Data Quality: Customers Satisfied with Products but Most Willing to Switch

Customers seem pleased with their data quality tools -- until they're asked to put their money where their mouth is.

Most shops say they're pleased with their data quality tools vendors. That is, until they're asked to put their money where their mouth is.

According to a recent report from Gartner Inc. ("Customers Rate Their Satisfaction with Data Quality Tools Vendors"), customers give DQ tool makers high marks: in a Gartner survey of 260 DQ professionals, for example, DQ vendors averaged 5.99 (out of 7) for "overall satisfaction," a tally that Gartner says is close to "loyalty."

Providers also received high overall marks for performance, scalability, and throughput, earning a 5.89 (again, out of 7) average. Ditto for a tool's value relative to its cost (5.78) and for vendor-specific professional services (also 5.78).

Customers also gave DQ tool makers high marks for overall ease of use (5.77 out of 7), support (5.64), and ease of installation (5.63). The only area that seems obviously lacking is -- surprise! -- pricing or licensing, in which DQ players earned an average of 5.18.

This last category is telling, however, because when the same respondents were asked if they'd buy the same DI tools again from the same vendors, a surprising number said no. More to the point, an even larger number said that they didn't know. Almost two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) fell into either category, with just 36 percent answering yes.

This isn't quite as perplexing as it might appear.

"Many of the no's come from enterprises that have bought enough licenses for the next year; therefore, the results do not reflect badly on the vendor," analysts Ted Friedman and Andreas Bitterer write in Gartner's report. "But some probably reflect dissatisfaction due to licensing or maintenance cost. These results indicate that while many customers are well satisfied with their data quality vendor, many would consider switching."

What's also surprising is that larger, more prominent players -- including players that (like Informatica Corp., SAPBusiness Objects, and IBM Corp.) spent lavishly for best-of-breed DQ tools -- don't dominate the rankings. According to the Gartner survey, smaller vendors -- such as Datanomic Inc., DataLever Inc., Data Tactics Corp., and helpIT Systems Inc. -- tend to earn the highest marks from users.

Among the ten highest-rated vendors, only DataFlux (long a best-of-breed name in DQ), Harte Hanks Trillium Software, Pervasive Software Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc., and Talend aren't DQ niche players. This, too, isn't completely surprising, write Friedman and Bitterer.

"[D]espite the strong account control large vendors have, the data quality toolset does not represent a large portion of the overall revenue and plays a minor role in the greater scheme of things. Overall satisfaction is also impacted by the low scores large vendors get for professional services and support," they write. "The higher range of scores belongs to small vendors, but not all small vendors score well," Friedman and Bitterer continue, adding that "small vendors present their own risks, such as financial viability and ... limited availability of skills in the market."

In a lot of cases, shops don't choose a DQ tools vendor because it makes the best tool out there or because it makes the best tool for their needs.

"Many customers may choose a big vendor because it already supplies other kinds of software. These clients may also want to consider other data quality vendors unless they have a specific reason for staying with a big vendor," the Gartner pair writes. "They can probably find small, best-of-breed vendors that satisfy more in some aspects; but no small vendor will prove consistently good either."

As for pricing and licensing, no one's happy -- except for users of Talend's DQ software, which received the highest marks in this category (6.36 out of 7). That far out-paced runner-up DataMentors (with 5.89).

Among non-DQ, non-specialty vendors, only Talend (#1), DataFlux (#4), SAPBusiness Objects (#5), and Pitney Bowes (#6) finished with above-average scores.

"While most respondents gave their vendors good marks for value for money, the low scores in the pricing and licensing category probably mean that customers find the price points of data quality tools too high for current budget constraints," write Friedman and Bitterer.

"Those able to justify the investment are generally satisfied with the value derived, but this does not mitigate the concerns caused by high price points," they continue, adding that "some customers also find that the terms and conditions of vendor licenses, and the enforcement of them are too restrictive and sometimes not clear. This concern applies particularly to enterprises that want to use their data quality tools in new areas, in new hardware environments or with new deployment models, such as cloud services."

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