Our research consistently shows that customers want to take a consistent approach to their master data, irrespective of data domain. In other words, they want a solution that can handle products and customers, but also other master data such as locations, assets, financial data and people. Yet the industry has generally focused on providing products that have been designed to handle either product data (PIM solutions) or customer data (CDI). There is a genuine trade-off: customer data has some quite specific characteristics (as does product data), and it is clearly useful to have functionality that addresses the specific needs of these data types. Yet at the same time customers would like a solution that can handle all their master data. Some vendors have built solutions that are domain-agnostic (but can be argued not to be as suited to handling a specific data domain as a specialist tool) while in other cases CDI or PIM vendors have converted to the multi-domain cause, at least in their marketing. The industry has seen a flurry of acquisitions in the last few years, as industry giants have bought their way onto the MDM market through acquisition, often through multiple purchases (IBM bought DWL, then Trigo, then Initiate, for example). Despite this, there are several interesting independent MDM vendors still out there.
One of the early multi-domain vendors was Data Foundations, based in New Jersey. Data Foundations has been a bit of a dark horse in the MDM vendor community, gradually accumulating prestigious customers such as General Electric, Pepsico, Novartis and Cargill, yet they have not spent the kind of marketing dollars to be a household name. Their technology is based on a flexible data model and a non-invasive approach, which has been used successfully in both "analytical MDM" and "operational MDM" use cases.
Their latest release, One Data 6, builds on their core technology by introducing a new solution for Customer Master Data Management, by adding specific support for deployment as a customer data hub. Such usage requires good performance characteristics (as customer data can be high in volume) and needs to be able to cope with things such as survivorship rules i.e. ranking which sources of customer data are most trustworthy. In addition customer data needs to be captured at source with a high degree of confidence in its data quality, and Data Foundations has partnered with leading data quality vendor Trillum software to provide out-of-the-box capability in this regard.
This is interesting, since Data Foundations was already good at workflow and hierarchy management (often the strengths of the multi-domain vendors), and so can bring these capabilities to bear in more complex CDI hub situations. Vendors which have gone the other way i.e. started with a CDI hub and then added additional domain support, have frequently lagged in sophisticated workflow and hierarchy management.
With its strong technical capabilities and solid reference customers, Data Foundations is well placed to tackle customer hub deployments and compete against specialist CDI solutions. In the past it has concentrated on R&D at the expense of marketing, and the challenge for it will be to execute better commercially in order to properly exploit its strong product capabilities.