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Evolutionary MDM: A Framework for Success

Originally published November 23, 2016

In this article, CEO Salah Kamel of Semarchy, talks with Ron Powell, industry analyst and expert, about master data management and explains how their approach differs from the traditional 24-month approach.

Salah, it’s been a year since our last interview, and I know that you continue to redefine the MDM market. Can you give us an update?

Salah Kamel: Semarchy has been growing over the past five years at an exceptional rate. Currently, if we compare the numbers of this year to the ones of last year, we’re experiencing 100% growth in the U.S. market and around 400% growth in the UK market.  So we’ve been very successful, and we’re getting more and more traction on the market. We have new users coming in and new customers signing with us. We are seeing big implementations. And we also are starting to see more and more customers that have implemented a first iteration on one domain now moving to another domain and then implementing more and more of their business-critical processes using our technology and our platform. 

With that said, what I decided to do a month ago was to move the headquarters and the strategy to the United States, and I have relocated myself in the United States in San Francisco just to make sure that we have enough influence on this market and that we can grow this business as fast as it deserves. What we’ve seen over the past years is that the market is really waiting for something that is different from the traditional vendors – a different way of doing master data management (MDM) than the traditional 24-month project with big data governance committees. There can be some quick wins that you can do in your industry and start getting value and collecting this value much faster than with the standard implementations.

This whole approach that we have trademarked is called evolutionary MDM.

What do you mean by evolutionary MDM?

Salah Kamel: Evolutionary MDM is a framework that we have designed on top of our technology. The reason we developed this framework is because our technology is totally different from the other technologies as it brings agility into the mix. 

Traditionally agile was positioned for taking care of traditional projects that had long development cycles, and this agile methodology has never been applied to MDM. So because we have a technology that is agile and there is this agile methodology, we decided to mix them together and put it around a new concept called evolutionary MDM. We didn’t want to do agile for the sake of agile. We wanted to really focus on the business value as quickly as possible. From the very first iteration, we wanted to make sure that what we were designing was going to bring value to the business users and value to the business as a whole. This value is measured through three different criteria – reducing operational costs, minimizing or mitigating risks and risk exposure, and bringing additional revenue to the company. By combining those three into what we call the business value, we can focus on building trust – which is a critical pillar of our approach that helps companies rely and make their decisions on trusted data, trusted processes, and integrity of these processes across all business units. We make sure that all of this is sustainable and delivers value in weeks, not months. That is what evolutionary MDM is about. 

You know, Salah, the knock on traditional MDM has been a long development cycle. Many companies have started these massive MDM projects and not finished them – shelved them. The costs were horrendous. Do you really feel that evolutionary MDM is the key for them to succeed? 

Salah Kamel: Well, we’re not just coming out of the blue with a new concept and calling it evolutionary MDM for the sake of positioning ourselves in a niche. We actually have customers that have experienced and are continuing to experience the success from the value that we deliver in the market. 

If you take a customer such as Bose, which had a problem of centralizing and managing customer data, measuring customer churn and making sure that all the data that they captured about their customers was actually reliable so that they could make decisions to better serve their customers in terms of brand awareness In literally eight weeks, we were able to get this data together in a single place to make sure that someone receiving a call at the call center had all the observations, all the transactions, all the interactions that Bose had with that customer. We were able to grab the customers across different channels, match them and merge them, and link them to the transactional data to bring this data into the hands of a business user that is actually customer-facing. 

The Bose example was just for customer data. Another example is Mundipharma, which is in the pharmaceutical industry. They were struggling in terms of regulations. So the core value that they were focusing on was how they could comply with the current regulation about product data to make sure that the product numbers were well-identified and that these products – because of the highly regulated business they are in – were going to be monitored, understood, matched and merged, cleansed and brought together in a single place so that they could trigger their governance processes on top of them. 

So, yes, our customers are experiencing time frames for deploying our software and our technology of our evolutionary MDM framework that are closer to 8 to 10 weeks rather than 8 to 10 or even 24 months. We feel like we’re changing the game of MDM. 
Well you sure are! Does Semarchy focus on a particular domain or industry segment?

Salah Kamel: Well, that’s an interesting question. Gartner, for example, says there’s a new thing called multi-vector MDM rather than multi-domain MDM. So multi-vector is about supporting any kind of domain, any kind of use case, any type of deployment or any type of industry.  What we ended up saying to Gartner was that we’ve been doing this forever. We’re not focusing on a single domain, and you can basically start with one domain and go to the next one. Or you can start with multiple domains and just focus on a subset of the data model that you want to manage to serve the actual value and trigger the actions on top of these things so you can really get the value out of it. 

We’re not just single domain. We’re not just single use case. We’re multi-vector in a sense.

That’s so Gartner, isn’t it – to come up with multi-vector even though multi-domain really does cover it? 

Salah Kamel: I won’t get into that one!

You recently made an announcement around MDM solutions. What makes your solution approach different?

Salah Kamel: Well, that’s interesting. So as I said, this framework is about a solution that is tailored for the business and focuses on value. Whether our customers want to do B2C, want to serve their end users or end customers, want to do B2B, want to go with product data or want to go with location data, the first thing to do is not focus on software and data. Rather, we want our customers to focus on the value that they want to get out of the initiative that they’re starting with. 

We sit down with the business and define the value at a high level and then iterate around this value to get the pain points that we really want to address in the first iteration. Once we’ve done that, we start building the knowledge. In most cases, our customers have several vertical applications, and they don’t understand what’s in there in terms of data, what pieces of the processes are handled in the CRM, what are the boundaries between CRM and the marketing application, what are the boundaries between the ERP and supply chain, and so on. We tell them to forget about the boundaries. Let’s bring in the data and start building a big data model.  Our software allows you to do that very quickly. We really focus on the actual IT and business processes and actions that we’re going to trigger to make sure that this data becomes pervasive. This way they can tie together their business processes’ integrity, their operational processes, and their analytical processes, thereby  bringing the actual value that they defined in the beginning.

Salah, you bring up a very good point. The business users are so accustomed to trying to define all the requirements up front, which is a monumental task and it’s one that’s never completely done. You talk about iterative MDM. Are you seeing a lot of the business users very excited that they can make these incremental changes quickly?

Salah Kamel: The changes that we’re going to end up doing are mainly a matter of days except if you really want to extend the scope and the breadth of the domain that you want to deal with. The hardest part in an MDM deployment or an MDM project is not necessarily the software. The software is here. The problem is that IT organizations tend to forget that the software is here to serve the business.; The hardest thing is to have the business sit down and understand their data so that they can play with what they have on hand and get benefit out of this information throughout their processes. 

Instead of doing data governance on paper and making sure that they manipulate concepts and virtual data models and uber gigantic data models that don’t make sense, we try to tell them to start from their data and map it to the value that they want to get out of it throughout this exercise of enabling the actions and the processes. This is where we are. This is our sweet spot. And that’s really what our customers are experiencing. 

There is a financial institution that started merging together its counter-party data. They started with a super small subset of this data. And then they started adding more sources. And then they starting more attributes. And now all of a sudden, MDM is part of their business-critical processes, streamlining any type of information about their counter-party within the MDM and then serving the warehouse on which other businesses are making decisions. So this is really super important to see how things get layered into several iterations before it becomes successful.

Salah, in our previous interview, you had mentioned that already last year you had 50 of the Fortune 1000 as customers. What are your growth numbers now, and can you give us some success with customers?

Salah Kamel: This number is obviously growing. We’re going to stop disclosing numbers because we’re getting to a stage where numbers are numbers and they create a lot of weird perceptions. But this number has been really growing. This year we’ve been engaged with larger organizations. Some of them are  highly regulated and dealing with the military and governmental organizations. We’ve signed with super-large financial institutions. We’re engaged in very large deals for strategic MDM roadmap deployments that involve  five years of planning where our approach makes total sense because we tell them rather than planning for five years, just plan for the first iteration and deliver value. And they get it. Pharmaceutical industries as well – we’ve closed a bunch of new deals that are very interesting in the pharma industry. 

So all these industries are coming together right now and understanding the value of their data just simply because they’re either highly regulated and the regulations have become a nightmare, or they are experiencing customer churn and customer problems in this digital world and the MDM is usually the cornerstone for building this digital transformation.

Excellent. I really like that “the digital transformation.” Salah, what’s next for Semarchy?

Salah Kamel: A lot of things, of course. We’re changing this market, and the company is growing. As I said, we moved the headquarters to the U.S., so this is big news. But one of the biggest things that we’re doing is that we’re coming out with a new release – Semarchy version 4 – of our product. This version is really going to create a revolution in this MDM world. And the revolution is that we have made some design patterns so that it makes it as easy to use as your inbox on your mobile phone. We have totally reviewed our user experience, totally reviewed the way we interact with the business users, so that it becomes really as easy as any of your Google, Microsoft or other apps you’re using on a daily basis. The goal of this is to get more and more engagement from the business users that are asking for this data. They want to see it. They want to see their product data. They want to be able to track a customer down on their laptop and also on their mobile phone. So we’re getting there with this new release that is really going to be a game changer.

That’s awesome. Salah, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. 

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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