On Friday 11th December IBM announced MDM Server V9, the latest major version of their core master data management product. This coincides with a new version of MDM Server for PIM 6.5, which is their product line aimed at product information management. This release sees the further convergence of the two product lines, which is vital to IBM's strategy of producing a true multi-domain solution for master data management.
Although historically many vendors specialised in hubs for either customer or product data (which have quite different characteristics) it has long been our view that large enterprises need a holistic approach to master data management across data domains, and a need to take a consistent approach to all master data, whether customer, product, location, asset or whatever. Having a coherent technical architecture for the various master data types is obviously beneficial, as is having a consistent approach to the governance and ownership of data throughout an enterprise.
An important element of this release is the new (chargeable component) offering Master Information Hub, which allows for custom design of data models and user interfaces of data domain beyond product and customer, for example asset or location, or perhaps something like managing a disease code in a life-sciences company.
IBM has been steadily creating more integration with its two MDM product lines, gradually bolting them together, and this version goes further in that direction. For example MDM Server can now import and manage product data from the PIM hub, and allow categorisation and visualisation of data. The journey is by no means complete: for example the reverse is not true i.e. the product hub cannot do the same for customer data, but it is a further step in the right direction.
Recently IBM's development efforts have concentrated on producing a rich set of web services surrounding their MDM offering. This has been somewhat at the expense of developing an attractive user interface, but the balance has been shifted in the new release, which comes with attractive graphical viewers for hierarchy management and product maintenance, for example.
Another element of the new version is integration with Filenet, allowing content such as documents and images which are stored in Filenet to be dealt with in the MDM hub, with links to Filenet content being persisted in the hub. Since many customers already have substantial deployed content in Filenet, this seems a sensible compromise.
Overall, this new product release carries IBM further in its journey away from two separately marketed hub technologies and towards a shared, multi-domain view of MDM that addresses use cases where a wide range of MDM processes need to be accessed across a range of domains—increasingly in the same projects. Although the pace of this change can seem frustratingly slow, it does at least offer a clear path for its customers, and sets it apart from at least one of its key competitors. In our view (backed up strongly by our research) customers want a consistent approach to their master data across multiple domains, including consistent master data hub technology. The unappetising alternative is to replace existing application silos of data with a new generation of silos, this time of multiple and incompatible hub technologies.