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Organizations today create and collect data at ever faster rates, and this introduces challenges in ensuring that data is not just managed but used in a consistent manner for a range of operational and analytic tasks. This is made more difficult by new data sources whose definitions vary from standard and vr_Info_Optimization_04_basic_information_tasks_consume_timewidely used formats. Making all information available and consistent is essential to support business processes and decision-making. A key technology tool for this effort is master data management (MDM). Every business area needs MDM, whether it deals with customers, products, employees, finance or others individually or collectively in what is called multidomain MDM. It is an essential tool for data governance across an organization, which has become a focal point for improvement as many organizations spend significant time in data-related tasks. Our benchmark research on information optimization shows that preparing data for analysis (47%) and reviewing data for quality and consistency issues (45%) are the two information tasks that consume the most time. Properly used MDM enables data stewards and other IT professionals to improve the consistency and quality of departmental and enterprise data.

Profisee is a software vendor that seeks to provide consistent definitions across data through master data management. It has been part of the MDM industry since its origins when the company’s founders created what is now part of Microsoft SQL Master Data Services. Profisee offers dedicated technology to help manage data across applications, databases and systems. Its data management platform and tools, Master Data Maestro Suite, provides the ability to establish and maintain consistent business definitions that help normalize any kind of data. It supports analysts, data stewards and others responsible for making data suitable for a range of operational and business tasks by helping them establish “golden” records – the agreed-upon data definitions and formats that users can trust.

Maestro Desktop provides the core functions of MDM, from modeling of data to definitions and mapping of data from applications and systems. It enables management of hierarchies that align, map and roll up data. In addition it offers Golden Record Management in which data quality, matching and survivorship contribute to establishing golden records for operational and analytical needs. Profisee handles various data quality tasks from simple ones such as address validation to location and contact services that help streamline tasks that can be difficult and time-consuming. The product has been designed to enable analysts across business units and IT to share in the tasks that ensure that master data is being applied properly. Because MDM should involve collaboration across roles in the organization, Profisee include workflow so the right people can share and approve tasks. Our information optimization research finds that in 42 percent of organizations business and IT work together; this is essential because business users are most familiar with the data and its use in business processes and resulting outcomes.

Profisee Master Data Maestro also provides analytics that help users understand the state of data governance and track data processing to determine issues to be resolved. It supplies adapters to help integrate data to databases and applications from Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com and many others. It also provides a developer’s kit to help design Web services and message-based interfaces needed for application and system integration. It also extends the use of Microsoft SQL Server and Master Data Services by providing broad support for data governance and MDM across an enterprise.

Our research confirms the growing number of data sources: A significant number of organizations that have more than 16 sources said it is very important to simplify information for business. This situation is creating increased pressure to improve vr_Info_Optimization_17_with_more_sources_easy_access_more_importantdata-related processes which MDM can help. Advances in so-called big data now enable organizations to take in huge volumes of data at rapid cycle times, and big data is an important technology in 41 percent of organization, according to our information optimization benchmark research. As big data becomes widely adopted, MDM becomes critical to ensure that data is used in the proper context. Our research finds that establishing master data has become a top concern in two-thirds of organizations. Profisee has expanded its support for big data environments including Hadoop, ensuring it can process data from various databases and platforms.

Another rising technology, cloud computing, also can benefit from MDM. Cloud deployment of applications and data increases the need to manage data outside the enterprise. Profisee recently announced MDM for Microsoft Azure Cloud, which enables Master Data Maestro to support Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition and Microsoft Master Data Services in the company’s Azure cloud. Supporting cloud-based systems is nothing new for Profisee, which has developed several adapters such as it did in 2014 for Salesforce.com.

Addressing the need for quality and consistency of data is essential to business processes and decision-making that rely on business analytics. Profisee is contributing to this effort not only through its products but also through its range of services and industry models which help perform proof-of-concepts and establish a roadmap that will help ensure smooth adoption of MDM, avoid lengthy consulting engagements and save time and resources. Profisee is making MDM practical and easy to use, and its product does not require a large budget to get started and maintain data governance in small and midsize companies. If you are looking to improve your data governance process through MDM whether across the organization or within a line of business, Profisee is a supplier that you should examine closely.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

VR-BUG-WEBIn recent years line-of-business applications including accounting, human resources, manufacturing, sales and customer service have appeared in the cloud. Cloud -based software as a service (SaaS) has replaced on-premises applications that were previously part of ERP and CRM environments. They have helped companies become more efficient but have also introduced interoperability challenges between business processes. Their advantage is that cloud software can be rented, configured and used within a day or week. The disadvantage is that they don’t always connect with one another seamlessly, as they used to and when managed by a third party there is limited connectivity to integrate them.

Smooth interoperation is critical for business processes that use ERP. The hybrid computing approach to ERP was assessed by my colleague Robert Kugel, who identified the challenges in these early approaches to ERP in the cloud. As on-premises ERP, these applications were fully connected and integrated with process and data integration wired together through additional technologies. This configurability of ERP has been a large challenge and has led to failed implementations, as Robert noted.  Understanding the complexities of ERP today is key to coming up with a solution.

One of the most fundamental business processes in organizations is tracking an order to fulfillment. That needs to be connected without manual intervention for transactional efficiency and to ensure data, analytics and planning are available. In fact our next generation of finance analytics benchmark research finds that ERP is the second-most important source of data being analyzed, after spreadsheets, and is the first-ranked source in almost one-third (32%) of organizations. In the transition to cloud computing this has become more complex. Applications that support the order-to-fulfillment process, for example, are increasingly being used individually in cloud computing, and many are being mingled with on-premises applications that require integration and automation to avoid manual intervention.

To start, orders are created by sales. Sales opportunities are created and closed with products and services purchased by contract or electronically. These must be placed in an order management system through which the record can be used by a multitude of systems and processes. Purchasing and fulfillment details are moved into an invoice as part of a billing application, then entered into accounting and accounts receivable where it is managed to payment. Finance takes orders and consolidates them into reports, typically in a financial performance management system. The order is then provided to manufacturing or fulfillment applications which build and deliver products, then fulfilled through warehouse and distribution management. The customer name and order number is also placed into an application that handles support calls or deploys services.

This is the reality of business today. Many departments and individuals, with different applications, are needed to support orders, fulfillment and service. If these applications are not connected organizations have to perform manual intervention, re-enter data, or copy and paste, which not only wastes time and resources but can introduce errors. Half (56%) of organizations do the integration through spreadsheets or exporting data, with custom coding being second-most popular (for 39%), according to our business data in the cloud research. (I will leave HR applications and the supporting people component out of this process though they play a critical role as an enterprise resource to support the order-to-fulfillment process and are part of many ERP deployments.) In addition performing any level of business planning is not simple as data is needed to determine past performance and plan for the future.

There is no simple way to make all this efficient. It has historically been managed by ERP, usually through a single vendor’s application suite. Now businesses want it done in the cloud, either on-premises or through other cloud applications. Proper attention must be paid to the needs and competencies of the departments and business processes involved. Thus migration and transition to ERP are not simple, nor is building an application architecture that supports process and data efficiently. Assessment and planning are necessary to ensure that risks are addressed. Switching to a new ERP system in the cloud will still require an application architecture to maintain proper operations across departments and existing applications, whether they are on-premises, in a private cloud, in the public cloud or in a hybrid combination. This integration among sales force automation, customer service and other systems is outside the scope of most cloud ERP deployments who have not provided the most robust integration points for the applications and data.

Robert Kugel writes that ERP must take a giant leap in order to operate in the cloud. I agree. Our firm often gets requests for assistance in finding the right approach to ERP and business process. While midsize companies find ERP in the cloud increasingly attractive, there are significant challenges to adapting  and integrating such applications as part of business processes, which many customers overlook in their desire for a cloud-based solution. The majority of cloud ERP vendors have not provided integration and workflow of information from their applications to others in an open and seamless manner, complicating deployments and adding unexpected costs for customers.

vr_fcc_financial_close_and_automation_updatedERP suppliers moving from on-premises to cloud computing have acknowledged the complexities. Many of the legacy ERP vendors have struggled to enable application interoperability and the differing management requirements of IT and business. This struggle has resulted in a lack of confidence by organizations wishing to migrate to ERP in the cloud and makes them wonder whether to look at alternative approaches with individual applications using integration across them and data to support business processes. Automation is another major concern. The lack of it across business processes has impeded finance groups in closing the books efficiently; our research on the fast, clean close shows many organizations losing four or more days.

In the meantime technological advances in integration technologies that operate in the cloud computing environment can interconnect with on-premises systems. The ability to simultaneously distribute transactions and data across systems makes the ability to architect business processes and workflows a reality. For some organizations the use of business process management and other integration technology approaches are being adopted. The new technologies are able to blend into many applications, so that users do not know they are working on applications from different vendors, nor do they need to know. These advances enable application architecture to interoperate and automate the flow of data from on-premises and cloud computing environments, providing new opportunities to interoperate from ERP or other applications. Many organizations are doing this today, and more than one-third of companies are planning or need to move data from cloud to cloud, cloud to on-premises or on-premises to cloud, data according our business data in the cloud research.

No matter whether a company is in manufacturing or services, they must address the integration complexities to gain efficiency and support growth without adding more resources. While many new ERP providers in the cloud are taking simpler approaches from the applications interface to how it processes transactions, most have not learned the importance of integration to other systems and the need for accessing and integrating data for transactions and analytics. Having consistency of data across applications and systems is a major obstacle in more than one-fifth (21%) of organizations and a minor obstacle in two-fifths (43%), and they find similar difficulties in the complexities of accessing data, according to our business data in the cloud research. In addition they lack effective planning (which of course is the P in ERP), and reporting is less than sufficient and often must be complemented by third-party tools.

All this introduces yet more complexity for business and IT in determining how they can move forward with ERP in the cloud, adapting existing and new applications to interoperate.  The outlook for ERP in the cloud is thus uncertain. If these vendors do not adapt to the reality of what their customers want (as opposed to what they want their customers to do), it will remain cloudy. Responding to pressure to take an open approach that is easy to integrate, however, ERP providers could see a sunny forecast.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

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