The conference continued today with a string of customer case studies, plus some panel discussions and a couple of vendor presentations that just about managed to avoid being too blatant in their product plugs. I enjoyed a case study from a transport company called Pitt Ohio Express, who had implemented a customer-oriented MDM hub for the practical reason that they need to know where their trucks have to turn up to deliver things. This seems a more pressing reason to sort out customer name and address than a bit of duplicated direct mail. Also, they had actually measured things properly before and after their project, and had achieved a 2% overall company improvement in operating margin due to the initiative. A proper view of customer spend has enabled targeted customer pricing rather than blanket price lists, as an example of a real benefit seen.
I also enjoyed a lively presentation by Brian Rensing,a data architect at Procter and Gamble. There must be marketing in the blood there, as he was an entertaining speaker, and how many data architects can you say that of? He explained how they had managed to get buy-in to their MDM initiative, working one business unit at a time and relying heavily on iterative prototyping to ensure that business people could see short-term benefits, rather than laying out a grandiose multi-year initiative. Their project covers both customer and product initially, both at the corporate level and (gradually) country level, using KALIDO MDM. They see this MDM initiative as being able to enable them to lead into better data warehousing and analytics n the future, since there will be a sounder data foundation on which to work.
In general I am surprised at the number of companies contemplating (and actually doing) MDM projects using entirely in-house technology. One company even devised its own matching algorithms. Surely this is the kind of thing that off-the-shelf data quality products can do much better? I suppose MDM is still in relative infancy in terms of market size (Rob Karel of Forrester reckoned USD 1 billion in 2006, of which only a third was software, a very different number from IDC estimates, but expecting over 50% compound growth over the coming years). The big systems integrators seem yet to have really caught on to this fast growth, with Baseline Consulting at this conference almost the only SI represented (and they are a specialist boutique). It will be interesting to see at what point PWC, Accenture and Bearing Point start turning up to such conferences.
I should relate a conversation with one vendor at the exhibit last night. “So, what kind of revenues do you guys do?”. “We don’t disclose that”. Fair enough, some companies are shy. “How many customers do you have?”. “We don’t disclose the number of customers we have”. “Er, OK, do you have any customers?”. “Oh yes”. Uh huh. “Who are your investors? “That is private.” “How many employees do you have?”. “We can’t share that information”. So we have here a vendor, at a trade show, unwilling to talk about how big it is, who has invested in it, how many customers or even employees they have. Short of putting a puzzle on its web site in order to find the contact address, it is hard to imagine how they could induce nervousness in a prospect more. Surreal. I guess they are going for the “dark and mysterious” marketing approach pioneered by Ab Initio.
Although many case studies were about customer, over half the respondents in a recent TDWI survey said that their MDM initiative had enterprise-wide scope, and there were certainly examples here of case studies around product information, as well as financial information. I still had the sense that a lot of companies were treading gingerly into the MDM world, but there were enough case studies of completed projects to suggest that the growth in the market which Forrester (and others) predict is plausible based on the level of interest shown here.
Perhaps the most entertaining moment of the conference was watching Todd Goldman, VP of marketing for Exeros, doing a (quite impressive) conjuring trick at the beginning of his presentation. It turns out that he is an amateur magician, a skill that must come in very useful in his career in software marketer. This was not the last time I have seen clever illusions in software marketing, nor will it be the last.