Gartner Magic Quadrant finds confusion in the customer MDM market

Acquisitions and product additions by the top vendors are making customer master data management software choices harder for users, Gartner says.

A slew of acquisitions and ongoing consolidation in the market for customer master data management (MDM) tools could mean confusion for potential buyers, according to a new Gartner Magic Quadrant report.

The report from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research Inc. found that customer MDM tools are continually improving. But at the same time, new product roadmaps from the largest vendors have muddied the customer MDM waters.

“The four market share leaders -- IBM, Informatica, Oracle and SAP -- continue to consolidate their positions,” the report reads, “but the megavendors' (that is, IBM’s, Oracle’s and SAP’s) MDM portfolios have become more complex.”

MDM is a methodology that combines data governance with enabling technology to ensure that contextual information about key business entities, like customers and products, remains consistent throughout an organization. Customer MDM tools help organizations create a “single view of the customer” by making sure that customer names, addresses and other attributes are uniform across the organization’s business units and applications. Other important business entities might include suppliers and prospects.

The annual Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management of Customer Data Solutions ranks the top customer MDM software vendors as leaders, challengers, niche players and visionaries based on several criteria including "ability to execute" and "completeness of vision."

This year’s report lists IBM as the overall leader of the customer MDM tools market. Other leaders include Oracle, for its Universal Content Management offering, a vestige of its acquisition of Siebel Systems, and Informatica. SAP is the lone challenger, while vendors listed in the visionaries quadrant include Oracle, for its Customer Data Hub product, Tibco Software, DataFlux and VisionWare.

There are no vendors listed in the niche players quadrant. However, John Radcliffe, research vice president and co-author of the report, said that there are several customer MDM up-and-comers worth watching. They include Orchestra Networks, Talend, Ataccama, Information Builders and Reston, Va.-based Software AG, which acquired Data Foundations, a multi-domain MDM software vendor, in 2010.

“Software AG has a different take on things,” Radcliffe said. “They’re very process-oriented and they view MDM as going hand in hand with [business process management].”

Growing MDM portfolios can get confusing

Oracle, IBM and SAP have all recently added new MDM products to their portfolios and, as a result, potential buyers may find the customer MDM marketplace difficult to navigate, according to Radcliffe.

IBM, which labored to integrate its InfoSphere MDM Server, InfoSphere MDM Server for Product Information Management and Initiate Master Data Service products onto a single platform, announced a unified offering last October. The new product, InfoSphere Master Data Management v10.0 comes in Standard, Collaborative, Advanced and Enterprise Editions.

“At first sight, the IBM InfoSphere MDM go-to-market story is simple, there is one product with multiple editions,” the report reads. “But as you look beneath the surface, it gets more complex, and the inconsistencies -- in terms of underlying technologies, [user interfaces] and workflows -- that result from three separate acquisitions become more obvious.”

Oracle has two customer MDM products listed in this year’s report and a third offering “lurking in the wings,” Radcliffe said. The Oracle Fusion Customer Hub, which was released in 2010, combines several aspects of Oracle’s pre-existing products with new features such as the latest Fusion Middleware.

Organizations that went to SAP for MDM tools two years ago would have been pointed directly to the company’s NetWeaver MDM offering. But the company now offers a new product, SAP Master Data Governance, and the choice of where to get started isn’t as clear, according to Gartner.

“They’re promoting [SAP MDG] in some areas as complementary to NetWeaver MDM, and in some areas it’s competitive to NetWeaver MDM,” Radcliffe said. “If you’re an SAP customer, you really need to talk to SAP and work out the strategy here.”

Navigating the customer MDM waters

The market for customer MDM tools will likely grow less complex as the “megavendors” further integrate their stacks and unify their marketing messages, according to Gartner. But in the meantime, there are several steps that organizations can take to muddle through the confusion.

First off, organizations need to be clear on their overall MDM strategy, Radcliffe said. That means gaining a solid understanding of where it stands today and where it’s heading in the future. Then look at customer MDM products with an eye for how well they complement that strategy.

According to Radcliffe, questions to consider when evaluating customer MDM products include the following: Does the product support long term strategic goals? Does the vendor have reference customers with live implementations? How smooth will the implementation process be? If I settle on a particular offering, where does the journey go from there?

Another way to navigate the confusion is to open the lines of communication between the IT team, business workers and departments that will be affected by the investment.

“The trouble is that people tend to work in silos,” Radcliffe said. “They don’t talk to each other enough and sort of work out how this puzzle should all fit together.”

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