One of the trends I picked up on at the Gartner MDM conference in Los Angeles last week was momentum for MDM-powered or MDM-aware applications. It’s something that IBM, Oracle, Informatica and SAP have all been working on under one name or another.

Gartner’s Andrew White started talking about this most of two years ago but it’s becoming more real in a software sense now. Rather than extracting product or customer master data to an ODS or cycling it around as a service, you use master data for its own sake. You go a step further and plug it into an app for search or compliance or governance (just like we do in silos now). 

We were also thinking about this a couple of years ago at our MDM summits and had an example of a product hub with apps hanging off for partner compliance. 

I took an update from Brian Vile and Rick Clements, the MDM program and marketing heads who came to IBM in the Initiate deal. The reason we’re down this path, they said, is because MDM development stopped at the service layer and we never did get around to putting a “head” on MDM.

“Most of the time, it ends up at ‘here’s the Web service,’” Vile told me. It's easy to see that delivering master data is the tough part, the apps themselves don’t have to be, and we already know very well how to build such things.

The uses are operational by nature. As mentioned, you can use MDM data for true enterprise search. In governance, you could create a rule to look for an existing account before opening a new one, and build in all the fuzzy matching and profiling you’d use with siloed data. Another application could visualize hierarchical relationships, so that if one customer owns a dozen brands, you could assign territories and commissions to accounts.

You could respond to a competitor by assigning discounts to specific area codes or product codes. That would eliminate a lot of the data entry overhead those selective interventions require right now.

You could run these things up in dashboards or alerts and you could even turn some of these tools around to face the customer for self-service at the enterprise level.

The IBM guys said the applications are not meant to compete with an app development tool in that the products are pre-configured and prototyped. They’re likely to be most useful when supporting another trend, which is MDM’s merging with business process management.

So, instead of, ‘here’s master data and Web services,’ Vile says it’s more like, ‘we’re using MDM to fix a customer service or new product development process.’

It’s what we’ve been doing in many places at a smaller scale for a long time in terms of both breadth and process. As we do get past the hard part of MDM, it will be nice to watch these mini-enterprise data apps roll out, don’t you think?

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