Tibco's Pierre Bonnet Explains the Master Data Management Journey

Master Data Managememt The Key To Overcoming Data Heterogeneity

The rise in popularity of data warehousing and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications in the late 2000s also saw the dawn of the Master Data Management (MDM) concept – to ensure that despite significant growths in terms of data volumes and databases, accurate, consistent and complete master data definitions can be coordinated and synchronised across the enterprise.

Master Data Management Reduces Data Sprawl
In today’s data-driven, data sprawl era, however, the relevance and importance of MDM have never been greater, nor is its successful implementation more challenging; especially for a business that wants to integrate MDM into its already complex IT environment. Among the key challenges from the outset, said Pierre Bonnet, TIBCO’s Vice President of Product and Engineering, who DTA had the privilege of interviewing, are in the areas of stakeholder engagement and executive sponsorship. “Since MDM is not a widely-used front-end system, there is a risk of it being seen by companies as a purely IT initiative unless internal stakeholders are educated about the benefits of MDM,” he explained.

Pierre Bonnet - Tibco VP of Product & Engineering - talking Master Data Management
Pierre Bonnet - Tibco VP of Product & Engineering 

Pierre Bonnet Feels Executive Buy in for MDM is Critical
Because MDM also involves significant change management activities, Pierre believes that obtaining executive buy-in is critical to adoption. This requires working closely with executive leadership and program managers to identify and eliminate obstacles to the integration of MDM with other reporting and CRM systems.

Meta Data Management Helps with Company Semantic Modeling
Starting an MDM solution means facing two main challenges that organisations are usually not sufficiently aware of, he added. “Firstly, it requires establishing a common business vocabulary within the organisation which the MDM foundation will rely on. Often some essential critical concepts like “revenue”, “profit”, or “client” do not have a unified and shared definition across organisations and systems. This part is related to the meta-data management with disciplines such as semantic modelling and the business glossary construction.”

The second problem is that designing and implementing an MDM solution is not a project but a set of incremental projects that form an “MDM journey”. Therefore, Pierre stressed that the skills and roles must be defined and managed with a long-term vision and as such, while a company may start an MDM solution, it will never reach the end.

Resuscitating Dead Data

Companies generally use different products across various data assets to separate master data from reference data, otherwise known as transactional data (from customers and partners) and operational data (i.e. industry codes, job codes, and private reference data). However, Pierre does not recommend that companies use different products for these data assets because they would need all of the data from both groups in order to get an accurate understanding of the business and the customers.

He gave the example of TIBCO EBX as a modern platform that is capable of supporting many data management needs in one place, including master data management (MDM), reference data management, hierarchy management, metadata management, data governance, and data cataloguing. EBX is one of the company’s latest offerings since it acquired Orchestra Networks, one of the leading companies in the MDM solutions and data asset management space, in December 2018.

Most of the time, Pierre said, the IS/IT legacy of a company relies on several heterogeneous technology layers that make the integration and unification of the processes, rules, and data difficult. He then explained that the software industry has been stuck with two opposite approaches for many years: “Firstly, business software packages that were vertical and running with their specific databases and business objects definitions.  Secondly, the goal of a unified and centralised database that was a purely theoretical approach except to deploy Business Intelligence repositories such as the Operational Data Store (ODS) and nowadays Big Data.”

However, these repositories are “dead data” because they are disconnected from the actual execution of the business operations and hence, this too-heavy heterogeneity entails risks in the domains of data quality, data governance, and data security.
“Today, the deep digitalisation shift is forcing companies to urgently fix these risks, otherwise, the businesses could be in real danger. Once this context is well understood by a company, it becomes a bit easier to design a transformation map to reduce the verticalisation and establish a centralised and unified set of “most important data” that the IS will rely on. This is the MDM program that comes into play for achieving this new vision and makes the shift to deep digitalisation possible, said Pierre.

Master Data Management Explained

A Unified Approach to MDM

According to Pierre, TIBCO EBX stands out from other market solutions because it is an all-in-one solution that offers everything companies need to manage all data assets, including workflow, data quality, and role-specific applications. He added, “This tool has everything companies need in one unified package and is designed to be used by everyone, not just data experts and developers. This makes collaboration across the entire organisation possible. It also delivers self-service capabilities to all users, allowing them to manage, govern, and consume key data assets in one, unified solution.”

Another key benefit of TIBCO EBX is its flexibility and agility. Pierre commented that while most custom applications and purpose-built MDM solutions are hard to change, EBX software uses a unique design approach that delivers applications quickly and fully configurable. This eliminates the need for lengthy and costly development projects.

TIBCO’s portfolio of products is designed to help data-driven organisations derive valuable insights from “any data, anywhere and deliver them in real-time”. Since an MDM solution is a central data repository connected with the rest of the Information System, Pierre views it as an essential data source to reinforce the data analytics by: protecting the data, ensuring their quality and providing AI with anti-bias computation algorithms.

To achieve this approach, Pierre said that TIBCO EBX can be connected with the different parts of the Information System via many standard IT connectors. “By using TIBCO’s portfolio of products, it becomes even easier and faster to derive more benefit from the MDM repository. For instance, an organisation deploying an IoT infrastructure can use TIBCO EBX to reinforce the data governance of all the assets, managed by the IoT software delivered by TIBCO”.

Helping APAC Organisations Achieve Deep Digitalisation

Undoubtedly, the business landscape in the Asia Pacific region is one that is transforming rapidly and Pierre himself believes that APAC is the fastest moving region for digitalisation. Nevertheless, he said that the concept of Industry 4.0 is intrinsically based on data management.

Using the rise of increasingly automated factories as an example, Pierre explained that while the value of the future factory model relies on smart robots with a high level of ability to move and adapt, their DNA is the data. Unless the data is aligned with all the business processes of a company, he deduced that its factories would not receive the data flow needed to drive manufacturing in a complicated environment, with many autonomous robots and a large portfolio of product configurations.

Moreover, the size and diversity of the APAC market, which includes countries like Vietnam where the IS/IT legacy is less heavy than in other regions, as well as former fast-growing countries like India and China, present a unique set of challenges. “Therefore, this fresh context allows organisations to integrate the latest new technologies of Industry 4.0 more quickly and align their data with the deep digitalisation goal,” he said.

By reinforcing its ability to operate in APAC, Pierre is confident that TIBCO is becoming one of the key Industry 4.0 suppliers and is able to participate in leveraging the knowledge across the entire region, for example by supporting partnerships with universities around data management, data analytics, data governance, AI, etc.

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