Success At Last

The Corner Office – To Whom Are the MDM Vendors Marketing?

A great article by David Pratt on the target market for most MDM vendors

I recently conducted a very non-scientific study of the marketing material provided by the major Master Data Management (MDM) vendors.  My hypothesis for this study was that I don’t believe that MDM product vendors know how to effectively promote (through their web sites) the business value of their products to business leaders; the very ones that ultimately must give their blessing (if not actually sign the check) to any project that has as deep an impact on the enterprise as an MDM initiative does.

The Non-Scientific Process

The first task was to set the baseline for what would be considered “business value”.  For this I went to David Loshin’s excellent book, Master Data Management, which has a nice list of MDM benefits to work from.

From page 10 of that book:

“…master data management can be justified in support of a business initiative that relies on any of the following MDM benefits:

  • Comprehensive customer knowledge
  • Improved customer service
  • Consistent reporting
  • Improved competitiveness
  • Improved risk management
  • Improved operational efficiency and reduced costs
  • Improved decision-making
  • Better spend analysis and planning
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Increased information quality
  • Quicker results
  • Improved business productivity
  • Simplified application development”

With this list of benefits in hand, I then set out to make a list of the major players in the MDM space.

For this, I referenced the latest Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management from Gartner (for customer data solutions only) to build that list.  [Quick sidebar – I will not be naming names or pointing fingers in this article, for good or bad.]

However, I did not limit myself to just the vendors that made Gartner’s final cut; I also included most of the “Other Vendors” listed on the report.  I then visited each of those vendor’s web sites to print out the data sheets for their products.  And finally, I sat down and read each of the data sheets, looking for stated opportunities for adding/creating business value, which I cross-referenced with my baseline list of business benefits.

The Non-Scientific Results

The Benefits-to-Vendor matrix that I created for this study was very sparsely filled out by the time I was done, which met the expectation of my original hypothesis.  However, an interesting item worth noting was that even when a benefit was mentioned, frequently, the vendors just seemed to be tossing the business benefits in (sometimes using bulleted lists) just to make sure that they had some basic coverage.  There was very little, if any, depth to the discussion of business value.  However, as shallow as those statements might have been, I do have to say that a few of the vendors at least mentioned well over 50% of the benefits on the list.  Unfortunately, just as many mentioned only 2-4 items from the list.

At this point, let’s revisit my original hypothesis, shall we?  The answer to the question of whether they were actually selling business value to the business leaders would, for me, have to be “No”, at least not through their product data sheets.  This, however, sparked the first of many additional questions.  Do business leaders even read product data sheets?  Based on all of the reading that I just did, I’d have to say that the vendors probably don’t believe that business leaders read their product data sheets.  If they did, you’d think that they would have put more effort into having a deeper conversation about business value.

The next question that came to mind was, “Should I have been reading the vendor’s white papers instead?”  I’ve always been led to believe that business leaders read lots of white papers, yet I don’t personally know many (outside of IT) that actually do (please send me a note in the comments below if you are a business leader that reads lots of white papers. I’m curious.)

I went back to the web sites and downloaded their white papers if they had them (about half of the vendors had one or more).  These made for better “business” reading than the product data sheets, but for the most part, they were still too product focused and didn’t get too deep into discussing value propositions.

Who is the Prospect?

So, if the business leaders are not the vendor’s primary target through their web-based marketing material (as is apparent from their lack of a solid discussion of business value) who are they really marketing to?

Surprise!  It’s your IT Department, of course.  The vendors spend a lot of their time and money getting your IT people excited about their tools.  Then, the hope is that the IT people will start discussing those tools with the business people.  The failure pattern on this is that IT people are just as likely as the vendors themselves (if not more so) to NOT know how to sell business value to the business.

What’s the Big Deal?

“At least the sales guys aren’t calling me,” you say.  Well, a huge part of any sales process is teaching you the things you need to know in order to influence your purchasing decision in a positive way.  This would be where they explain to you, in detail, the “value” that their products bring to your organization.  But, as I’ve just pointed out, they aren’t really trying to sell their products directly to you.  So, by default, you’re going to be behind the learning curve on MDM.

Take a look again at the list of benefits above. These are business benefits (value) that can only be successfully attained through a well thought out and well executed combination of process improvement, effective governance, and appropriate technology decisions.  MDM adds value by solving very specific types of complicated business problems.  An MDM initiative may require the purchase of software tools to support the effort, but then again, it may not.  Unfortunately, you won’t be in a position to make good decisions on the technology until you have a firm understanding of the problem(s) being solved and how each specific MDM tool can be added to the solution to solve them, and you’re not going to get this reading the marketing material on the vendor web sites.

Next Time

In my next article, I’ll start giving you a more detailed explanation of the items in the benefit list from above.  The hope is that, if you have a good grasp of the business benefits/value that can be attained through an MDM implementation, you’ll be more likely to be the person in the driver’s seat for that MDM implementation, not the vendors or the IT folks, which is the way it should be (a widely-accepted best practice).

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