Monday, October 31, 2005

A Halloween Tale

It's a busy week in the master data management world, with big scary monsters out in the night and eating up smaller prey. We have seen Tibco acquire Velosel, and just today SAP acquire moribumd EII vendor Callixa, apparently for its "customer data integration efforts". I'm not quite sure what potion SAP have been imbibing recently, but I could have sworn that they recently abandoned their own MDM offering, which after two years of selling into their massive user base had managed just 20 sites, and bought vendor A2i in order to replace this gooey mess with a new master data management offering based on A2i's technology. Perhaps those with crystal balls available as part of their costume for their Halloween party this evening could inquire through the mists as to how buying a second vendor in the space matches up with the coherent vision of master data management that it is presumably trying to portray? At the moment this seems as clear to me as pumpkin soup.

Every vendor worth its salt now seems to be under the MDM spell, with hardly a week going by without a niche player getting gobbled up by one of the industry giants. Yet I continue to be surprised by the disjointed approach that many have taken, tackling two of the two most common key areas: customer and product, with separate technology. Sure, CDI and PIM grew up independently, but there are many, many other kinds of master data to be dealt with in a corporation e.g. general ledgers, people data, pricing information, brands and packaging data, manufacturing data to name just a few. One of our customers, BP, uses KALIDO MDM to manage 350 different types of master data. Surely vendors can't really expect customers to buy one product for CDI, another for PIM, another for financial data, another for HR etc? This would result in a witches brew of technology, and most likely a mess of new master data technologies which in themselves will need some kind of magic wand waving over them in order to integrate the rival master data technologies. Just this nightmare is unfolding, with the major vendors each trying to stake out their offering as being the one and true source of all master data, managing all the other vendors' offerings. I certainly understand that if any one vendor could truly own all this territory then it would be very profitable for them, but surely history has taught us that this simply cannot be done. What customers want is technology that allows master data to be shared and managed between multiple technology stacks, whether IBM, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft or whatever, rather than being forced into choosing one (which, given their installed base, is just a mirage anyway). Instead the major vendors seem to be lining up to offer tricks rather than treats.


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