offering, encloses enhancements in its ActiveEnterprise Resources. More emphasis has been placed on real-time (or preventive) data quality, which cleans data before a problem ever develops. Additionally, Trillium has developed a library of business rules that enables users to author, manage, and share rules throughout multiple sources and applications.

Dubois also notes the demand among Trillium users for a platform that aligns with data governance strategies, in particular the growing need to audit results. "ActiveEnterprise allows users to extend data quality in a provable manner throughout the enterprise," Dubois says. "That allows organizations to optimize business processes and reduce costs dramatically because they don't [need] as much development time." Users, he adds, can then go back and audit in a single source.

According to Philip Howard, research director for London-based Bloor Research, these data governance features may be the most impressive aspect of Version 12, as they "improve capabilities for managing risk and those things that surround the core functionality."

The movement toward data governance and compliance underscores a larger industry trend, according to Dubois: Operational and technology staffers increasingly need to work within a single application. The uptake among business users has been significant, Dubois says, citing as evidence the rising share of attendees at Trillium's annual user conference that held business titles - 45 percent at 2009's event, up from approximately 10 percent just three years ago.

In other words, data is now everyone's business. Trying to satisfy the growing demand among business users without abandoning the needs of traditional data analysts, Trillium has overhauled some of the product's user interfaces. Users can now put out reports and data quality scorecards through a browser-based presentation with charts, ratings, and graphs. Additionally, Howard says, Version 12 represents a significant improvement in the software's global support, adding eight languages to the interface.

Rob Karel, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, calls Trillium's new release evolutionary in that it does a good job addressing some of the gaps that existed in previous versions. He notes that a number of larger application platforms — including ones traditionally identified as enterprise resource planning (ERP), business intelligence (BI), or data integration specialists — have begun offering data quality products or functionalities, leading to a marketplace that's increasingly competitive.

Karel remains positive about the prospects for the Harte-Hanks division, however. "Trillium has done a good job in remaining independent and in being that unbiased data quality platform that can sit in the middle of many application stacks," he says. "They dont have any allegiance to any specific [extract, transform, and load] or BI or ERP solution, so it gives them the freedom to support all of them."

Karel calls Trillium one of four or five "enterprise-class" vendors, in part because it supports not only CRM, but many different projects. In addition, Trillium handles data quality for real-time operational data as well as batch analysis - a factor that Karel says is critical in enterprise deployments. "They've got the experience and the technology to support both," he says.

Karel also notes that the majority of data quality players focus on customer data, meaning that few providers have strong capabilities when it comes to noncustomer data - a situation that presents an opportunity in the marketplace.
"The traditional data quality vendors that really made their mark with customer data could find a way to truly differentiate by not just saying, 'We support product or financial data quality with flexible support engines,' but by actually packaging workflows and business rules and models that specifically focus on those data attributes within specific industries or processes," he says. "That's the next step."

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