Between our MDM/Data Governance Summit events co-hosted with the MDM Institute (last week in Toronto, next week in San Francisco, September in New York) seems a good time to sum a few observations.

Based on Toronto, it's plain there are still plenty of MDM and governance frameworks, tools and practices being worked through, and organizations still report immaturity, lack of talent and difficult, incremental projects – though there has been some progress. 

Conference Chairman Aaron Zornes of the MDM Institute updated some ongoing polling (freely available at the MDM Institute website) that indicates companies might have loosened the shackles on MDM/Governance projects held up by economic weakness and uncertainty. 

Asked about the "status of the current phase" among 275 respondents with MDM initiatives, 64 percent of companies reported no formal delay and said they are "on track" with funded MDM milestones. Along with other positive data points (11 percent are accelerating their MDM efforts), it sounds like companies are confident and moving against timelines. 

That said, MDM programs remain big-ticket items that still call for a lot of consulting support, though many believe these will simplify over time, move down market and become pervasive. 

That's good because MDM uptake, while very real in some corridors, still feels erratic and early across companies as a whole, which leads to the sidebar that caught my attention. Among the 2011-2012 planning assumptions among Zornes' latest trending are market maturation, process hubs and ubiquitous/pervasive MDM.

Given the pain so many have faced with structures and technologies surrounding MDM, "pervasive" master data sounds like a non sequitur. Yet it's begun, Zornes says, first among the biggest vendors that are selling MDM as the foundation about which we'll create MDM innate or more simply, MDM-aware applications that put MDM data to work. 

Aaron also answered some of the buzz around Microsoft pledging "free" MDM. We can note all the things we know "free" implies, but in time, pervasive MDM is going to happen in part when "free" finds itself "good enough" for some uses, he noted. 

That's something that's happened and continues to happen in software and software services. And when pervasive MDM does arrive in channels and partner networks as well as in-house, companies will find themselves using different platforms, different architectures and different brands of MDM. There will be MDM services and lower capability MDM vendors along with the big players giving away more functionality.

"You buy SAP apps, you get a SAP view, you buy Oracle apps, you get an Oracle MDM Fusion view etc.," and I saw where Aaron was going as he explained it.

It means silos all over again the moment you step outside your own circle. 

Since we, as IT people, are tasked to knit it all together, a likely path, Zornes said, would be to buy another tool to marry Oracle MDM, SAP, IBM or whatever's at hand.

"When I do that, I'm now dealing with multiple data governance solutions and tools because they're tied to the MDM vendors. It’s not as clean as you would like," and provides an opportunity for vendors like Kalido, Platon and others to reunify the diversity of data governance in MDM.   

Zornes is seeing Microsoft MDM getting lift in Australia and even here in North America. So yes, these conferences will properly continue to focus on the platforms and heavy lifting of frameworks, models, tools and practices companies need to find their way with. When they do and MDM moves downstream we'll do what comes naturally, though I'm not sure anyone can tell you how quickly and broadly that will happen.

Jim Ericson is the editorial director for Information Management, a SourceMedia publication.

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