Rob Karel By Rob Karel

Last week Informatica announced the release of Informatica 9, its data integration/data management platform that continues to evolve its flagship PowerCenter and PowerExchange data integration and access technologies into a much more comprehensive data management platform going well beyond the scope of traditional, batch-oriented ETL that remains Informatica’s bread and butter.  

The three main themes Informatica has pitched for this release include:
- Pervasive Data Quality
- Business-IT Collaboration
- SOA-based Data Services

While these themes and capabilities – reusability, SOA-compatibility, real-time, business engagement – are not necessarily new to the broader data integration or data quality software markets, few organizations have been effectively able to execute on them.   For the purposes of this blog post, I’d like to focus a bit more on the DQ and business/IT collaboration parts of the announcement.

With pervasive data quality, Informatica wants its customers to extend the use of data quality software well beyond the limits of data warehousing.   Informatica 9 provides role-specific tools that can be leveraged by both the IT and business stakeholders involved in defining, analyzing, testing, and implementing data quality logic.   Informatica has also included advanced postal address verification and global matching from its acquisitions of AddressDoctor and Identity Systems, respectively.   

I’m a huge fan of Informatica’s goal of centralizing the definition and management of data quality rules that can then be delivered as real-time data services to any part of the enterprise.  But as I discussed in my “It’s Time To Invest In Upstream Data Quality” research last year and most recently with Forrester BPM analyst Clay Richardson in “Warning: Don’t Assume Your Business Processes Use Master Data”, the biggest inhibitor to enabling this is not technical.  Business process owners responsible for the capture and update of critical enterprise information are too often more concerned with process efficiency than data quality issues that may impact downstream processes. 

Similarly, I think Informatica is on the right track with its Business-IT Collaboration theme, but has a lot more work to do from evolving this from vision to reality.   Informatica 9 provides some useful business-oriented capabilities including browser-based tools designed for business analysts and data stewards to participate more actively in the data profiling and DQ rule definition phase of a data quality initiative.   And from a collaboration standpoint, the shared metadata environment ensures both business and IT have access to the same information, and the ability to bookmark and share views of analysis and business rule output, along with comments, is a great feature that eliminates the old method of exporting results to a spreadsheet and attaching to an email.   My primary concern is that Informatica has not yet created a pre-packaged interactive collaborative environment.  For example, there are no predefined approval, escalation, and validation workflows.  

Interestingly, almost every major data quality and master data management vendor I speak with is investing quite heavily in what some are trying to define as the Data Governance Technology market. Or in other words, tools used to support both business and IT stewards in the data governance process.   Of course data governance is not a technology market, it is a business responsibility that must manage the people, process and organizational challenges required to get business value from data assets.   But there are enabling technologies that can support data stewards from both the business and IT side during certain steps of the data governance lifecycle, and the jury is still out on what approach to this technology will be the most effective. 

But the biggest challenge for enterprises trying to embrace data governance has nothing to do with the tools.  It’s getting the business to participate in the first place!   In a recent Forrester survey asking MDM and DQ professionals to rate their organization’s current level of data governance maturity, 79% said they did not have a data governance organization that included active participation from all the necessary business stakeholders. Unfortunately, there is very little that a software vendor can do to change this culture, so I’m not expecting widespread adoption from the business of Informatica’s or anyone else’s data governance tooling until that maturity improves.