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July 8, 2013

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Reltio MDM – Connecting Business Users to Related Data

by juliebhunt
Reltio Logo

Reltio briefs the Hub Designs MDM Think Tank

The Hub Designs MDM Think Tank met with former member Manish Sood for an overview of his new venture, MDM platform Reltio, founded in 2011. Manish is well known in the MDM world from his tenure with Siperian and Informatica (Informatica acquired Siperian in 2010), where he held product strategy roles. For the meeting, Manish brought along a team very experienced in data management, big data and various enterprise data domains: chief architect Anastasia Zamyshlyaeva, VP of Sales Gary Ryan and VP of Solutions Curt Pearlman.

While Reltio is a relatively new contender in data management software solutions, it already has customers in the life sciences and financial services industries.

Manish started off by discussing Reltio’s approach to master data and its purpose in the enterprise. Reltio takes a somewhat different path from many other MDM vendors, which has been shaped by the collective expertise of the Reltio management team. As a result, Reltio is being developed to provide tools for what people need to do with master data, along with setting up and managing master data (which is still no small feat). Reltio wants to be the front end for business users to give them more functionality to work with master data for more and more of their projects. Reltio calls its MDM solution “Quantum MDM” which is a foundational component of the Reltio Convergence Hub.

Data Trends - a New Generation of Applications

The Reltio Platform

The Reltio approach to MDM doesn’t distinguish between master data and transactional data and focuses more on the “convergence” of all data needed to solve business problems. Organizations have an increasing need to aggregate or “commingle” a lot of different kinds of data for many different purposes. Big data, by itself, embodies a lot of those different characteristics: large volumes as well as smaller ones; highly variable source types; structural complexity; content with a sentiment context; and so on. Not only is there a need for tools that can handle many kinds of data with agility, but for tools that give business users more power to directly access data, without a lot of IT intervention. However, whenever it comes to software systems and data management, obviously IT is a very important partner to business users to help keep them on course.

Reltio utilizes REST APIs to open up its platform to partners and client developers, to extend capabilities as needed by different organizations. Reltio can act as a front end for a more traditional MDM hub such as Informatica, or other data repositories. Reltio supports multidomain MDM, since it doesn’t set up separate master data domains and is highly flexible when it comes to schemas. In fact, Reltio works with master data as a schema-free construct, with no pre-defined data model. The platform uses Cassandra as a NoSQL datastore extended by a hybrid columnar and graph data structure to handle relationships in the master data. The Reltio platform is highly scalable and provides “always on” data management services.

What Does Reltio Deliver?

A Look at Reltio at Work

Curt took us immediately into a demo of the Reltio platform, mostly through various dashboard views. Each view is predicated on the current status of the data of interest to a particular role. Right now, the dashboard views are primarily tailored for data stewards and admin. roles. But a lot of the current dashboard capabilities are usable by data-savvy business users. Reltio is working on additional dashboards more appropriate for business roles. Views generally consist of multiple panes, or facets, to provide all pertinent information and drill-downs.

For Reltio, a golden record is a “golden profile”. Profiles are constructs for manipulating and managing the data of various “domains” (customers, partners, products, suppliers, etc.). The platform provides very flexible and in depth views of these profiles or records.

Views can be collapsed and expanded to meet individual needs – for example, only showing populated fields. All fields are first-class objects. Rules can be created to show field aggregations in views – for example: a full healthcare provider registry. On-the-fly changes to master data can be made in record views; as a result, the record layout view will change. Reltio doesn’t merge records on the fly, but can use crosswalk views of data profiles to present the result of a de-duplication merge, for example.

Admin. roles work almost exclusively through the UI, with very little hands-on coding required. This means a lot of “heavy lifting” is going on behind the scenes of the Reltio technology platform. The admin. and data steward roles can import data from other systems and repositories, and then review records, tag / un-tag, and manipulate data, as needed. Flags appear when changes have been made; changes can be un-done through the UI.

Business rules can be set up for all records. Operational value rule sets can be created for each function or business unit, so that each group only accesses the dashboard views that it needs. Users can toggle between different views permitted and create new ones.

Data Convergence Applications

Relationships and Affiliations across Many Domains

Curt predicated the demo using an example of a sales function in a pharmaceutical company where healthcare providers are customers. The demo showed how Reltio is aligned with customer-centric marketing and selling, and how it manages complex relationships or affiliations across various profile levels.

Crosswalk views can be displayed via an icon in the original profile view, and can provide an operational view and data source lists with type color-coding. Crosswalk views can be selected for each data source, and are indexed. If logged in as an admin. role, users can edit data records in the crosswalk view. Crosswalks can be governed by rules for “read only” access assigned to certain roles.

Curt showed the data for a physician who had various value for First Name: John, Jon, J. Any fields with more than one value display a “+” nearby. Hovering over the “+” opens the list of variations. Data quality needs can be served through this view. Other data variation views: an address with nested attributes, such as former address. Another view: sales reps can use a view of organizations to validate and update data on the fly, such as add new partners, correct information, or delete. Users can also rate the accuracy of data to enact data quality on the fly.

Reltio has robust faceted search capabilities: individual searches can toggle filters; searches can be delimited by entity; other facets can be added; a single data source can be selected. The Reltio platform’s scalability enables searches through large record volumes. Potential matches for search parameters can be shown, to allow users to find all possible matches and then decide which are correct. Users can review potential matches with records side by side to make review easier, and then can tag records for “merge”, “never merge”, or “un-merge”.

The Reality of Today

The Reltio graph database provides the ability to collect data regarding network relationships for master data purposes. The graph database structure reflects the increasingly connected nature of data and the relationship networks underlying the behavior of various parties. Users have views of networks for people, organizations, locations, and other domains with different levels of connections in the graphical representations. Network views can be toggled by choosing certain relationship attributes. Continuing with the pharmaceutical sales example, views can show the professional relationships for a particular physician and where the people are located along with information on organizational affiliations for all parties.

Network views include legal entity hierarchies of organizations with collapse and expand capabilities. Organizational hierarchy information can be brought in from any data source, such as D&B or Equifax. Links to profiles on social networks (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and other data sources can be created to aggregate information into the golden profile. Data from social sites can also be bulk imported through APIs. A 20-person company could bulk import all social data for the entire staff in one operation (as long as staff members agree to it and provide the necessary logins and passwords).

Within the interactions view, transactions that correlate with a profile type such as physicians can be displayed to show prescriptions written, the actors for prescriptions and drill-downs for each actor. Sources for transactional data can be anything including web logs and call logs. Analytics views are also available for interaction data. One example: the prescribing trend for all payees across a legal entity hierarchy, with all relationships for medications prescribed including doctors, pharmacies, medical organizations, and insurance organizations. Physicians with relationships to organizations in the legal entity hierarchy can be listed to expand the network implications.

Improving the Availability of Third Party Data

Reltio Data Convergence for Partners and Customers

Reltio sees value in making it a lot easier for business users to leverage third party data sources, for any industry or function. As mentioned earlier, enterprise business users need many kinds of data to enhance and extend internal enterprise data. Finding and then creating integrated data feeds for third party sources usually isn’t easy or fast to accomplish. The Reltio service dubbed Worry-Free Data provides pre-built integrations to third party data, with the notion of enabling business users to access data with little or no help from IT. Essentially the process is a single click to initiate data feeds. Reltio has extensive plans to add many pre-built integrations. Updates to third party sources are propagated automatically through to the business user application.

The Future of MDM or a Different Path?

Reltio has a clear commitment to providing a highly flexible and effective data management platform that is business user friendly. Hopefully, Reltio processes will provide guidance to business users to ensure that they make the right decisions for managing and manipulating data for their work purposes. Usually, for business users to get the most from a data management software solution, they should be data domain experts and reasonably technology-savvy. As with “self-service” BI, there can be serious “gotchas” for business users if guidance isn’t provided by the software, the vendor and IT.

It will be interesting to see if Reltio continues on the MDM path, perhaps taking MDM solutions to a new level. Or it may well be that Reltio is defining a brand ‘new’ solution space, where IT and Business have the technology means to be partners in the data management and analytics activities that will make a difference for many organizations that want to get more out of their information assets.

Julie Hunt is the editor of Hub Designs Magazine and co-founder of the Hub Designs MDM Think Tank. Her “day job” is as an independent software industry analyst and consultant to software vendors for customer, solution and go-to-market strategies. 

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