MDM vendors improve data quality, stewardship, according to Gartner

With a focus on better data quality and data stewardship capabilities, IBM, Oracle and Initiate Systems top Gartner's Magic Quadrant Report for master data management (MDM) for customer data.

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A new emphasis on data quality analysis and data stewardship roles were among the developments over the last year in the master data management (MDM) for customer data market, according to Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant Report.

Responding to customer demands, vendors like IBM, Oracle and Initiate Systems have added or improved data stewardship and governance functions, and data quality profiling, visualization and analysis capabilities, according to John Radcliffe, an analyst with the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm and author of the report.

"Vendors are trying to give organizations tool sets that they need to be able to take the data from cradle to grave, all the way through the lifecycle," Radcliffe said in an interview. "People are asking for these kinds of [MDM] management tools" -- a common development in maturing technology markets such as MDM, he added.

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 MDM for customer data has moved from an enabling technology, in which early adopters are often content just to get the systems up and running, to a more mature IT discipline with increasing mainstream adoption. With that, Radcliffe said, companies are increasingly interested in being able to analyze and address the accuracy of data collected by MDM hubs and create and maintain clear processes overseeing data lifecycles and ownership.

As for the market itself, Gartner estimates that the MDM for the customer data market grew to $370 million in 2008, a 22% increase from 2007. That's an increase from the 15% growth rate between 2006 and 2007 but "represents a sizable reduction compared with the early years of the market," the report states. Such slowdowns in market growth are common as technologies mature, however.

Initiate joins IBM, Oracle in the leaders' quadrant

Topping the leaders' quadrant, as they did last year, were IBM, with its InfoSphere MDM Server version 8.5, and Oracle, with its Siebel UCM version 8.1.1. Both vendors scored highly on Gartner's "ability to execute" criteria, thanks to their entrenched user bases and sophisticated sales and marketing channels, Radcliffe said.

As for their "completeness of vision," Gartner's other ranking criteria, both mega-vendors scored well, too.

IBM responded to its customers' requests for better data stewardship and governance capabilities, adding a role-based governance user interface, improved hierarchy management facilities and a user interface generator, according to the report. Gartner also praised InfoSphere MDM Server's strong "transaction-driven, centralized implementation-style requirements in SOA environments."

Oracle, meanwhile, "has strong sales momentum with Siebel UCM across a range of industries, mainly within the Oracle installed base, and has put a lot of effort into filling the functionality gaps," Radcliffe wrote. Upgrades to Seibel UCM in 2008 included improved data quality functions, based largely on the Informatica Identity Resolution technology, and better ease of integration, thanks mainly to the first AIA packaged integration packs.

Joining IBM and Oracle in the leaders' quadrant for the first time was Initiate Systems. Its MDM platform, Initiate Master Data Service version 8.7, "leverages data model and Web services flexibility, strong probabilistic matching, the architectural flexibility to deliver fast time to value and a relatively low service-to software cost ratio," according to the report. Initiate also boasts strong data stewardship and data visualization capabilities, Radcliffe said.

Also ranked in this year's report were visionaries D&B Purisma and Siperian, and niche players Oracle Customer Data Hub (which Gartner ranks separately from Oracle Siebel UCM), SAP, DataFlux, Tibco Software, VisionWare and Sun Microsystems (also ranked separately from Oracle, which is in the process of acquiring Sun).

Siperian, Radcliffe says, continues to do well in the life sciences industry but is struggling to gain a foothold in other vertical markets. SAP's MDM product continues to improve with each new version, but the mega-vendor still sells mostly to its B2B user base. And while Sun Microsystems "was placing new emphasis on MDM … its pending acquisition by Oracle raises doubts over Sun's future investment in MDM," the report states.

Intriguingly, Radcliffe also predicted that Microsoft will soon target the MDM for customer data market in the form of its SQL Server Master Data Services, due out next year. He said that Microsoft's entry into the MDM market, though it is likely to take a number of years, could put pricing pressure on its competitors as Microsoft targets midsized companies with lower-cost MDM products.

Focus on vendor "sweet spots" when evaluating MDM products

For companies evaluating MDM vendors, Radcliffe said it is important to recognize that different vendors have different strengths and "sweet spots" in terms of vertical markets served and use cases supported.

SAP's MDM hub, for example, is particularly popular with product-oriented companies such as manufacturers, retailers and packaged goods companies, he said. But it is not ideal in the multi-channel environments common in the banking and insurance market.

Most MDM vendors are also more focused on supporting operational and transactional environments – think call centers and warehouse floors – but some are optimized to support business intelligence (BI) and other analytical use cases, Radcliffe said.

Companies must take these differences into account when comparing vendors and their MDM products, he said. They should also "push the vendors hard" on customer references, zeroing in on those references that most resemble their industries and likely use-case scenarios.

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