It would be an understatement to say that data management is a hot topic today.   Master data management, data quality management, metadata management, data integration and data governance have all emerged as high priorities for many global IT organizations. Often times, these data management efforts are paired with investments in business intelligence and facilitated by data warehousing strategies.

Once the strategy, business case, and supporting architectures and organizations are defined (no easy task in and of itself), the next inevitable question is then, which vendors should IT leaders partner with to enable these strategies? There are pure play and best of breed MDM, data quality, BI and DW vendors that offer unbiased, agnostic approaches, eliminating any vendor lock-in or reliance on database platform or enterprise applications. On the other hand, a single platform vendor can offer better ease of integration with existing IT infrastructure than the best of breed alternatives.

These considerations lead us to a major platform vendor, like SAP.  Similar to its mega-platform competitors, IBM and Oracle, SAP offers a deep and wide set of data management, BI and data warehousing solutions that promise not only integration within these products, but more notably – across its broader product portfolio of enterprise applications.

SAP has made major investments in its data management and BI product portfolio in the past few years, both through acquisition (primarily referring to Business Objects of course) and continued R&D.  The Business Object’s Enterprise Information Management (EIM) product portfolio that SAP inherited included data quality and profiling (based on prior acquisitions of Firstlogic and Fuzzy Informatik), data integration (based in part on prior acquisition of Acta), as well as capabilities for metadata management and data federation. And BOBJ had done a commendable job building out its EIM story – at least for its BI user base (not as successful for non-BOBJ BI customers). 

On the other hand, prior to the BOBJ acquisition, SAP’s EIM strategy was more or less non-existent, save for its SAP MDM solution. Data quality and data integration were all partner-enabled, with no serious enterprise class solutions in house.  But it seemed fairly obvious (if not public) that SAP MDM was fighting an internal battle to determine whether it should remain an extension of the SAP apps portfolio (e.g., continue to commoditize SAP MDM by giving it away for free with the purchase of R/3), or evolve into a true heterogeneous MDM solution supporting both SAP and non-SAP environments (e.g., solve a more complete and complex MDM problem that reflects most of their client’s “reality”).   

A large volume of my clients over the years have expressed serious frustrations with SAP’s MDM technology – specifically how it did not live up to expectations set by SAP.  I heard (and continue to hear) client complaints about SAP’s MDM product far more often than complaints about all other MDM tools on the market, so I was personally extremely optimistic when BOBJ came into the fold because I felt that was SAP’s best opportunity to repair some of the damage they had done to their MDM strategy and image. 

The optimist in me says:  SAP is finally moving in the right direction again, although they still have a long journey ahead of them.   SAP’s latest versions of its NetWeaver MDM solution, beginning with version 7.1, have begun to address a number of the inflexibility and scale issues, and they also continue to improve and offer more seamless integration with SAP BusinessObjects Data Services, leveraging the strong and heterogeneous features of BOBJ’s data quality and data integration products. 

The skeptic in me says: SAP still has their work cut out for them to improve both the real and perceived gaps in its MDM strategy and has not yet effectively operationalized BOBJ’s data integration and data quality capabilities within its operational apps portfolio. 

The realist in me says: SAP can solve many of their clients data management issues today, and their technology ranges from acceptable in some areas to excellent in others, but you must seriously proof of concept and test SAPs technology – not just their marketing – to be sure they can actually meet your specific business requirements.

To this end, it’s no surprise that Forrester’s clients continue to ask us many questions as to how mature these products are, when they should consider using – and more important – when should they not. 

To help answer some of these questions, on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 from 11am-12:30pm ET I will be joining my esteemed Forrester colleagues Boris Evelson, James Kobielus and Henry Peyret on a Forrester teleconference to discuss a topic near and dear to many of you: “What Do SAP Clients Need To Know About SAP Data Quality, Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing And Data Integration?


In this third session of Forrester’s SAP Jams teleconference series, my colleagues and I will:

  • Discuss the main data management concerns that Forrester has heard from SAP users and provide practical strategies for overcoming them;
  • Offer suggestions on how to capitalize on SAP's strengths and work around weaknesses in its data management and BI technologies and processes;
  • Voice our predictions on how well SAP will be able to deliver on its ambitious enterprise information management and business intelligence objectives.


I hope you’ll join us, and I strongly encourage keeping this conversation alive in the Twittersphere – my Twitter handle is @rbkarel.  See you there!