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The Great Multi-Domain Master Data Management Debate
Specialist or Generalist, Depth or Breadth?

by Charles Greenberg, www.datafoundations.comTuesday, June 22, 2010

For the past several years, companies across numerous industries have been warming up to the idea of multi-domain master data management (MDM) and its promise of synthesizing corporate data about customers, products, vendors and locations, in a uniform manner using the same processes and tools.  Customers today have a wide range of choices for MDM, from custom applications to single-domain products, and industry-specialized products to multi-domain generalists. 

The MDM Evolution

Over the past decade, there has been growing market awareness and an increased appreciation for MDM solutions that are not dedicated or limited to only one subject area or domain, such as customer data integration (CDI) or product information management (PIM) solutions.  Nor are organizations convinced that the best solution for their particular business need is a data management software platform whose major claim to fame is based on exclusively serving only that particular industry.  Rather, there’s every indication that as the MDM marketplace continues to expand and mature, so does the appeal of a single MDM solution. However, the single solution needs to be flexible enough to comprehensively expand and support several subject areas, disparate processes and industry-specific use cases throughout the enterprise, while requiring only one investment in software, services and training.  This precept is, of course, the ultimate promise and goal of true master data management.

This is not to say, however, that MDM software specializing in specific subject areas is on the wane.  Indeed, one need only consider Gartner’s ongoing Magic Quadrants for Customer MDM and Product MDM, and Forrester’s CDI Wave, to understand that single-domain MDM continues to thrive.  Neither is it a forgone conclusion, that a multi-domain solution trying to make inroads into, say, the banking industry will routinely win deals against one of its competitors who has dedicated years of product development towards developing very specific data models and user interfaces for the financial services sector. 

Thus, in a competitive sales cycle, where two account executives are on either side of the issue, there is a short list of generic pros and cons that represent a potentially misleading dichotomy.

Single-Domain / Subject-Specific Multi-Domain / Subject-Neutral
Specialist
Generalist
Depth
Breadth
Industry-specific processes & terminology
Non-restrictive, highly configurable
Single subject area template
Non-restrictive; highly Configurable
We know your industry
You know your industry

The “You” vs. “We” Debate

For many, the “You know your industry” argument may seem a bit glib until an organization starts to dig deeper into its broader implications.  One of those being that “You” are theknowledge experts when it comes to your business requirements and enterprise computing environment which includes your software applications, reporting requirements, databases, tools, web services and industry-critical data feeds.  Equally important, “You” know your business’ data model, and how it drives your company’s ability to understand and maximize the use of business data across business units and geographies.

On the other hand, one might argue that if your data model is customer based for example, or CDI focused, that would be reason enough to select a single-domain, or an industry specific solution.  In this instance, and even with rich functionality a given, an organization would undoubtedly ask why they should consider a multi-domain MDM solution that may fall short of CDI best practices or require post-procurement configurations and extensions.  Finally, how does a data manager approach the CIO with his recommendation for a multi-domain solution whose reputation has not been made in specific subject or industry use cases? 

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