As the new analyst on the block at Forrester, the first question everyone is asking is, “What research do you have planned?” Just to show that I’m up for the task, rather than keeping it simple with a thoughtful report on data quality best practices or a maturity assessment on data management, I thought I’d go for broke and dive into the master data management (MDM) landscape. Some might call me crazy, but this is more than just the adrenaline rush that comes from doing such a project. In over 20 inquiries with clients in the past month, questions show increased sophistication in how managing master data can strategically contribute to the business.

What do I mean by this?

Number 1: Clients want to know how to bring together transitional data (structured) and content (semi-structured and unstructured) to understand the customer experience, improve customer engagement, and maximize the value of the customer. Understanding customer touch points across social media, e-commerce, customer service, and content consumption provides a single customer view that lets you customize your interactions and be highly relevant to your customer. MDM is at the heart of bringing this view together.

Number 2: Clients have begun to analyze big data within side projects as a way to identify opportunities for the business. This intelligence has reached the point that clients are now exploring how to distribute and operationalize these insights throughout the organization. MDM is the point that will align discoveries within the governance of master data for context and use.

Number 3: Clients started on data governance with their initial MDM implementations for single domains. Progress was made on project level governance, but data governance is still very much an IT-driven program. Now that clients want to consider enterprise MDM implementations that account for unstructured and structured data and big data, new processes and policies need to be considered to handle increased data complexity. MDM solutions have the opportunity to better support data governance programs through planning, workflow, monitoring, and performance management.

These three areas are where I will focus for the Forrester Wave™ and where I think MDM vendors will differentiate themselves. In addition, research that further explores how organizations are approaching new MDM initiatives will provide you with valuable insight to build both an MDM competency and data management competency.

What is important to you? What do you want your MDM vendors to support?