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Kalido recently introduced version 9 of its Information Engine product. The company has been around for 10 years but has had difficulty establishing its identity in the information management market. Kalido was perhaps ahead of its time, partly a vendor of data integration, partly master data management and partly data governance. As an example of the positioning challenge, its core product, Information Engine, while not a data integration tool, could in some cases provide sufficient capabilities to meet an organization’s data integration needs. Its real value, however, comes from authoring and management of information about the user’s data warehouse.
Information Engine introduces an abstraction layer that separates the physical design of a warehouse from its logical design. Its repository holds information about the data model used in data warehouses and data marts, as well as the associated processes of managing the warehouse life cycle. This includes information about measures, hierarchies, aggregates, change management routines, security and auditing. By looking at the data warehouse as a process rather than a physical implementation of a data model, Kalido can help organizations manage processes that enhance data governance. For example, workflows with approvals and audit trails are a natural by-product of this process-based approach.
With version 9, Kalido continues to speed up data warehouse implementations. It pushes more of the processing down into the underlying database, which supports extract, load and transform (ELT) processes rather than the more conventional extract, transform and load (ETL). Doing more processing in the database using ELT eliminates the need to move the data twice: once to a transformation engine and then again to the data warehouse. The key change to support ELT in the new release is the introduction of staging tables, where data can land and be transformed before being loaded into the appropriate data warehouse tables. Version 9 also has more data integration features and additional testing capabilities.
Kalido also offers master data management (MDM) capabilities across multiple domains, derived from the process-driven approach of Information Engine. Kalido MDM provides separate interfaces for data stewards as well as users of the master data. Data stewards, who oversee the master data processes, can define and perform data matching, identity resolution, validation and publication. Kalido provides connectors to Trillium and DataFlux software for external data validation and claims to be building them for products from others. Users of the master data can search through it, browse the data model and issue change requests.
The most interesting aspect of the company’s process-driven approach is the ability to capture and apply data governance policies. As information management capabilities mature, organizations can focus more attention on data governance. Kalido has recognized this opportunity, and while for years its messaging has included data governance, only last year did it introduce Kalido Data Governance Director as a separate product. Data Governance Director uses a policy management metaphor in which organizations define their data governance policies as well as metrics to measure whether the policies are being enforced. Our benchmark research into data governance found that designing and maintaining policies and rules was the top objective for data governance in 75 percent of organizations and a current lack of satisfaction with current approaches. The research also found that a lack of sufficient policies was one of the top barriers towards a single version of data to leverage across the enterprise.
We are currently conducting benchmark research on trends in information management to help us understand whether interest in data governance has risen, and to determine the relative priorities of other information management processes, including master data management, data integration and data quality. I expect we’ll see rising interest in data governance, which could bode well for products such as Kalido’s Data Governance Director.
One of the challenges Kalido still faces is communicating its positioning clearly to the market. Information Engine 9 includes data integration features that make Kalido more competitive, yet the company does not attempt to compete directly in the data integration market – nor do I think it should. I would prefer to see more partnerships with those vendors, which would allow Kalido to focus where it can add the most value: managing the processes associated with data warehousing. In particular, Data Governance Director represents a unique approach that’s worth exploring. Even if your organization isn’t ready to purchase the product, you can probably learn something useful about data governance that you can apply to your own processes.
Doing one’s homework is vital in buying business software. However, unless you’re replacing a relatively simple application, it’s hard to know exactly what to evaluate. Indeed, if people in a company given this task don’t have experience in using a specific type of business application or don’t understand how new or improved functionality will help execute business processes better, they may do a poor job of assessing the available alternatives. Third-party consultants may be helpful, but their prejudices and familiarity with a vendor’s products may cloud their objectivity. In the end, a buyer might agree with their point of view, but this agreement should be an informed decision.
Smart organizations turn to the Web to do their initial investigation before talking to consultants or vendors. They can benefit from a wealth of free white papers, webinars, blogs and other sources that lay out specific points to consider, descriptions and evaluations of vendors, consultants’ viewpoints and other helpful facts and opinions.
There’s another source I found in my research into business software and the business issues that surround its use. Although patent office documents may look like bedtime reading for insomniacs, there are times when they are a surprisingly good source of information and insight. For example, here are three that I recommend for prospective buyers of price and revenue optimization (PRO) software:
- #7,680,686 System and methods for business to business price modeling using price change optimization, which is assigned to assigned to Vendavo
- #8,010,404 Systems and Methods for Price and Promotion Response Analysis, which is assigned to DemandTec and relates to its “Price and Promotion Response Analysis” (PRA) software (analytics that are part of a price optimization system)
- # 7,949,553 Method and System for a Selection Optimization Process assigned to PROS Pricing.
Check out the description sections of the patents filed in this area because they provide a concise summary of what the software does and how it does it. Software patents do not necessarily indicate that a vendor has an absolute advantage or a better product than other software vendors. Moreover, as PRO software vendor PROS Pricing’s latest 10-K filing states in its risks section, “The patent position of technology-oriented companies, including ours, is generally uncertain and involves complex legal and factual considerations.”
Nevertheless, the patent descriptions and accompanying figures provide a good high-level summary of the basics of price optimization software and the process it’s designed to support. I don’t want to suggest that each document is comprehensive or that subject-matter experts would agree with every assertion. Still, some statements – such as “in B2B markets, reliable price control and management systems may be significantly more complex and more important than price optimization modules” – are on the mark and provide readers with useful perspective on the scope of the solution required and the business processes necessary to achieve the desired results.
In addition to the three vendors mentioned above, other suppliers of price optimization software include Model N, Navetti, Nomis Solutions, Oracle, Servigistics, Signal Demand, Vistaar Technologies and Zilliant.
For those who wish to dig deeper, I recommend Robert Phillips’ Pricing and Revenue Optimization, which provides an introduction to the theory and application of pricing and revenue optimization as well as its conceptual framework.
Price optimization is a potentially powerful tool for many companies in many industries, yet it is has not been widely adopted. One reason may be that it requires a concerted, strategic effort as I discussed in an earlier blog. Yet especially when it is linked with the appropriate sales incentives, I believe it can deliver a sustainable competitive advantage for companies in a variety of retail, industrial and financial services businesses. Senior executives – CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and heads of sales – should familiarize themselves with PRO, both the business discipline and the information technology that supports it. More powerful technology and the declining cost of business computing are making PRO solutions more available to a wider set of organizations. It could be a big help for your company.
Robert Kugel – SVP Research