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A guide to reading the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management

On October 30th, Gartner published the latest edition of their Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management.   If you’ve not seen it you can download a copy here. The most visible output from the report is the magic quadrant graphic (beneath).

The graphic’s high profile is one reason why it draws the most comment (and criticism) from the vendor community.   But there is much more to the MDM MQ than this graphic. To use this piece of research effectively, it’s worthwhile to take the time to understand the analytical framework and assumptions used by Gartner.  

One reason why we decided to write this post is that we noticed that much of the chatter about the MDM MQ seems to emerge from a misinterpretation of the terms and phrases used in the MQ.  For example, many of the terms used by Gartner such as “Ability to execute,” or “Completeness of vision,” are terms of art with very specific definitions. Also, as a side point, we’ve observed a general lack of knowledge about the wide breadth of tools Gartner provides for subscribers that can be used to create customized magic quadrants to fit their master data management requirements.  

We hope this piece goes a little way towards a better understanding how Gartner analyzes the master data management market.

The Magic Quadrant framework

Master data is data shared between your business teams and systems.  Given the level of integration in most businesses this can constitute a large number of data domains, reference data sets, hierarchies, and (in some cases) data governance assets and metadata.  

On way to visualize the scope of MDM is to view the data domains in the context of a classic Porter value chain. One of our partners use this visual that shows the interplay between master data (found in the primary activities), reference data and data governance assets (found in the support or overlay activities), and the business processes (in the illustration, they’re found beneath the value chain).  In this diagram it’s easy to see why master data must be consistent, since inconsistency will have a negative knock-on effect on a wide range of business processes and activities.   

Given this very wide scope, how exactly does Gartner skinny down the MDM market? Gartner uses the following analytical framework:

  1. Gartner defines the market. As a key part of market definition, Gartner enumerates the key capabilities for solutions in this market.  

  2. Gartner defines the segment, or portion, of the market they plan on analyzing. The inclusion criteria that participating vendors must meet is on page 19 of this year’s MQ. (It goes without saying that the MQ is not intended to be a market survey).

  3. Gartner defines their evaluation criteria, and the weight of each criterion.  This creates the scoring system that is used to measure ability to execute, and completeness of vision.

  4. Finally, Gartner applies their evaluation criteria to the vendors producing both the MQ graphic, and the qualitative sections on each vendor.

It’s also important to recognize that the market definition, capabilities, and evaluation criteria are driven by the market context (pages 27-34 of the 2017 MQ); or what Gartner observes is happening in the master data management market and what they hear from their clients.   Finally, it’s worth pointing out that different analysts segment the market differently.  For example, both the Information Difference and the MDM Institute apply different criteria and assumptions and that explains why the list of MDM solutions covered is different.  

Gartner’s Master Data Management Market Definition

In this section, which is on pages 2-6 of the current MQ, Gartner defines the objective of MDM solutions, and the key capabilities required to meet those objectives.  

For MDM, here’s what Gartner lists as important capabilities:

  • Workflow/BPM,  

  • Loading, synchronization, business services and integration,

  • Data modeling,

  • Information quality and semantics,

  • Performance, scalability, high availability and security,

  • Hierarchy management,

  • Information stewardship support,

  • Information governance support,

  • Multiple implementation style support,

  • Multiple usage scenario (operational/analytical) support,

  • Multiple and multidomain support, and

  • Product suite internal integration    

For each capability Gartner has written an explicit definition. For example, here’s how Gartner defines the hierarchy management capability:

Hierarchy management — The MDM solution should be able to model and store multiple hierarchies within and across in-scope data domains, in order to comprehensively classify all instances of master data for various business requirements, as well as for broad-based functions such as searching and reporting. This functionality should include support for multiple linked or stand-alone hierarchies relating to a single domain or combinations of master data from multiple data domains. A bitemporal modeling capability should also be supported or provided for hierarchy data. The solution should also provide support for balanced, unbalanced and recursive hierarchies; a visualization capability to facilitate maintenance and presentation of hierarchical data; and a versioning capability to provide an audit trail and recoverability capability during hierarchy creation and maintenance.  

Also, take care not to conflate definitions. For example, it’s easy to combine “information stewardship” with “information governance.”  Andrew White, one of the leading Gartner Analysts, has written several, blog posts on how these two concepts differ. To quote Mr. White: ”information governance focuses on the setting of (information) policy,” while “information stewardship focuses on the enforcement of (information) policy.”  As a side note, this tight tie between policy and execution is one reason why many of our customers integrate enforcement and policy inside EBX and are looking at EBX to help manage GDPR compliance.

As the reader/user of this research, it is important for you to determine, if you agree with the list of capabilities, the definitions of each capability; and finally, if this capability is relevant (and, if so, how important relative to other capabilities) for your organization’s use cases.  Bear in mind these capabilities drive how Gartner scores the “Product/service” evaluation criteria, which is one of the important factors in “Ability to execute.”

Evaluation Criteria

Gartner evaluates the vendors that participate in the MDM market by:

  • Ability to execute (defined on page 21), and

  • Completeness of vision (defined on page 24)

If we think of the MQ graphic as cartesian plane,  scoring on the completeness of vision provides the “X” value, whilst, ability to execute provides the “Y” value.  The combination of scores determines placement of the vendor.

  • High X, High Y = Leader,

  • High X, Low Y = Visionary,

  • Low X, High Y = Challenger, and

  • Low X, Low Y = Niche

Much like everything else in the MQ, these vendor categories (leader, visionary, challenger, and niche) have specific definitions (found on pages 26-27).  

While it’s tempting to assume that ability to execute stands in for “market power,” and completeness of vision is tied to “product power;” it’s much more nuanced.  We can see just how nuanced by looking at Gartner’s evaluation criteria and the weighting of each criterion. Combining Table 1 (page 24), which lists all the criteria and the weightings used to compute ability to execute,  and Table 2 (page 26), which lists all the criteria and the weightings used to compute completeness of vision. We can produce this table:

Completeness of vision has eight criteria with innovation, market understanding, marketing strategy, offering (product) strategy, and vertical/industry strategy, as the most important.  Ability to execute, has seven criteria with customer experience, market responsiveness/record, marketing execution, product or service, and sales execution, as the most important.  Notice that overall viability, which is  “an assessment of the MDM solution vendor's financial health,” doesn’t even crack the top five criterion for ability to execute. Or, ability to execute has only a little bit to do with market power. We bring this up because a common criticism of the MQ is that only big, deep pocketed vendors do well.  Certainly big, deep pocketed vendors do better, but vendors with satisfied customers and strong products do even better.   

Finally, as you’d expect there are very specific definitions and tests for each evaluation criteria.  Using those explicit definitions, it’s possible for you to determine in what ways Gartner’s evaluation criteria matches (or does not match) your organizational preferences.  Gartner offers tools to subscribers to adjust weightings, with the aim of creating customized MDM MQs, which we detail in the next section.

Tools offered by Gartner to customize the MQ

Gartner offers several tools that customers can use to customize the magic quadrant, and capabilities.  

  • The Interactive Magic Quadrant - For each, MQ Gartner provides an ‘interactive’ version online that customers can use to change the weightings for each evaluation criteria. Simply click on the ‘Customize’ tab and manipulate the sliders for each criterion.



    On the customize tab, you’ll have the ability to increase, or decrease, the relative importance of each evaluation criteria. As you change the importance of the different evaluation criteria the vendor dots will move around on the MQ.

  • The interactive Critical Capabilities report - After each MDM MQ, Gartner has been releasing a critical capabilities report that one can use to asses an MDM vendor for use cases such as:

    • B2B Customer,

    • B2C Customer,

    • Buy-side Product,

    • Sell-side Product,

    • Multidomain, and

    • Multivector

For each use case, Gartner changes the specific ‘weighting’ for each product capability. By manipulating the weights (based on its importance to your organization's use cases) you can generate a new ranking of solutions by vendor. The interactive tool allows you to save new critical capability rankings for future use.

The revised version of Critical Capabilities is coming out quite soon and we very much look forward to seeing the new report.

  • One way of applying the feedback and customization you applied to the MQ and the critical capabilities is to modify, or shape the pro-forma Gartner RFP.  Most customers should have access to Gartner’s RFP Template for Master Data Management Solutions (which can be found here).

These are just three small pieces of the rather extensive library of research Gartner has performed on MDM.  If you’re looking for a starting point, I’d certainly take a good look at the comprehensive list of MDM research presented by Gartner’s Andrew White.