IBM pushes master data

With more companies looking to find a single “golden source” of truth within their reams of data, IBM emphasized enhanced master data management capabilities when it released a new version of its WebSphere Product Center middleware this month.

Master data management (MDM) is the managing of data attributes that best describe a particular product or customer. Determining such attributes can help businesses improve the quality of their core data, cutting down on any errors and out-of-date or duplicated information.

Feite Kraay, sales manager for WebSphere Product Center and WebSphere Commerce with IBM Canada, said WebSphere Product Center (WPC) 5.3 is designed specifically to manage product information. Another piece of IBM’s MDM portfolio, WebSphere Customer Center, manages customer data.

Kraay said product data tends to be scattered around an organization, and all of that data need to come together in different ways for different business processes.

WPC acts as a central repository that absorbs information coming from various sources and provides tools and workflow for people to manage that data, pushing it out to target applications.

The new version includes a Java API and Web services that can be layered on top of the middleware to facilitate integration with SOA applications. The software will also more easily scale to manage larger quantities of data.

Kraay said the product is more appealing to large enterprises in the retail and distribution segments, caught in what he calls a “perfect storm of issues,” pressuring them from all sides.

“Their customers are demanding quicker, better and richer access to more and more product information and their suppliers are trying to push electronic information to them or demanding electronic access to information,” said Kraay.

In the U.S., auto parts retailer Carquest Corp. is in the early stages of implementing WPC, currently working with IBM to define, collect, cleanse and configure the master data to be captured in the repository.

“We’re on a quest to have one version of the truth,” said Joe Zucchero, senior vice-president and CIO of Carquest International, based in Raleigh, N.C.

Master data about the more than 800,000 auto parts in its 3,400 stores is scattered across Carquest’s IT systems, according to Zucchero. Sometimes duplicated, the data is contained in a variety of software including homegrown ones, Access databases and Excel spreadsheets.

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