I haven't been writing so much about technology and my business. That's about to change, because there are actually some very interesting things that are beginning to happen that I may be taking part in. So let's talk shall we?
The first bit of news is that Hyperion has invested into Purisma. Hyperion is the mothership of BI and BPM and it's where I've cast my lot for over a decade starting with Arbor Software in the fall of 1996. I am, by the way, one of those rare creatures I call a 'double DBA'. I understand both relational and multidimensional database structures. My guess is that I could extend that a bit both ways if I were so inclined. Like most old heads, I have some experience in the hierarchical database technologies of yore. And like most new jacks, I have some experience in object models and object databases. Unlike most people I have a whole hodload of experience cobbling enterprise systems together in the real world under the creakiest and most robust IT architectures. I can tell you stories about hybridized VM dispatchers to 64bit parellel databases that would blow your mind and stories about Excel clouds on OS/2 & token-ring that would have you reaching for the Pepto Bismol. Suffice it to say that I've earned my bones as a data architect; it's a hell of a job and I love it.
Now here's the deal with Purisma. It's got Bob Hagenau. Bob was the guy behind Acta, and Acta was the coolest ETL on the planet a few years back. It got absorbed by Business Objects because Hyperion was slow to the draw and shy of acquisitions. If it's doing nice things today, I have no idea. But it was the key to getting data out of the 'data jail' of ERP systems, especially the high security prison of SAP. As such they were Sapphire certified and even understood Z tables and weirdness in the SAP data model that most ABAP coders mumbled about and SAP tried to hush away. So I have some confidence that Hagenau is not a time-waster and that when it comes to complex data, he'll make some of the jagged edges smooth.
Purisma's business is simple. Master customer data. Hyperion's business is simple, monetize and benchmarkify everything for management. Those are the simple explanations behind the two of the three three letter acronyms that are most significant in this piece. CDI is Customer Data Integration. That's Purisma. BPM is Business Performance Management, that's Hyperion. The killer app between the two will be customer profitability across all channels.
Now there have always been customer profitability models and they're not too hard to build. What's hard is that what your department calls a customer and what marketing calls a customer and what finance calls a customer are three different things. And all of you have incompatible systems that don't let your company decided once and for all what a customer is. In comes the third three letter acronym, MDM. MDM is Master Data Management.
Hyperion purchased a leading MDM vendor a couple years ago. They have a hot product which is now called, drum roll please, Hyperion MDM. What it does is centralize name calling in your organization. Huh? What? Name calling? OK think of the product you are familiar with in your company? What is it called? OK now what's the serial number? What's the product code? What do the engineers who built it call it? Who in marketing changed the name? When? How did they spread the word? What do people in accounting call it? What's the code for it in the accounting system? What about the inventory system? What about when you OEM it to another company? Complex? Well it's your product, you ought to know all of these things. You don't, because you haven't managed your master data. You don't have a chief name caller in charge who has octopus arms that coordinate the names of everything in every system. MDM gives you that ability.
In this regard, CDI is a very particular MDM application. It allows you to understand all the names of all your customers no matter which channel you touch them through. Something in the back of your head says, didn't Siebel promise this years ago with their CRM systems? Sure they did, that was marketing, this is technology. My nickel says Purisma does the job way better than Siebel does, because Siebel is not selling customer data management, they're selling CRM. If you get CRM but not a single view of the customer from Siebel, you don't send it back. If you don't get a single view of the customer from a CDI vendor, you send it back. Different incentives, different results.
So Hyperion, who gets the BPM theory and builds some pretty damned good products, is being smart in seeing the future of CDI and investing in Purisma. But are they hedging against their own MDM product? No. MDM is expensive and takes some doing to implement, it's not easy to sell either. But so long as Hyperion can cover the base of CDI and MDM through whatever agreement they're making with Hagenau and company, they are not going to miss the opportunity to position their company as knowledgeable about the space, and so their money is where their mouth is.
All that remains is for field commanders like myself to staff up some troops and actually battle test these technology weapons against the enemy of corporate information entropy. I'll let you know.