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Information Builders iWay: Information Management Powerhouse

Information Builders briefs the Hub Designs MDM Think Tank

by Julie Hunt

The Hub Designs MDM Think Tank had its first ever briefing with Information Builders to take a look at the company’s iWay Information Asset Management Platform. Information Builders presenters were Jeremy Ballanco, iWay VP of Sales; Dennis McLaughlin, VP Global iWay Operations; and Vince Deeney, National Pre-Sales Director. Mitchell Nitzan, Director of Global Analyst Relations, also sat in on the briefing.

Information Builders was founded in 1975 and has the distinction of being one of the world’s largest privately held companies. In 2001, Information Builders created iWay Software as an independent company. As part of recent rebranding efforts, iWay has been rolled back into Information Builders. iWay has long been known as a top OEM provider, particularly for an extensive array of data connectors, but has also developed a sophisticated data management platform that complements the company’s business intelligence and analytics offerings.

iWay has a strong global presence and targets all industries, including government and education. Currently iWay is working on solutions for underserved markets in the financial services industry. Notable customers include Ford, MasterCard, BT, Lockheed Martin, Bosch, and Ace Hardware. iWay has an impressive collection of named customer solution stories on the Information Builders website, which speaks to customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Business Overview

Jeremy provided a quick overview of the latest activities at iWay. Information Builders has been busy rebranding across all business units to better convey the impact of a comprehensive platform for infrastructure management and business performance. While iWay has a distinct presence as a data management solution, the iWay offering has purposeful and strategic integration with all Information Builders solutions.

Information Builders currently utilizes the messaging pillars of Intelligence, Integration and Integrity to communicate what the company offers as its core solutions:

Information Builder’s overall business continues to grow year over year. Jeremy cited a high success rate with customers as a main driver for the company’s growth and profitability. Information Builders continues to win awards for its excellence in supporting customers.

iWay Information Asset Management Platform

Unified Platform for High Performance

The session was handed off to Dennis for an extensive look at the iWay offering. Dennis made an interesting observation: he views master data management as a parallel to the top level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The lowest level consists of basic survival activities. The top level is self-actualization, where full potential is realized and problem solving is optimized.

Platform unification has been achieved with iWay release 7, which offers the advantage of tight integration across platform capabilities, no matter the solution or application pursued. The iWay Information Asset Management Platform consists of capabilities for data integration, data quality, master data management (MDM), and data governance. iWay will continue to enhance the platform, with plans to add new UI and user interaction functions, and improved access for business users.

It’s not surprising that data integration is a ‘driver’ for the entire platform, since iWay has many years of expertise in this area. For data management activities, iWay strives to streamline processes and rules, and emphasizes the extensive reusability of all data integration components and methods. The iWay team also recognizes that data comes in all shapes and sizes including complex big data sources. The Information Assets Management Platform handles traditional data sources as well as increasingly prevalent multi-structured content and information.

iWay Master Data Suite Product and Architecture

iWay MDM Suite

While reviewing the MDM Suite, Dennis mentioned that iWay is in the process of working on role-based access to the MDM tools and capabilities, to specifically provide only what each role needs. Obviously this can greatly help productivity and prevent situations where end users wander into capabilities that they shouldn’t be using. Currently role-based access is available to IT teams and data stewards. iWay will be adding access for additional business roles.

iWay has stepped up work on its MDM offering to improve performance and to guarantee 24/7 availability, particularly to ensure that customers have a robust platform to process complex data structures and large datasets, and to handle complex unification of data. Further performance improvements include built-in engine parallelism to approximate real-time processing.

Enterprise service bus (ESB) capabilities are available through the iWay Service Manager to create, manage and orchestrate reusable services for data integration processes, data flows and so on (anything in the Information Builders solutions can be exposed as a service). These services can be called through web services or other interfaces, and interoperate with any enterprise infrastructure.

New capabilities in the iWay 7 MDM Suite include:

  • Hierarchy Manager – manage complex hierarchies across multiple domains, as well as other capabilities such as incorporating previously created hierarchies into new structures.
  • 360 Viewer – browser-based user interface (derived from golden record views) where views are customized for different roles such as data steward, administrator, and various levels of managers.
  • Remediation – access through the 360 Viewer to work on data quality issues. Integrated into data management processes to provide support in actual workflows. The remediation capability isn’t limited to master data repositories, but can work with any dataset. Remediation is customizable and supports mobile automated processes.
  • Data Dictionary – this is the first step in a records management strategy, with plans to continue to build out standards. iWay works with data analysts and business users to standardize data definitions and values.

The iWay Master Data Suite can tackle big data head on and adds the critical ingredient of context – or as iWay puts it – “MDM anchors big data”. Master data can be integrated with other types of data and information, including big data formats to uncover the relevance of such data. Relationships from big data to master data reconcile identity and give big data meaning relative to business usage and needs.

iWay Data Profiler

Healthcare MDM Solution: OmniPatient

Dennis also gave a quick overview of the iWay MDM application for the healthcare industry. OmniPatient is the first of the industry-specific MDM applications that iWay is developing. These applications are built on the Omni Framework, a configurable platform that includes MDM and data governance, data quality, and data integration capabilities and tools.

OmniPatient combines an enterprise master patient index (EMPI) with pre-built templates specific to the healthcare industry. While exploring potential applications with healthcare organizations, several organizations communicated that they were having problems with the EMPI. iWay discovered that the real issue was identifying the correct patient for different services across the organization (data was inconsistent, with no single view of the patient). So Omni-Patient was developed to handle this problem, among other MDM needs.


A Deeper Look at the iWay Platform

A thorough product demo handled by Vince gave an effective look at the technology stack behind the iWay user tools. iWay has taken good advantage of the entire Information Builders technology offering to greatly enhance both the technologies at work in the background, and the usability and effectiveness of end user tools.

iWay’s own capabilities in data integration, including over 300 data connectors, play an integral part in the MDM solution as well. The orchestration capabilities across functions are sophisticated and robust, primarily provided by iWay Service Manager middleware. Strong orchestration across a data management platform is a must-have as processes become more complex and dynamic to meet business needs.

With such strong roots in infrastructure technology for data management, iWay’s platform supplies all the right capabilities and functions for IT teams and power users. For the ‘tech savvy’, iWay tools improve productivity for all tasks, while still providing the ability to custom build things the more technical user needs.

The MDM Suite features very clean UIs and a streamlined design for tools, obviously with productive usability in mind. The high quality dashboards, a benefit of the Information Builders business intelligence offering, provide views that communicate clearly and show business relevance.

MDM users can capitalize on sophisticated business rules. Users can create their own, as well as incorporate pre-built rule sets into MDM projects. Another rich area comes from the data profiling and data quality capabilities, which can be used extensively by business users as well as more technical users, to assist with data management and remediation.

Information Assets, Business Insights and Business Users

The iWay team demonstrated a great deal of passion and confidence in their solutions, and in their commitment to helping their customers use data and information to full advantage. Information Builders seems to be looking at building more business user access and functionality into their solutions, which is an important trend for many customer organizations, especially in light of the continuing reduction of IT resources. The focus on business needs is also reflected in the development of industry-specific applications built on a master data management framework, which is a very promising direction.

In terms of the critical area of providing powerful and responsive infrastructure management for data-driven businesses, the IT team and tech-savvy end users are still essential ingredients for success. It’s obvious that Information Builders has great platforms for the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting that is key to taking advantage of data assets and turning them into valuable insights for competitive edge.

But there is a ways to go for any vendor to put data and analytics power into the hands of more business users at all levels of the enterprise. Data management vendors have to provide the means to ensure that the data accessed by business users is reliable and correct. Capabilities made available to less technical business users must have plenty of guidelines and safeguards. It will be interesting to see how far Information Builders ventures into this “new” world.

Disclosure: Dan Power and I had the pleasure of working with iWay on two white papers: The 8 Worst Practices in MDM and How to Avoid Them and The Power of Master Data in a Big Data World. Dan also recorded webinars related to the papers that can be accessed here. (Registration is required for all items.)

About the Author: 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 B2B software vendors for customer, solution and go-to-market strategies.

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