Master Data Management: sources and insights

Tomorrow I will be facilitating my last Corporate IT Forum event. After five years or so I’m standing down from the team, having valued the Forum first as a member and then, since my first retirement, being on the team. Tomorrow’s event is a webinar, presenting a member’s case study on their journey with Master Data Management (MDM).

There was a phase of my career when I was directly concerned with setting up what we’d now call Master Data for a global oil company. We were concerned to define the entities of interest to the enterprise. When systems (databases and the associated applications) were set up to hold live data and answer day to day or strategic questions, we wanted to avoid the confusions that could so easily arise. everyone thinks they know what a particular entity is. It ain’t necessarily that simple.

A couple of examples.

When we began the journey, we thought we’d start with a simple entity: Country. There are fewer than a couple of hundred countries in the world. We needed to know which country owned, licenced and taxed exploration and production. And everyone knows what a country is, don’t they?

Well, no. Just from our own still-almost-united islands: a simple question. Is Scotland (topically) a country? Is the Isle of Man? Is Jersey? In all those cases, there are some areas (e.g. foreign policy) where the effective answer is no; they are part of the single entity the United Kingdom. But in others (e.g. tax, legal systems, legislature) they are quite separate. And of course the list of countries is not immutable.

So: no single definitive list of countries. No standard list of representative codes either: again, do we use GB? or UK? Do we use international vehicle country codes, or Internet domain codes, or … What codes would be used in data coming in from outside? And finally: could we find an agreed person or function within the Company who would take responsibility for managing and maintaining this dataset, and whose decisions would be accepted by everyone with an interest and their own opinions.

And talking of data coming in from outside: I carried out a reconciliation exercise between two external sources of data on exploration activities in the UK North Sea. You’d think that would be quite well defined: the geological provinces, the licence blocks, the estimates of reserves and so on. record keeping in the UK would surely be up to the game.

But no: the two sources didn’t even agree on the names and definitions of the reservoirs. Bringing the data from these sources together was going to be a non-trivial task requiring geological and commercial expertise.

Then again, we went through a merger and discovered that two companies could allocate responsibility for entities (and for the data which represented them) quite differently within their organisations.

So: this is a well developed topic in information systems. Go back to a Forrester blog in 2012: analyst Michelle Goetz maintains forcefully that MDM is not about providing (in some IT-magic way) a Single Source of Truth. There ain’t no such animal. MDM is a fundamental tool for reconciling different data sources, so that the business can answer useful questions without being confused by different people who think they are talking about the same thing but aren’t, really.

It may be a two year old post, but it’s still relevant, and Michele Goetz is still one of Forrester’s lead analysts in this area. Forrester’s first-ever Wave for MDM solutions came out in February this year. It’s downloadable from some of the leading vendors (such as SAP or Informatica). There’s also a recent Wave on Product Information Management which is tagged “MDM in business terms”, and might be worth a look too. Browse for some of the other stuff.

Gartner have a toolkit of resources. Their famed Magic Quadrant exists in multiple versions e.g. for Product information and for Customer Data. I’d be unsure how the principles of MDM vary between domains so (without studying the reports) I’m not clear why the separation. You might do better with the MDM overview, which also dates from 2012. You will find RFP templates, a risk framework, and market guides. Bill O’Kane and Marcus Collins are key names. For Gartner subscribers, a good browse and an analyst call will be worthwhile.

Browse more widely too. Just one caution: MDM these days also means Mobile Device Management. Don’t get confused!
Links:
• Master Data Management Does Not Equal The Single Source Of Truth, Michele Goetz, Forrester blog, 26 Oct 2012
• The Forrester Wave™: Master Data Management Solutions, Q1 2014, 3 Feb 2014 (download from Informatica, link at foot of page
• PIM: MDM on Business Terms, Michele Goetz, 6 Jun 2014
• Master Data Management, Marcus Collins, Gartner, 9 Jul 2012

Benefits realisation: analyst insight

I’m facilitating an event tomorrow on “Optimising the benefits life cycle”. So as always I undertook my own prior research to see what the mainstream analysts have to offer.

Forrester was a disappointment. “Benefits Realization” (with a z) turns up quite a lot, but the research is primarily labelled “Lead to Revenue Management” – that is, it’s about sales. There is some material on the wider topic, but it dates back several years or longer. Though it’s always relevant to remember Forrester’s elevator project pitch from Chuck Gliedman: We are doing A to make B better, as measured by C, which is worth X dollars (pounds, euros …) to the organisation.

There is a lot of material from both academic researchers and organisations like PMI (Project Management Institute). But in the IT insight market, there seems to be remarkably little (do correct me …) except that the Corporate IT Forum, where I’ll be tomorrow, has returned to the issue regularly. Tomorrow’s event is the latest in the series. The Forum members clearly see this as important.

But so far as external material is concerned, this blog turns into a plug for a recent Gartner webinar by Richard Hunter, who (a fair number of years ago) added considerable value to an internal IT presentation I delivered on emerging technologies for our enterprise. I’m not going to review the whole presentation because it’s on open access from Gartner’s On Demand webinars. But to someone who experienced the measurement-oriented focus of a Six-Sigma driven IT team, it’s not a real surprise that Richard’s key theme is to identify and express the benefits before you start: in business terms, not technology-oriented language, and with an expectation that you will know how to measure and harvest the benefits. It’s not about on-time-on-budget; it’s about the business outcome. Shortening a process cycle from days to hours; reducing the provision for returns; and so on.

If this is your topic, spend an hour reviewing Richard’s presentation (complete with family dog in the background). It will be time well spent.

Links:
• Getting to Benefits Realization: What to Do and When to Do It, Richard Hunter, Gartner, 7 Aug 2014 (go to Gartner Webinars and search for Benefits Realization)
• Corporate IT Forum: Optimising the Benefits Lifecycle (workshop, 16 Sep 2014)

Analyst Directory update

It’s a long time since the InformationSpan blog index has been updated – not since February. To be fair, I had a look in May but there were too few changes to be significant. However, there’s now enough to report, and the index has been thoroughly reviewed and updated.

First, Gartner: a handful of new analysts have appeared. The main comments, though, relate to past acquisitions.

I’ve finally removed almost all references to AMR, but in true Gartner fashion there are some inconsistencies. If you look on Gartner’s Research marketing page, there is of course Gartner for Supply Chain Professionals, created out of the former AMR service. All traces of AMR seem to have disappeared until you look also at the Gartner for Enterprise Supply Chain Leaders service. The flyer for this service is headed “AMR Enterprise Supply Chain Leaders” and is replete with references to AMR services. It’s dated 2010, just after the acquisition; but it’s still on the system. I did not find any other reference to a service called Gartner for Enterprise Supply Chain Leaders.

Burton service have also been fully absorbed; most of the Burton analysts have left, the IT1 tag also seems to have disappeared, and one of the remaining accessible legacy blogs has moved to inaccessible. However, six Burton blogs can still be found and I’ve discovered there are also TypePad profiles linked to them. There’s also still one accessible (but moribund) Gartner IT1 blog, and a fair sprinkling (as always) of blogs left over from other analysts who have left.

There have been more changes to the Forrester page. First, perhaps most significantly: Forrester seem to have shed their Business Technology tag. It was a good one, but didn’t catch on; and I suppose George Colony has decided to go with the market. These services are now referred to as Technology Management.

There have, too, been some changes within Forrester’s categories. Business Process and Content & Collaboration seem to have become moribund (no new content for over two years), and there remain a number of still-extant blog names which redirect somewhere else (and have done so for some time). Interestingly, within the Marketing & Product Strategy group, there’s a blog which had been dormant since 2008 but Consumer Product Strategy has acquired a new posting recently. Forrester seem better than Gartner at tidying up when analysts leave, but there are three or four still-extant blogs from departed analysts.

I reviewed the Others page too. I haven’t added any new analyst sources (suggestions??) but Erica and Sam Driver’s ThinkBalm content has now been lost. Charlene Li’s Altimeter group now has a fully integrated blog section within the main website (not new, but I haven’t noted it before) as well as personal blogs maintained by Charlene herself and some colleagues. I have, though, included Euan Semple’s The Obvious which offers so many of us great insights and ideas. If George Colony hadn’t already grabbed Counterintuitive as his blog title, it would be a good alternative for Euan!

No Links here, but click the link at the head or right hand side of this blog to go to the InformationSpan Analyst Blogs Index.

SAPphire and Supernova: two reasons for a visit to Constellation

R “Ray” Wang’s Constellation group is worth watching anyway. But just now there are a couple of good reasons.

First, if you’re a SAP user, they have coverage of the recent SAPphire conference. Remember that Ray’s primary expertise, from his days at Forrester, is in ERP. Just go to Constellation and search for “Sapphire 2014″ for pre- and post-event analysis. There are of course also replays and other notes on the SAP website, if you want to go back to the originals.

Secondly, they are launching the call for this year’s Supernova innovation awards. Again, worth watching if your focus includes the what, how and who of innovation in business. As I’ve commented before, I’m not clear on the relationship between this Supernova event and the one formerly hosted by Kevin Wehrbach of the Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania) but Wehrbach’s Supernova hasn’t happened since 2010 and was described by him in 2012 as “on hold”.

Note, by the way, that their URL has changed from constellationrg.com to just constellationr.com.

Links:
• Constellation: search for Sapphire 2014
• Call for Applications: SuperNova Awards for leaders in disruptive technology, Courtney Sato, Constellation, 17 Jun 2014
• SAPPHIRE NOW 2014 (SAP Events)

Constellation Office Hours

Long ago as a client of META Group, I occasionally had the chance to sit in on their analysts’ monthly phone conferences. R “Ray” Wang’s Constellation group are starting an open version of this and I’m about to join the half-hour webinar call. I have no idea what to expect. It will be a first flavour for me of how Constellation operates – especially after the recent management changes. It may be a chance to catch up with some analysts I know from their previous lives, and some I don’t. I’ll take notes as I go, and update this posting. And I’ll add a replay link when it’s available.

So this is actually the first such monthly meeting. Courtney Sato is leading off. I see two other faces (yes, video on) but only Attendee 4 and Attendee 5. There’s a Twitter stream going too. Watch out for it every fourth Tuesday.

A standard format is developing. First, news: leading off with the arrival of Peter Kim (see my blog post); and new reports (a quick run-through). I might look for material relating to digital business disruption (though I remember talking about business disruption from the earliest days of the Internet); and something about the FIDO Alliance (Fast IDentity Online). Here too is a note of events that Constellation analysts will be attending.

So: over to the analysts. First, Alan Lepofski. Box is going for an IPO, announced yesterday and beating Dropbox. He’s looking at opportunities beyond commodity services. Cisco are linking up with Chrome for collaborative services e.g. Webex. There is commoditisation of file sync and share.

Second, Holger Müller. The Google Cloud event is just starting in San Francisco, and some announcements are expected; some more about the Cisco cloud announcements and their use of OpenStack; other major players are being mentioned too.

Bruce Daley: Oracle are releasing version 8 of their Sales Cloud. Some comments about its impact and links to mobile.

Now a few “big ideas”, future research topics. Alan Lepofski: “Digital Proficiency” is a combination of skill and comfort and is more important than which “generation” you belong to. It’s promoted as a better way to plan for user/customer skills. It’s not about age. Bruce thinks this isn’t so easy to say when you’re older :-)

Holger Müller: identifying a move to a “sharing economy” which seems to be a paradigm for a moving-around and moving-on employment model. As companies transform, the key people are not the ones moving vertically up a silo, but those with broad experience of different areas of business. The broader experience is more beneficial in responding to – or creating – disruption.

Bruce Daley: working on Oracle Sales Cloud as part of mobility. Holger is at a conference and just gave us a quick video tour of the forum. Bruce is pointing out how the various call participants are in different places: this is taken for granted in today’s mobile world but actually it’s still quite new. Back to Oracle: he’s watching debates about HTML5 versus platform-native development, and harking back to previous IT generations (e.g. minicomputers) where vendors promoted their own “standards” (think Android, iOS, Windows Phone). He expects convergence on a single standard, but it won’t be HTML5.

Holger, though, has some wider comments about consumerised versus business-oriented developers. Native is harder for developers but easier for users. The argument doesn’t change; but the native technologies do (such as, gesture-based applications using the built-in accelerometers). Think beyond mobile hand-held; think in-car, wearable and more. An interesting conversation – but we’re coming down to the end of the half hour.

Links:
Constellation events
• Following months of speculation, Box files for IPO. ZDNet, 24 Mar 2014
Oracle Sales Cloud
Google Cloud Platform Live event
• OpenStack

For Twitter feed, search #crchat including Alan Lepofsky’s five categories of digital workers, and the file sync and share vendors he mentioned.

Peter Kim joins Constellation

R “Ray” Wang’s Constellation Research has announced that Peter Kim has joined the group as Chief Strategy Officer. This is another step in the evolution of Constellation following the appointment of a CEO, Bridgette Chambers, from outside the team, and presumably (although this is not explicit in the announcement) another element of Ray Wang’s founding role which the group has now decided should be devolved. It would be interesting to know how far this shows Chambers making her mark on the direction of the group.

Peter Kim is an acknowledged specialist and his eponymous blog Being Peter Kim is well known (it goes way back to Peter’s days at Forrester Research alongside Ray). Peter will also be a Principal Analyst with the group, bringing his focus on Digital Marketing Transformation.

InformationSpan’s Index of Analyst Blogs has always included Constellation Research because of the high profile names the group includes, and Peter Kim has been added. I’ve also added a note (long intended and finally achieved) on IDC’s online community; the detail may be expanded in due course. For both these groups, follow the tab (above), and look for Others.

Links:
• Constellation Names Peter Kim Chief Strategy Officer, Constellation research press release, 3 Mar 2014
• Ray Wang’s Constellation reaches the next stage, ITasITis, 4 Sep 2013
Being Peter Kim
IDC Community

Gartner buys … what, exactly?

A recent monitor report (11th March) from Outsell noted that Gartner have bought a small(ish) analyst firm Software Advice: around 100 employees. I’ve spent the intervening week checking to see what Gartner might be buying. The press release is short on detail and I haven’t spotted any other commentary; KCG, SageCircle and others please correct me if I’ve missed something!

Software Advice does what its name implies. It provides advice (“Find software for your business”) across just short of thirty categories: generic enterprise areas (e.g. Business Intelligence); market sectors (Manufacturing); and niche areas (Church Management). More below. Key to Software Advice reporting are Buyer Views, Industry Views and User Views documents (collectively referred to as Views below, when we report redirections within blog sequences). It’s not the purpose of this blog to explore their style. Its story is told by CEO and co-founder Don Fornes in a (separate) blog post.

Software Advice don’t (appear to) have an online list of their analysts, but I’ve been able to recover a list of 110 contributors to their accessible online content (mainly the blogs). Several cover a range of areas (more than ten, in a few cases). I have no way to check how many of them are currently with the firm, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. My list may not be complete or up to date; but it should help identify if, when and where these analysts re-surface in Gartner, and what happens to the coverage. Will it be merged into mainstream research? Will it disappear into the consultancy business? Will some topics simply be abandoned? Will analysts stay or leave? What will the fallout be? There is far from a good fit between Software Advice coverage and Gartner’s, but Software Advice is probably not enough for Gartner to springboard into these additional areas. Interesting, though, that Don Fornes is now listed as a Gartner Group Vice President. That looks as if Gartner see this as a strategic purchase. Watch this space.

Not all of Software Advice’s categories map either to Gartner’s current list of industry sectors or to their IT topics or roles, although many do. So it will be interesting to see what happens. The big question, going on previous experiences with Burton and AMR Research, is how far and how soon Gartner will integrate these topics and analysts – especially the categories not currently strong on Gartner’s agenda.

As always we can look at the blogs to get the picture. In this case, it’s a confused one. There are two groups of blogs from Software Advice. They are topic related, not personal blogs as Gartner’s are; similar to the former Burton and AMR blogs.

One blog group maps to most of the categories used by Software Advice: many of these seem dormant but some have recent postings. The other is a group of eight current, named blogs. There is overlap and redirection within both. So for example a post indexed in B2B Marketing Mentor redirects to an Industry View document outside the blog structure. Similarly, posts in the Customer Relationship Management blog redirect to CSI, to B2B Marketing Mentor, and to Views.

Here is Software Advice’s list of blogs and topics, with an indication of their status in the blog lists. There are some inconsistencies in naming, which we have resolved. Not all topic blogs carry the topic as a page title; a few carry the generic title The Software Advice Blog.

The following are the titled blogs:
The Able Altruist: Non-profit. Most recent post (of 16): 27 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage in this area: minimal.
The B2B Marketing Mentor: Most recent post (of 33): 12 Dec 2013. Gartner coverage: strong.
CSI: Customer Service Investigator: CRM, Most recent post (of 36): 3 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
Hello Operator: business telephony including call centres. Most recent post (of 11): 16 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
The New Talent Times: Human resources. Most recent post (of 57): 19 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
Overnight Success: hotel and hospitality management. Most recent post (of 7):30 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: none specific.
The Profitable Practice: medical practice management. Most recent post (of 55): 18 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: none specific.
Plotting Success: business intelligence. Most recent post (of 23): 29 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: strong.

There is overlap between these and the older-style (non-titled) blogs. All or some posts in some of these older-style blogs redirect to postings in the titled blogs. Inconsistency is rife! The following list covers all Software Advice categories. The website lists these on the home page; there is also a drop-down menu which breaks them into Industry and Application groups. Asterisks * here indicate categories not included in the drop-down menus which I have added to what seems the most appropriate group.

Industries:
Assisted Living*: no blog.
Church Management*: no blog
Construction: The Construction Blog (66 postings, most recent 4 Feb 2014); one post redirects to a View. No titled blog
Dental*: no blog
Distribution: The Distribution Blog (17; 8 Jul 2013); no titled blog
Home Health*: no blog
Hotel Management*: The Hotel Management Blog; all (7) articles redirect to Overnight Success
Long-term Care*: no blog
Manufacturing: The Manufacturing Blog (37; 23 Sep 2013); no titled blog. Manufacturing is a headline Gartner industry sector.
Medical: The Medical Blog (59; 6 Jul 2011); 18 further articles redirect to The Profitable Practice (though some older articles can no longer be reached by that route) or to software evaluation reports. Healthcare providers is a headline Gartner sector.
Non-Profit: The Non-Profit Blog (1; 6 Jul 2011); further articles redirect to The Able Altruist (one of these appears there under a different title).
Professional Services: no blog
Property Management: Topic blog headed as The Software Advice Blog (34; 9 Jan 2014); no titled blog
Recruiting Agency*: no blog
Retail: The Retail Blog (40; 13 Feb 2014); one further articles redirects to a software evaluation report and another redirects to the generic page for retail software. No titled blog. Retail is a headline Gartner industry sector.

Gartner sectors Banking & Investment Services; Education; Energy & Utilities; Government; Insurance; and Media do not appear to map onto these Software Advice categories

Applications
Accounting: The Accounting Blog (20 postings; most recent 19 Oct 2011); no titled blog
Business Intelligence*: The Business Intelligence Blog, all (9) articles redirect to Plotting Success (29 Jan 2014). Business Intelligence & Information Management is a listed Gartner IT role.
Business Telephony*: topic also referred to as Business VOIP. Topic blog headed as The Software Advice Blog, all articles redirect to Hello Operator (16 Jan 2014)
Career Advice*: not included on the blog index page. Topic blog (8 Aug 2012) headed as The Software Advice Blog; no titled blog. One post redirects to The New Talent Times.
CRM: also indexed as Customer Relationship Management in full, or as Customer Management. The Customer Relationship Management Blog (109; 12 Feb 2013); 17 posts redirect to Views, to The B2B Marketing Mentor or to CSI: Customer Service Investigator.
Enterprise Resource Planning: listed in the blog index as Enterprise. The Enterprise Blog (50; 26 Jun 2013); no titled blog
Facilities Management: in the blog index as Facility Management. The Facilities Management Blog (10; 25 Mar 2013); no titled blog
Human Resources: The Human Resources Blog (56; 76 Dec 2012). 13 further articles redirect to The New Talent Times.
Inventory Management*: no blog
Maintenance Management: Topic blog (3; 26 Jun 2013) headed as The Software Advice Blog; 1 further post redirects to a View document. No titled blog
Project Management: The Project Management Blog (3; 10 Feb 2014); no titled blog. Gartner’s list of IT roles includes Project and Portfolio Management.
Security*: The Security Blog (3; 6 Mar 2014); no titled blog. Security and Risk Management is a listed Gartner IT role.
Supply Chain Management: The Supply Chain Management Blog (20; 5 Mar 2014); no titled blog.

Gartner list Applications and Sourcing and Vendor Management among their IT Roles. Digital Marketing also relates to several areas of Software Advice coverage. Gartner IT roles which don’t appear to map easily to Software Advice coverage include Business Process Improvement; CIO and IT Executives; Enterprise Architecture; Infrastructure and Operations.

Links:
• Gartner acquires Software Advice, Gartner press release, 11 Mar 2014
• Software Advice; link here to Software Advice titled blogs and to Software Advice untitled blogs
How Software Advice Got Started, Don Fornes, A Million Little Wins, Part I, 25 Mar 2013 (the link to part II is at the end of this post)