Excellent Article by Stephen Putman on “CDI and MDM are Broken”

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I just read a great article by Stephen Putman at http://www.tdan.com/view-articles/6122.

His main points are that:

  • CDI and MDM platforms “are ‘just another system’, with the attendant expense in both procurement and implementation”
  • “The products (naturally) work best in a homogenous environment, ignoring the reality of heterogeneous computing environments in most organizations.”
  • “The vendors’ case studies and ‘customer success stories’ present a false picture of the effectiveness of the products since the scope of the projects described is so small as to be insignificant compared to the size of the CDI or MDM solution space in most organizations.”

All good points, and I can’t entirely disagree with any of them.

But I’m reminded of President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to the country about going to the moon. On June 12, 1962 at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Kennedy said:

“… we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance.”

“William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome …”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not only because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win …”

So while I respect Stephen’s point of view, I would say that the risk of an MDM platform becoming “just another system” is worth taking.

Doing the hard work of integrating the selected MDM platform with the rest of the heterogeneous environment is work worth doing. Yes, the vendors probably do downplay this somewhat. But an informed buyer should be able to see through that.

And I don’t think a progressive rollout, or tackling some smaller, simpler problems first necessarily means that the vendors are presenting a “false picture of the effectiveness of the products”.

Everyone knows there’s a difference between marketing and reality. But product complexity, integration difficulties and normal levels of vendor marketing puffery don’t mean that the typical Fortune 500 company’s IT organization can’t successfully evaluate, implement, deploy and support an MDM platform.

Of course, putting in place the appropriate Data Governance Council (as a political body) and the right Data Stewardship processes is required too.

But CDI and MDM present such powerful benefits that the difficulties, risks and challenges must be overcome. As the poet Robert Browning said “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”.

While I won’t strain the metaphor to imply that successfully implementing CDI (the Customer flavor of Master Data Management) or any other area of MDM will deliver heaven on earth for your company, I’ve seen many, many examples of companies achieving competitive advantage, cost reductions and other benefits over the past several years.

So at the risk of being labeled a “true believer”, being told that something is hard, risky or over-hyped doesn’t persuade me that it’s not worth doing.

Yes, the current generation of CDI and MDM products needs improving. Yes, the solutions (right now) can be expensive to buy and implement. But they do exist, companies have implemented them, and they are proving their value every day.

I’m looking forward to Stephen’s next installment on what a better solution would look like. 

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