Andy on Enterprise Software

Informatica MDM Moves To The Cloud

June 6, 2016

I recently attended the Informatica World event in San Francisco, which drew over 3,000 customers and partners. One key announcement from an MDM perspective was the availability of Informatica MDM for the cloud, called MDM Cloud Edition. Previously Informatica had a Salesforce application only cloud offering via an acquisition in 2012 of a company called Data Scout. This is the first time that the main Informatica MDM offering has been able to be deployed in the cloud, including on Amazon AWS. It is an important step, as moving MDM to the cloud is a slow but inevitable bandwagon and recently start-ups like Reltio, designed from scratch as cloud offerings, have been able to offer cloud MDM with little real competition. The Informatica data quality technology will apparently be fully cloud-ready by the end of 2016.

The company launched a product called Intelligent Streaming. This connects lots of data sources and distributes the data for you e.g. a demo showed data from several sources being streamed to a compute engine using Spark, or Hadoop if you prefer, without needing to code. This approach shields some of the underlying complexity of the Big Data environment from developers. Live Data Map is part of the Informatica infrastructure and is a way to visualise data sources both on premise or cloud. Its also does scheduling in a more sophisticated way than at present, using machine learning techniques.

There were plenty of external speakers, both customers and partners. Nick Millman from Accenture gave a talk about trends in data management, and referred back to his first assignment at a “global energy company” (actually Shell, where I first met him), in which the replication of an executive dashboard database involved him flying from London to The Hague with a physical tape to load up onto a server in Rijswijk. Unilever gave a particularly good talk about their recent global product information management project, in which the (business rather than IT) speaker described MDM as “character building” – hard to argue there.

There were new executives on display, in particular Jim Davis as head of marketing (ex SAS) and Lou Attanasio as the new head of sales (ex IBM).
With Informatica having recently gone private, it will be comforting for their customers that the company is investing as much as ever in its core technology, and certainly in MDM the company reckons it has more developers than Oracle, IBM and SAP combined, though such claims are hard to verify. However there certainly seems to be plenty of R&D activity going on related to MDM judging by the detailed sessions. Examples of additional new developments were accelerators and applications for pharmaceuticals, healthcare and insurance.

Informatica continues to have one of the leading MDM technologies at a time when some of its large competitors appear to be losing momentum in the marketplace for assorted reasons, so from a customer perspective the considerable on-going R&D effort is reassuring. Its next major R&D effort will be to successfully blend the two current major MDM platforms that they have (acquired from Siperian and Heiler), something that their large competitors have singularly failed to achieve thus far with their own acquired MDM technologies.

Pitney Bowes Update

May 8, 2014

At a recent analyst briefing Pitney Bowes executives shared a number of aspects of the current business. The company is an intriguing one, with deep heritage in the US postal business. The company dates back to 1920, and was the inventor of the franking machine. With 16,000 employees it is a major corporation. In more recent times Pitney Bowes has built up a quite large software business, largely through acquisition of both data quality software (Group 1) and GIS software (MapInfo). They do not break out their revenues by business line publicly, but their software business is a lot larger than most people realize. After a period of share underperformance from 2010 to 2012, the stock price has more than doubled since 2012 under its new CEO (Marc Lautenbach joined Pitney Bowes January 2013).

On the software side, Pitney Bowes has had a good reputation for address validation, bolstered by its ability to enrich location data through its full-fledged GIS capabilities, which is a capability that other data quality vendors do not have. However, this potential synergy has not always borne fruit, with a generic sales force not always able to put these value propositions together. The company has a reputation as something of a sleeping giant. A recent change of sales leadership has resulted in changed commission structures and more specialist sales staff being recruited, with some ambitious software sales targets being set for 2014.

A sign that some of this positioning may actually been bearing fruit has been seen in two recent deals in particular, both in the area of geocoding and reverse geocoding i.e. working out exact latitude and longitude from an address, or vice versa. This capability is important in the world of social media as the world increasingly interacts via mobile devices rather than desktops. Recently both Facebook and Twitter have signed major license deals to use the geocoding capabilities of Pitney Bowes. For example when a tweet has a location tag, this uses the Pitney Bowes software. Such high profile endorsements, along with other recent deals such as ones with INRIX (a crowd sourced traffic data company), are potentially very significant. To be able to sign up Facebook and Twitter adds a great deal of credibility to any company claiming location capabilities.

One interesting case study at the conference was that of a UK local authority. A recent boom in construction work in the south east of the UK, but a shortage of affordable accommodation, has resulted in a broad influx of frequently illegal migrant workers from abroad. These building workers are often accommodated in squalid “beds in sheds” at the bottom of residential gardens. These extra residents are not included in official figures and pay no property tax, yet create a burden on local authority services. This particular local authority used reconnaissance planes with infrared cameras to compare human activity at night in the borough with the notional housing. They used land registry data to compare official properties with the number of people actually living in residential areas, often finding considerable quantities of people residing in places where no houses exist, and in these cases avoiding paying local taxes. They were able to use this data, combined via the Pitney Bowes GIS software, to direct police to follow up on concentrations of illegal accommodation, with apparently significant results.

In software terms, the latest GIS release supports 64 bit processing, allowing real time drill down: a demo was shown of zooming from a picture of the earth from orbit directly down to Mount Fuji (as an example) with no redraw delay; this brings the GIS software in this aspect into line with its main competitor ESRI.

Within data quality, Pitney Bowes has street level geocoding support for 122 countries, an unusually deep level of coverage. The company claim that all 25 top US property insurers uses its software. Recently they have added an MDM solution based on a graph database, a logical extension given their considerable customer base in data quality. The unusual database underpinning should in principle allow some interesting analytics e.g. around connections to customer such as which products they use, but also the sphere of influence of a customer, a type of analysis that that a graph database should be able to accommodate more easily than a relational one. However, progress in the market here has been rather pedestrian thus far, and a challenge for 2014 will be to see whether they can develop early MDM sales into a solid cadre of reference customers. Certainly it is always challenging for a new piece of software, even an innovative one, to be marketed against relatively mature and entrenched solutions from large vendors. The coming year will show whether the sales force changes and greater marketing investment around this MDM solution will result in significantly enhanced market share. In our most recent Landscape research, Pitney Bowes customers were amongst the top 7 happiest data quality customers.

MDM Conference – 18th June

May 27, 2013

I will be delivering the keynote speech at an MDM conference in London on Tuesday 18th June, whose details are here.

I will be covering:

– what is MDM and its links to data governance and data quality
– the issues that give rise to MDM
– the value that organisations can get from MDM
– Best practice and how to avoid common mistakes in MDM programs.

Hope to see you there!

How well do acquisitions work?

June 24, 2011

There was an interesting article from Derek Singleton of Software Advice today about the shopping spree that IBM has been on over recent years, and some speculation about who might be next in the blue shopping cart:

While I think it is difficult to predict acquisitions, what is interesting is the sheer extent to which IBM has been buying technology in recent years. Seeing it laid out in detal in this article is certainly interesting. Of course, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are no strangers to this route either, and it does make you wonder to what extent the giant companies have to some extent given up on relying on their own R&D, and dipped into their cash reserves when a particular trend n the market has eluded them and a smaller, nimbler company has made progress. From a customer viewpoint it is a tricky balance. It is comforting to some extent to know that a key technology is in “safe” hands, yet this can be illusory. When a company is small and independent it is very focused on what it is doing, but a giant vendor with dozens or hundreds of products is only going to give so much attention to a particular niche product. It is also common for energetic founders of a small company to move on at the point of an acquisition, preferring to avoid the loss of control that big company life brings.

What would be interesting would be for someone to step back and assess the success of acquisitions by major companies, to see which ones really worked and which ones just faded away into the background, in particular if it was possible to work out any common lessons from the successes and failures. This is not an easy thing to do, as large public companies frequently resist breaking out their component businesses in terms of financial figures, but it is an interesting topic.

In the areas that The Informaton Difference concentrates on, M&A activity can be seen here:

All comments welcome.

Diversity in MDM

February 8, 2011

It has long been a theme of my writing that MDM is something that goes beyond customer and product data, and after making that point publicly at a conference in 2006 (to much ridicule from a VP of a well known MDM vendor in the audience) it seems as if the tide of opinion has definitely switched in the multi-domian direction in the last couple of years. A good example of this was shown today. Orchestra Networks is a French MDM vendor with a multi-domain MDM product. In their latest release of their EBX product they announced specific solutions for MDM in Finance and Accounting, MDM in HR and MDM in sales and marketing.

This business line orientation seems a sensible mmove to me. Most vendors talk about almost entirely about customer and product data as that has been their heritage and comfort zone, but there are plenty of opportunities fro MDM solutions to be applied outside these two domains. Indeed I recall that the very first MDM deployment of Kalido MDM, in 2002, was actually for finance and accounting data (general ledger etc) at a Dutch bank. Given the vast scale of an enterprise-wide MDM solution it seems to me wise to pick off specific domain areas where there is “low hanging fruit”, and at present most of the industry has been ignoring these other domains, at least in their marketing.

HP reels in Neoview

January 28, 2011

All of those puzzled as to why HP would enter the data warehouse appliance market with some time back Neoview now have an answer – they indeed should have stayed well clear. The old saying goes that if HP was to market sushi they would call it “cold, dead fish”, and the Neoview marketing team seemed to take this philosophy to heart. The product had only attracted a few customers, and I struggled to even find anyone in HP willing to talk about it.

HP finally put Neoview out of its misery this week. It is tough for companies to market technologies outside of their core business, and this is a good example of how even such a powerful company as HP can appear (to continue to tomrnet the tortured metaphor) like a fish out of water when it is not selling servers or printers (or printer cartridges, which I believe is where the money really is in that business).

There will be much chortling amongst competitors, but this is also a sign that the appliance market is pretty crowded, and that it is far from an easy one to succeed in, even fior a big fish like HP.

Data Quality Stories

January 6, 2011

Some entertaining tales of data quality issues in this article today. The full link is here:

It is remarkable how few companies make any effort at all to address data quality, which if left to fester can not only be embarassing to a company but also cost it real money. Yet in our surveys we see that barely a quarter of companies attempt to even measure their own data quality.

Happy New Year to all.

Benchmarking Data Governance

August 31, 2010

In talking recently to several companies that have data governance initiatives in place, it is clear that such initiatives costs a lot of money (an average of eleven full time people according to or latest survey) and that there is pressure on to identify whether such initiatives are delivering value. One difficulty here is in comparing your data governance to other – after all there is no “benchmark” available. We aim to change that situation, and have today launched a data governance benchmarking initiative, in conjunction with the Data Governance Institute.

If you have a data governance program, up and running, and want to see what you are doing compared to others, then please join this:

In return for a completed survey (it is lengthier than our usual surveys, but you “get what you pay for” with surveys i.e. the more information you provide, the greater range of analysis we can do) you will receive a free summary report of the findings. There will also be an opportunity to purchase an in-depth, customised study of your organization’s performance relative to others.

New Survey

June 30, 2010

We are just kicking off a major piece of research into data governance, at the heart of which is a survey. This survey has an impressive array of media sponsors and sponsors, and aims to get to the heart of what is going on in practice with data governance today, what level of effort is being put into it, and how successful is it. The survey will also address the linkage between governance and the key areas of MDM and data quality. If you have some background in this area then please participate in the survey.

As an added incentive, if you complete the survey then you be sent a summary of its results, and there are several of our vendor profiles (which costs $495) to be won via a prize draw.

Successful matching leads to marriage

March 28, 2010

Matching specialist Netrics was this week acquired by Tibco. Netrics offered a genuinely different technical approach to matching (with its bipartite graph technique) and, unusually, was designed to be embedded within other applications. Several MDM vendors did just this, and the feedback I have had is that the technology was easy to OEM and worked well in practice.

This is a good exit for Netrics shareholders but rather a shame that a different approach to matching has been taken off the market. Hopefully Tibco will continue to encourage other vendors to embed the technology, though inevitably vendors will be more nervous of doing this now.