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Analysis

Dancing with a Giant
Andy Hayler By: Andy Hayler, CEO, The Information Difference
Published: 14th July 2010
Copyright The Information Difference © 2010
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With Microsoft finally releasing Master Data Services (MDS) in late April, it is interesting to see the first vendors starting to release add-on products to enhance the value of the core Microsoft MDM offering. Profisee had a head start, as the founders of Profisee are from Stratature, the MDM vendor that Microsoft purchased in 2007, and which is the basis for MDS.

MDS has been delivered very much as a platform rather than as an application. Microsoft have concentrated on enhancing the robustness of the underlying platform, for example with a rich API and much enhanced security model, and have linked MDM up to the various other Microsoft data management components, such as SQL Server and SharePoint. However they have left some quite wide gaps in functionality, at least in their initial release, and these gaps are ones which ISVs are free to try and plug.

Profisee have developed a data governance usability layer aimed at data stewards who are planning to use the MDM platform. The MDS user interface is web-based and fairly sparse, suitable for occasional users e.g. who have to update certain master data every now and again. However for data stewards whose prime role is to maintain master data, a richer "fat client" interface is probably more suitable, and this Profisee have provided in their Master Data Maestro product.

Anyone who has deployed a real life MDM application in a major company knows that the migration of complete environments, for example moving form test to systems test to production, can be a challenge, and one frequently poorly addressed by vendors. Profisee have added synchronisation functionality to make it easy to carry out such migration, a very useful piece of administrative functionality. Lurking within this is the promise of something more interesting, which would be the capability of managing a federation of linked MDM hubs. Large companies frequently want to deploy a series of separate master data hubs rather than one giant hub for all sorts of reasons, technical, political and even legal in some cases, yet most MDM vendors seem only dimly aware of this requirement. Profisee's synchronisation capability does not quite deliver this capability yet, but will do in the not too distant future. At this point this, taking advantage of one very useful but unheralded capability already within MDS, will allow companies to deploy in a linked federation, something that only a couple of niche MDM vendors can properly support today.

Another gap in MDM at this point is the lack of built-in data quality. For most MDM applications data quality is a major component, and de-duplication of records by merging potential candidates from various competing systems is bread and butter for MDM projects. Although Microsoft acquired data quality vendor Zoomix in 2008, at this stage MD has not been hooked up to this, so Profisee can fill a gap here by linking MDS through to a variety of third party data quality tools and linking in Microsoft data quality services as they become available. Additionally they provide the ability to have manual intervention to decide on "survivorship" i.e. to involve business analysts to decide which system of record to trust most (it is possible to partly automate this if you have a good data quality tool, but there will almost always be the need for manual review). This, combined with data audit, is a further area in which Profisee can add value to the core MDS offering.

Profisee will have to play a careful game, essentially picking up coins in front of a steamroller as Microsoft gradually enhances their core offering. Moreover they are dependent on MDS actually catching on, although given Microsoft's huge brand and its low-end pricing, the latter is probably a matter of when rather than if. Certainly, for now, Profisee can take advantage of its intimate knowledge of the basis for MDS in order to deliver solutions that enhance the value of the core MDS solution.

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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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