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MDM and the Big Bang

MDM as the Big Bang deliverable

Perhaps the biggest problem to consume organizations over the past few years was to target the implementation of MDM as the Big Bang deliverable. The Big Bang deliverable is any MDM project where the goal of the project is the total integration of all consuming operational systems by one date. I am personally not aware of a single project where this goal was achieved without delay for one reason or another. Not one. I visit many accounts and I always ask the question and I almost always get the same answer. I’m not asking for the formal reference and the customer story that the vendor worked with a star customer or two. I am asking members on various project teams about their perceptions. Given the multi-year nature of the current MDM paradigm, the delay or slip in reaching the Big Bang delivery was typical. This left many project teams holding the reins on an expensive and challenged project at a time, in 2009, when most organizations were focusing even more on economic efficiency and incremental, successful product delivery.

The challenge of the big bang was evident even a few years ago. Vendors and the community at large tried to segment and differentiate the project down to more manageable components. The most successful projects that surfaced were to align the activities by customer and product. Product information management (the catalog) and customer information management emerged. Unfortunately, vendors went down various paths that have now resulted in different systems and even technologies to address these situations. Some have tried to build the product catalog into a bigger application. This additional complexity and differentiation, although scope has been reduced, just seems to give implementing organizations an opportunity to experience the big bang twice. They are both still complex, both global in implementation, and both difficult. The risk is still considerable.

Of course, two different projects run the risk of new challenges. Now you have two different systems, with potentially two varying architectures, two sets of administration, two sets of consultants – pretty much two sets of everything. Think about it. Now you also have the need, potentially, for multiple and potentially disparate integrations to the same systems for two different process integrations. In some ways it makes more sense, and in some ways even less sense. The systems used should probably be the same. There needs to be scalable components. But perhaps the segmentation globally by product and by customer does not really solve the organizational problem best without a common architecture.

The Big Bang remains contrary to all that we have learned from experience. The very nature of software development has moved towards iterative development – that of smaller and even smaller components of rapidly prototyped functionality delivery.

Today most development projects try to build code in “Agile®” slices, with rapid iterative development and prototyping. The smaller the deliverable the better and more predictable the results. Yet MDM implementation teams took most of the most complex processes and integrations possible. The project teams wrapped this up with single-minded and all-encompassing deliverables. Every place in software development, the goal is to eliminate the big bang in software deliverables. The paradigm for MDM often remains in sharp contrast to this.

Conceptually, to the user community, the endpoint is really what they perceive as the only value point. The meaningful deliverable is the endpoint because that is where most of the return on investment sits—not all of it, but most of it. Yes, you can get some data quality benefits before the project is complete. Yes, depending on your architecture you can get the benefits of operational system alignment. But that does not justify the millions spent. Your senior management team and global organization is really only focused on the complete integration and synchronization of data as a successful endpoint. They want the right data propagated the right way in all of their key operational systems. They want all data in repositories where they can learn from it using business intelligence tools. Anything less won’t measure up as success.

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by Michael Zuckerman, CMO, Queplix

More Stories By Derek Harris

Derek Harris Sr. is a senior technology writer and blogger with more than 20 years experience in journalism.

While covering a broad spectrum of technology segments, his focus is weighted on enterprise technologies in the data storage, security and infrastructure spaces.