How to complete the MDM requirements-gathering analysis process

Learn why it is important to complete the MDM requirements-gathering analysis process before evaluating MDM vendors -- and how to involve end users in the discussion.

We are looking into the option of having a data services layer that might help us better understand our data and centrally manage the data being presented to the end-user community. My question is, who are the major vendors and what are criteria in selecting a vendor? Is there a way to develop this layer internally and what would be the cost-benefit for doing this internally?

If you could direct me to books or links that would help answer these questions, I'd appreciate it. We have SAP R/3, SAP BW/ NetWeaver, PeopleSoft, Oracle 10G, SQL SERVER 2005, Analysis Services, Java and .NET platforms.

Okay, I'm going to say this with love: I don't care about your existing platforms right now. I know you spent a lot of time choosing them and integrating them and supporting them. But what I care about right now is, who are your end users and what do they want to do with the master data?

The fact that you're bringing up end-users implies that you'll be using master data for analytics and reporting. If you "only" need master data management (MDM) for analytics, then your choices are a lot easier than if other systems will also be consuming master data. Your existing extract, transform and load (ETL) and data quality tools might be enough to solve the problem.

But given the diversity of your IT environment, I doubt it. My suggestion is to bite the bullet and undergo a requirements-gathering activity. Technical people hate to hear consultants recommend deliberate requirements and scoping activities because they think we're just trying to line our pockets. They want to go straight to matches-per-hour and probabilistic-versus-deterministic discussions. But trust me: This approach will help you determine the scope of your data services, as well as some of the critical functionality. Once you do that, engaging specific vendors will be a lot more straightforward and you'll save a lot of time and, probably, money.

When you're ready to talk to vendors, I recommend browsing and looking at the Product of the Year winners* in the data integration and MDM categories. These vendors will be a natural starting point for your conversations. And if you've taken my advice and determined your requirements before you've engaged them, they'll like you, they'll really like you.

* Editor's note: will be announcing the Products of the Year winners in spring 2009.

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