IT industry behemoths Oracle Corp. and IBM are the top product master data management (MDM) software vendors -- but both players have work to do to remain successful in the future, according to a new Magic Quadrant report from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.
The report also finds that a growing number of product MDM software vendors are increasingly thinking about the rise of social networking, cloud computing and multidomain MDM.
MDM combines data governance practices with software tools in an effort to help organizations achieve a "single version of the truth" of information across systems and business units. Product MDM -- also known as product information management -- is a branch of the MDM discipline that focuses on ensuring the accuracy and consistency of product information such as part numbers and descriptions of assets and services.
Gartner’s annual Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management of Product Data Solutions ranks product MDM software vendors as leaders, challengers, niche players and visionaries based on several criteria including “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute.”
Oracle and IBM are the only leaders listed in this year’s report while the challengers section is empty. Stibco Systems, Hybris, Heiler Software, Enterworks, Informatica and Orchestra Networks are dubbed niche players. SAP, TIBCO Software and Riversand are listed as visionaries.
Though it did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the Magic Quadrant report, Software AG is one example of a product MDM “up-and-comer” worth watching, according to Andrew White, a research vice president with Gartner and author of the report.
“Software AG [offers a] very process-oriented approach to MDM which is exactly what it should be,” White said. “Despite the name, master data management is actually more about the business process than it is about the data.”
Oracle and IBM still have work to do
Oracle and IBM offer a wide variety of highly stable information management products and boast loyal customer bases. But the two software industry giants have considerable work to do if they want to remain product MDM leaders in the future, according to Gartner.
The report found that both IBM and Oracle have room for improvement when it comes to supporting the role of the data steward. A data steward is a point person typically charged with coordinating an organization’s data governance efforts, mediating governance-related disagreements and helping to craft data governance policies.
“Oracle has a good understanding of the process of data stewardship and its technologies provide a number of sources of data for use in supporting the role of product data steward,” the report reads. “However, these capabilities are not packaged as a single solution.”
Gartner says IBM should also do more to address growing demand for unified data stewardship support.
“IBM's tools can yield a lot of data analysis, profiling, metadata management, business rules, workflow and insight,” the report reads, “but the results are not standardized, nor presented in a packaged and uniform, single environment for the product data steward, in a form that works alongside the other MDM-related tasks that stewards follow.”
Oracle’s product MDM offerings include Oracle Product Hub, Oracle Product Hub for Retail and Oracle Product Hub for Communications. IBM’s main product MDM offering is the IBM InfoSphere MDM Collaboration Server Edition.
Product MDM looking to address big trends
Product MDM software vendors are beginning to address -- or at least think about -- some of the key trends affecting the world of data management. Those trends include the rise of social media and “big data” analytics, cloud computing and the ongoing shift to multidomain MDM, according to Gartner.
A growing number of organizations are seeking to gain valuable insight about their products by conducting brand or product sentiment analysis based on what customers are saying on Facebook, LinkedIn and other popular social networking sites.
It’s still in the early stages, but product MDM vendors are responding to that trend by looking at ways to connect social data or “big data” analysis with specific products or services in company catalogs.
“It’s all about trying to link meaningless data from the cloud to meaningful information inside the enterprise so that brand managers can integrate it and make sense of the stuff,” White said.
Stuttgart, Germany-based e-procurement and PIM vendor Heiler Software AG is one example of a company that offers a focus on social strategy.
“Helier's strategy is to build out a ‘product platform’ for sales and distribution organizations, commonly retail and consumer goods distribution,” the report reads. “This starts with a strong capability in MDM of product data, but expands out to rich media and content and also into the realm of social networking as a source for marketing data related to products in the field.”
MDM vendors are looking to address the growing customer demand for a unified approach to managing multiple master data domains like product, customer and hierarchies. But achieving a one-size-fits-all approach is a slow and complicated process.
“Long term, the trend is clear,” the report reads. “Over time, end users are looking to meet complex requirements with best-of-breed capability, but are beginning to trade this off against ‘good enough’ capability for solutions that can master multiple domains.”