Will SAP MDM Flop or get a Standing Ovation?

At the moment, there are a lot of question marks out there about SAP MDM (Master Data Management). Sure we all know MDM can be used as a catalog content management system -- which it is in SAP SRM 6.0 -- but how much more is it really? In my view, historically speaking, MDM is somewhat comparable to the plight of Ariba during the .com crash. To wit, both MDM and Ariba cost scores of professionals their jobs (Ariba with mutual fund managers who went bust by holding the stock as it went down and MDM with IT managers who over promised and under delivered with Aspect and other systems).

The good news is that on both fronts -- eProcurement and MDM -- things have changed. MDM is now for real, although many question whether or not it's ready for prime enterprise time. One perspective on MDM comes from Geoffry Houze, a technical and ERP consultant, who recently penned a column on SAP's latest MDM push.

According to Houze, "Anyone currently using SAP R/3 is already familiar with the term master data. [But] many are wondering if SAP’s latest offering of Master Data Management (a.k.a. MDM) is yet another clever marketing ploy – a repackaging of an existing SAP capability, with a “new and improved” sticker pasted on the front ... Master data management is not a new term or concept -- however, SAP’s approach is somewhat novel and is coming to the forefront of SAP business executives more and more ... As with most things SAP, confusion abounds and "experts" are falling out of the trees, each trying to position themselves for the coming MDM boom."

In a few weeks, I'll be down in Atlanta for SAP Sapphire. One of my major objectives at the show will be to separate fact from fiction regarding MDM and SAP SRM 6.0. Is it merely a tool to grab more revenue on the catalog management side of the table (cutting out Requisite and others)? Or is it a critical link that will give SAP users a major advantage by tying together PLM, sourcing, finance and related procurement data. Or perhaps it's just a marketing ploy by Accenture to spark another round of eight figure consulting deals to properly mix the SAP concrete before pouring.

My guess is that there's probably some elements of truth in all of the above statements. So stick with me in April, as I attempt to unravel whether or not SAP MDM is ready for a mainstage production from a procurement and operations perspective -- and most important, whether or not it will be worth the cost and headache to upgrade to it (this is a critical point to ponder, considering that SAP will soon be ending support for third-party catalog management systems, even for many of their earlier SRM releases).

Jason Busch

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