Imagine you're the CIO for a retail enterprise and your company has just acquired a competing retail company. Because both companies are in the same industry, they'll have some data in common (e.g., customers, sales, inventory), meaning you'll have duplicate sources of the same master data! So if each company has a separate record for the same customer, which record is correct? Master Data Management (MDM) can resolve this data-redundancy nightmare. It's a set of solutions, designs, processes, and best practices for resolving problems related to synching data from different datasources.

Think about when customer data is manipulated in various operational systems beyond customer relationship management (CRM). If master data can be updated in data repositories that aren't the original datasource, there will be obvious synchronization problems. If you've ever done business as a consumer with a company that required you to update your personal information more than once because of “separate systems,” you've been a victim of this synchronization problem.

There are several companies that have offered MDM solutions for some time, including Stratature. Stratature offered a product called +EDM, which used a MDM design pattern called a Master Data Hub. The basic idea behind the Master Data Hub concept is that you define and populate your master data entities in the hub and then ensure though workflow and auditing processes the hub keeps the various data stores in sync. 

In June 2007, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Stratature. As such, Microsoft is rebranding the +EDM product to be released under the Microsoft Office suite of products. Code-named "Bulldog," the new Microsoft MDM product will feature an enhanced version of the base +EDM product. Bulldog is also expected to include new key integration points with the larger Microsoft platform as well.

Bulldog was initially made available to a select group of Microsoft customers in February 2008. In the first half of 2008, Bulldog will be a Technology Adoption Program release to a larger set of Microsoft customers and partners. The first public release of Bulldog will be in the form of a Community Technology Preview in third quarter 2008. Bulldog  is scheduled to ship with the next release of the Office suite.

The MDM market has been gaining increasing attention in recent years. Certainly, when Microsoft acquires a company it's casting its vote that a particular industry is worth investing in. Microsoft has decided to buy rather than build an MDM product, enabling the company to enter the MDM market much quicker. I' m eagerly anticipating the arrival of Bulldog. For more information about Bulldog, visit  www.microsoft.com/sharepoint/mdm/default.aspx.