by Charles Roe
DATAVERSITY™ recently interviewed Conrad Chuang, the Director of Product Marketing at Orchestra Networks. Orchestra Networks are the creators of EBX5, a multi-domain, model-driven Master Data Management enterprise solution. EBX5 empowers enterprises and users to manage and govern their own master and reference data more effectively.
Orchestra Networks are a Sponsor at the Enterprise Data World 2014 Conference in Austin, Texas from April 27 – May 1, 2014.
The Sponsor Spotlight Column (and its parallel venture the Speaker Spotlight Column) is an ongoing project that focuses on highlighting several of the central issues represented at the many Data Management conferences produced by DATAVERSITY.
The primary emphasis of the interview was to question Conrad Chuang and Orchestra Networks on their current work and history within the industry, with particular importance on the products and/or services being highlighted at the upcoming conference:
DATAVERSITY (DV): What’s your company elevator pitch? Why should a business person care about the solution you provide?
Orchestra Networks: Master data is data that’s shared between your business teams and systems. Without accurate and consistent master data, your teams can’t coordinate. In fact, if your organization is doing a lot of after-the-fact-reconciliation it’s a sign that you have poorly managed master data. The people, processes and systems that an organization uses to maintain their master data is MDM.
Orchestra Networks is a leading pure-play, independent Master and Reference Data Management (MDM/RDM) software vendor. Our software, EBX5, enables business and technology users to model, master, govern and connect master data as diverse as customer, product, supplier, finance, HR, reference data, and more in a single end-to-end solution.
We’re called Orchestra Networks for two reasons.
First, when we approach the Master Data Management problem we focus on both mastering domain values – customers, products, suppliers, financial accounts – and the ‘network’ of connections within and between the domains. For example, not just your customer’s name and address, but also their legal entity hierarchy, the products they’re consuming and the key suppliers for those products (who incidentally, may also be customers). With EBX5 you curate the values and relationships in that entire master data network.
Second, when you look at that master data network you’ll notice that different people are responsible or accountable for ensuring that a domain’s values and its relationships are accurate and consistent. Those different people (or RACI matrices) mean that Master Data Management requires some form of orchestration to manage how these individuals will interact. Managing that interaction pattern, or orchestration, is why EBX5 has workflow built-in.
In short, we’re Orchestra Networks because EBX5 enables our customers to manage the orchestration of governance activities across their network of master data domains.
DV: What will you be highlighting at EDW14?
Orchestra Networks: Orchestra Networks will be highlighting our customer cases and EBX5, our MDM software. Visitors to our booth will get a chance to learn how Orchestra Networks approaches the problem of master and reference data, explore our software, EBX5, and see a demonstration of how our all-in-one platform supports a Master Data Management program over its entire life-cycle.
DV: What’s the unique selling proposition of your product or service versus your competitors? What do you do that nobody else does (or better than anyone else)?
Orchestra Networks: There are three things we do differently that are worth noting (click here for the video version):
1. We manage both master data values and relationships
Our customers use EBX5 to curate the values and relationships (including multi-domain relationships) from within the same solution. Since the other MDM vendors have multiple MDM platforms, creating multi-domain relationships requires building and maintaining complex data integration infrastructure to synchronize copies of data between multiple MDM platforms. We have found that references (vs. synchronized copies) are more effective in maintaining consistency since you never need to sort out which copy is the most up-to-date. Also, since no multi-MDM platform integration is required for EBX5, it reduces the total cost of ownership.
2. We provide all the components you need for MDM in a single solution
As an organization, we have sought to include all the components one needs to operate an MDM program in a single solution. In addition to workflow, which our customers use to manage interactions between their responsible and accountable parties, we also include components for modeling, data quality, authoring, hierarchy management and more. (For a full list please see: http://www.orchestranetworks.com/product/).
The all-in-one approach has two main benefits. From a financial perspective, our customers don’t spend their time or money tying core MDM functionality together. And from a usability perspective, EBX5’s consistent user mechanics and look-and-feel speeds adoption of your users.
3. We strive to make MDM as easy-to-use and business user friendly
Successful MDM programs are widely adopted by an organization’s governance team and master data consumers. Usability is important because among this wide swath of users is an equally wide range of technical skills. Easy-to-learn and easy-to-use, hence easy-to-adopt, software helps encourage participation, build political support and spreads data consistency throughout the organization. We’ve heard that many competing MDM software are technical in nature and require substantial training and, frequently, some programming ability.
We also took adoption into account when we designed our pricing model. What we noticed is that many MDM vendors use either a per user, or per data volume (record, or unique node) approach for pricing their master data management solution. What this means is that as the program becomes more successful–more individuals become involved with the MDM program or more data is stored in the solution–the higher the cost to the organization. This upfront charge has a chilling effect on adoption and contributes to the fracturing of master data that we see today.
DV: Why should EDW14 attendees stop by your booth this year?
Orchestra Networks: EDW is a great venue for learning.
Those of you whose organizations are in the process of investigating Master and Reference Data Management solutions should stop by and have a visit. You’ve probably already received loads of conceptual content about the theory and practice of master data and data governance – EDW is your opportunity to see those concepts in action.
If you interested in concrete details about how our customers surmounted the challenge (especially the challenge of managing master and reference data between multiple ERPs) – our product marketing and sales staff will be on hand to share those customer stories. Many of our customers have presented publicly about their implementations; videos and slides are right on our website.
If you’re looking for requirements – we have various checklists and pro-forma RFPs that you can use to get a sense of how widely scoped your project ought to be.
If you want to see what actual MDM software looks like, our solution consultants or professional services staff can demonstrate how we approach the Master Data Management problem.
If you have a particularly nettlesome complex or alternate hierarchy management issue – feel free to stop by and we can show you why multiple Global 1000s use EBX5 for managing standard, single-domain, multi-domain and multi-version hierarchies in EBX5.
Of course, if you have more immediate needs reach out to us and we’ll set up a mutually agreeable time to chat.
And of course, all booth visitors will receive a chrome-plated combination 8GB USB memory stick and bottle opener. This laser engraved all-in-one data storage and tippling solution is perfect for all those situations where data management has driven you to drink.
DV: What do you see as the most significant trend happening at this time within the Data Management industry?
Orchestra Networks: There are multiple answers to this question: one could take either an industry-focused or a technology-focused point of view.
For the industry perspective, we often go on what our customers tell us. Our financial services customers, especially those in corporate/investment banking, are responding to new regulations that are forcing them to re-think how they manage their counterparty and product data. In US health care, comparative effectiveness research is demanding that providers manage their reference data (e.g. ICD-10) in a much more consistent fashion. In media and entertainment, studios are coming to grips with digital distribution.
On the technology-side, the story has been all about Big Data and mostly about analytics.
Right now, much of the buzz seems to be focused on questions of how. How to manage large volumes? How to move? How to process? How to store? Questions of this nature are utterly appropriate for those data sets in the sciences and engineering where the attributes and dimensions that characterize their observations are either constant or semantically consistent over time – for example, in genetics there are still only four nucleotides. The fusion of Big Data, applied math and science are leading to new insights for investigators in the physical and biological sciences.
However a slightly different message about Big Data seems to be emerging from the commercial world. We’ve heard from several organizations that their Big Data projects have been complicated by the fact that the attributes and dimensions that characterize their transactions are inconsistent. For example, a large franchise system wanted to understand the impact of both regional product and marketing mix changes on their business. Analyzing point of sale data is the best way to answer this question. However, there were a couple of issues. First, each franchisee uses different codes (and sometimes different product families) for the same product. Marketing and operations did not use the same regional classification scheme when grouping franchisees.
And of course, the POS codes, product families and regional hierarchies all changed on a periodic basis. What the analytics/Big Data team determined is that without a mechanism to translate between dimensions and attributes (aka MDM) across time, source, and domain – their Big Data analytics effort would be quite challenging.
DV: How is such a trend going to affect your particular business focus? How does your product/service address that trend?
Orchestra Networks: We’re quite well positioned. Our customers are already using EBX5 to support both operations and analytics; to author and govern enterprise master data, dimensions and attributes. From an analytics/BI perspective, they’re using EBX5’s support for relationships to translate between the versions/sources/domains. And they’re publishing “transformation” matrices to those teams in business intelligence that are working on analytics/Big Data initiatives.
DV: What is the biggest challenge your customers are facing when it comes to Data Management?
Orchestra Networks: While most of our customers have qualitative performance evaluations of their Master Data Management programs, they continue to struggle with quantitative measures for their programs’ performance. For example, it has been a challenge for most of our customers to capture point-in-time measures – the activity-based cost for a new material creation – and first and second-order trends – has the median time-to-onboard a new supplier dropped? And how quickly has the process improved?
From an operations perspective this data is important for identifying potential staff retraining opportunities and areas of optimization. Consumed in real time through dashboards, this information alerts MDM teams to issues requiring immediate action. In management updates, the quantitative measures add context to the qualitative evaluations. And, as many customers have pointed out, operational measures are the only way to assess the success of your MDM strategy and its impact on the business.
DV: How are you as a company working to address that challenge?
Orchestra Networks: To help our customers address the quantitative performance measurement issue we’ve released a new module we’re calling EBX5 Insight. Insight helps our customer take point-in-time measures and capture trend data on all the activities in the MDM. For more information about EBX5 insight, please see: http://www.orchestranetworks.com/performance-measurement/.
DV: What’s the most exciting thing currently in your product or development pipeline that customers can look forward to in the near future?
Orchestra Networks: In addition to the performance measurement issues, our customers have talked to us about how they should govern their enterprise data dictionary/metadata and its intersection with master data models. While our customers could standardize the definitions in a standalone data dictionary, many of them want to use those well-defined terms in the MDM models. For example, they often want one enterprise definition for Country ID, as well as knowledge of where Country ID is being used across all their MDM models. Quite soon, perhaps at EDW we’ll be able to announce a new module for data governance.
Also, we continue to make improvements in usability, the UI and business rules management.
DV: What’s your favorite quote on “Data” or “Data Management?”
Orchestra Networks: It’s not entirely related to Data Management, but I often think about this quote from Melvin Conway, which was subsequently codified into Conway’s Law:
“Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.”
I find this quote relevant to Master Data Management and Data Management in general, because they’re people processes – individuals are responsible or accountable for the accuracy and consistency of the data. Conway’s law is important because it reminds the vendors (or, system providers) that the best data governance process are not best practices that we dictate, but are rather ones that take into account the organizational structure and internal politics of our customers.
If you are interested in more information about sponsors and exhibitors at EDW2014 see the full listing at: http://edw2014.dataversity.net/sponsors.cfm
About Enterprise Data World:
Enterprise Data World is the business world’s most comprehensive educational event about data and information management. Over five days, EDW presents a diverse schedule of programming that addresses every level of proficiency, including keynotes, workshops, tutorials, case studies, and discussions.