Top 4 Things to Keep In Mind When Evaluating MDM Vendors

The Forrester Wave for Multi-Platform MDM is out!

The last Forrester Wave for MDM was released in 2008 and focused on the Customer Hub.  Well, things have certainly changed since then.  Organizations need enterprise scale to break down data silos.  Data Governance is quickly becoming part of an organization's operating model.  And, don't forget, the big elephant in the room, Big Data.  

From 2008 to now there have been multiple analyst firm evaluations of MDM vendors.  Vendors come, go or are acquired.  But, the leaders are almost always the same.  We also see inquiries and implementations tracking to the leaders.  Our market overview report helped to identify the distinct segments of MDM vendors and found that MDM leaders were going big, leveraging a strategic perspective of data management, a suite of products, and pushing to support and create modern data management environments.  What needed to be addressed, how do you make a decision between these vendors? 

The Forrester Wave for the Multi-Platform MDM market segment gets to the heart of this question by pushing top vendors to differentiate amongst themselves and evaluating them at the highest levels of MDM strategy.  There were things we learned that surprised us as well as where the line was drawn between marketing messaging and positioning and real capabilities.  This was done by positioning the Wave process the way our clients would evaluate vendors, rigorously questioning and fact checking responses and demos. 

However, the wave graphic, scores, write-ups and modeling tool tells part of the story.  As with any report, not everything gets in.  So, here are a few things I learned about vendors through the process that I think organizations evaluating MDM solutions and vendors need to keep in mind:

1) Use case scenarios matter.  Knowing ahead of time what an MDM solution is going to support is critical.  Leveraging use case scenarios is not just for capability testing.  This tests a vendor's competency to understand your business and their past experience or ability to meet your MDM objectives. This was the weakest aspect of the MDM evaluations across all vendors.  They have difficulty telling a story with their products and often rely heavily on slideware, not the demo to show capabilities.  It leaves the evaluator with the arduous task of putting together the pieces and determine fit.  That is one thing for seasoned data management professionals.  It is entirely different for business stakeholders that are increasingly part of the purchase decision process.  Push vendors to stick with your scenarios and not recraft their demonstrations to tell their own stories.

2) Beware of the kitchen sink. Suite vendors can solve all the challenges and needs for today's MDM.  They just can't always do it with the MDM tool or a single MDM tool.  There are benefits to sticking with a suite vendor for all MDM capabilities (ETL, data quality, metadata, glossary, etc).  Particularly a single repository and shared library.  However, suite vendors brand everything from MDM components and envrionments to the sister tools.  This creates a lot of complexity in understanding the licensing or what is really out of the box.  Reading the proposal carefully is understood.  But before that, if it seems too complicated, it probably is. You never really know what you are getting and ultimately what you are paying for for the software and professional services.

3) Watch out for what is not shown.  Running out of time happens.  But, time shouldn't be a curtain to hide complexity of what a product doesn't do or do well.  Also watch for what is shown through slideware vs. the demo.  How are models created?  How are models linked together? How are they augmented and changed? How is MDM connected to big data?  Make sure the vendor shows you the hard stuff in the tool and focused less on the easy stuff.  If you don't get an answer, buyer beware.

4) Business positioning vs business solution.  The easy part for vendors is to talk in detail about business processes, regulatory challenges, or industry needs.  The language and converstaion makes you comfortable and confident that the vendor understands your business.  But, the team during the sales process is not the team after the sales.  The real test is the alignment of the product toward a business solution.  MDM products, while getting better are providing environments for business data owners and data stewards are still often oriented toward the objectives of technology management and developers.  Some vendors are better than others connecting what they know with the product environment and which is a key evaluation criteria in the Forrester Wave.  

My first Wave at Forrester is complete!  But, it is not the last.  Watch for Forrester Wave for Product Information Management with Peter Sheldon and The Forrester Emerging Wave for Data Governance Tools with Henry Peyret to come out early Q2.  And, let's not forget, I will be kicking off the Forrester Wave for Data Quality in just a few short weeks.  So, if you have a point of view on DQ, now's your chance to provide input on the evaluation criteria.