On the publication of my new Informatica white paper, titled “Master Data Management: Building a Foundation for Success,” I’ve been talking to several clients and vendors wanting more information about the build-versus-buy decision. In fact when I was writing the paper I was in the process of evaluating three MDM vendor solutions on behalf of a high-technology firm we work with, while at the same time counseling another firm not to jump too quickly into the MDM fray without first examining its incumbent technology solutions. As with most strategic IT solutions, when it comes to MDM one size doesn’t fit all.

As I say in my Informatica paper, there are a variety of factors involved in the rigorous evaluation of MDM technology. In the paper, I describe five core MDM functions that should drive a deliberate MDM strategy:

  1. Data cleansing and correction
  2. Metadata
  3. Security and access services
  4. Data migration
  5. Identity resolution

Interestingly, each of these core functional areas can exist on its own, absent any sort of MDM solution or plan. You probably have a few of them already.
Which is why it amazes me that so few companies actually take a structured and proactive approach to planning their MDM initiatives. Why go through a business-driven process of examining the importance of, say, matching, when it’s easy enough to let the vendor make its pitch and start negotiating prices? Because you can end up overinvesting, that’s why.

We worked with a large media company on a set of robust MDM business and functional requirements back in 2007. The goal was to prioritize MDM requirements and then map them to various vendor capabilities. This would ensure that the resulting solution solved the right business issues. We delivered our MDM Masterplan to the client, and MDM immediately got funding. Success!

But management at the media company got sucked into the hype of a rival media company’s MDM success, and ended up choosing the same vendor as its competitor. Flash forward to 2009. The media company continues to implement and customize its MDM solution, with no rollout date in sight.

The point here is whether you choose to build or buy your MDM solution, know what you need, and what you don’t need. I know that sounds obvious. But obviously, it’s not.

Evan also blogs at evanjlevy.com.

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