MDM and BPM: “Just like Romeo and Juliet…”


…except with a happier ending.

Until recently, the MDM and BPM nuptials have seemed more like Romeo and Juliet.  But now the star-cross’d lovers are finally making their long-standing marriage public. 

The announcement last week that Software AG had acquired Data Foundations has been greeted with a lot of commentary about the importance of marrying up master data management (MDM) and business process management (BPM).  The idea is that these two disciplines are not just complementary, but (like MDM and data quality) are mutually essential for sound business operations. 

Almost two years ago, MDM consultant Dan Power observed that BPM is “the foundation of a successful strategy for integrating an MDM hub to other source and target systems in the enterprise.”  And in an interview with The Data Warehousing Institute, Initiate’s director of solutions marketing noted that an MDM repository “will cut duplicate and often conflicting efforts out of the business process and IT infrastructure.”

However, the wedding of MDM and BPM has until recently seemed more like the story of Romeo and Juliet. No matter how much these star-cross’d lovers might yearn for each other, the Montagues (MDM pros) and the Capulets (BPM pros) didn’t see eye-to-eye on the match.  

In September 2009, Forrester analysts Rob Karel and Clay Richardson noted that data and process are as inseparable as the brain and the heart.  Yet in their MDM survey, “only 11% of respondents said that their MDM and BPM initiatives share the same cost center and team members that work together on a daily basis to develop solutions for the business.”

This lack of coordination and cooperation among MDM and BPM initiatives leads to grave consequences:

 …process improvement initiatives face a vicious cycle of deterioration and decline if master data issues are not addressed from the outset. And MDM initiatives face an uphill battle and certain extinction if they’re not connected to cross-cutting business processes that feed and consume master data from different upstream and downstream activities.

That blog post teed up the release the following week of their report, “Warning: Don’t Assume Your Business Processes Use Master Data,” in which the pair highlighted the emergence of “process data management” as a new and distinct discipline to ensure that data and the processes leveraging them are both sound.  “If you are seeking to reduce complexity and move to optimization,” they wrote, “link BPM and MDM activities to gain ‘one version of the truth’ as a key foundation for business process transformation efforts.”

Montagues, Capulets Get Together for Cocktails

The ice between the two families finally began to thaw in 2010, as John Goodson at eBizQ saw when he attended the Gartner MDM Summit in June.  The majority of presenters mentioned BPM during their discussions, which Goodson described as “a new theme that many predicted would happen but few had witnessed;” after all, “business processes can only be as good as the data on which they are based, but up until recently these practices were somewhat siloed.”  Infosys blogger Ashish Tewary also wove in the long-standing MDM-and-SOA thread when he wrote that “together, MDM, SOA and BPM can create cross-department processes that work to build customer value.”

As a reflection of this trend, Rob Karel also noted that data governance – which is fundamentally about business process – is finally getting the corner-office attention it has always deserved:

High-quality and trustworthy data sitting in some repository somewhere does not in fact increase revenue, reduce risk, improve operational efficiencies or strategically differentiate any organization from its competitors. It’s only when this trusted data can be delivered and consumed within the most critical business processes and decisions that run your business that these business outcomes can become reality.  [emphasis added]

But the Software AG-Data Foundations hook-up seems to have been the tipping point for awareness of MDM-BPM synergy.  Karel views this acquisition as affirmation of Forrester’s concept of process data management in that it shows that Software AG concedes that its process-integration customers depend on reliable data: “The synergies between BPM and MDM are incredibly strong, and SAG is gambling that its differentiated ‘Process-Driven Master Data Management’ message will both intrigue its existing BPM clients as well as differentiate it from the other MDM vendors.”

Of course, Enterworks has had its own enterprise-class workflow engine built directly into its MDM suite from the beginning, playing Friar Laurence to these occult partners almost a decade ago.  Our solution developers recognized early on that just having master data isn’t sufficient — that the data have to go to the right people at the right time in order to deliver business benefits. And our customers have benefited from that foresight with faster time-to-market for new products and fewer errors and re-work in tasks that rely on accurate information.

So we say “welcome” to Software AG, Data Foundations, and other MDM and BPM vendors large and small who are just beginning this lifetime journey.  (Gifts and cards go on the table over by the door.)

3 Responses to MDM and BPM: “Just like Romeo and Juliet…”

  1. […] complex relationships among products and which has enterprise workflow integrated with it to automate business processes.  These capabilities can ensure that services and support are pulled through with their related […]

  2. […] noted in this blog and elsewhere, an MDM platform is only of value when its content can be easily (and even automatically) published or syndicated to consuming applications – including business intelligence, marketing […]

  3. […] The relationship between MDM and BPM received a lot of press last fall, when Software AG acquired Data Foundations.  Commentary at the time re-emphasized the symbiotic nature of MDM and BPM: business process management improves the way work is done in order to more effectively and efficiently achieve business goals.  Since reliable information is required to get most work done in an enterprise, properly governed data is essential for properly managed processes.  […]

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