DataFlux Accelerates Customer Data Integration

In addition to its best-of-breed data quality platform, DataFlux has the makings of a formidable customer data integration platform, too.

Since its acquisition nearly six years ago by SAS Institute Inc., DataFlux has soldiered on—simultaneously plying its trade as a best-of-breed data quality provider and, over time, exposing more and more of its data quality features and services to SAS’ burgeoning BI stack, too.

It’s an arrangement that’s worked out well for DataFlux, which seems to have retained more than just a patina of its independence. In fact, independence—or quasi-autonomy—is one thing that both DataFlux and SAS seem to agree about (http://www.esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=7919M).

“SAS works more on centralizing information for a data warehouse for decision support, so I would assume at some point there will be some bleed over, but we mostly see it as sort of two markets,” said DataFlux director of corporate communications Daniel Teachey, in an interview last year.

Teachey emphasized DataFlux’ semi-autonomousness, stressing that his company—SAS subsidiary or no—partners with (or is open to partnering with) a range of different vendors. To the extent that there’s “bleed over” between the two divisions, Teachey said, it’s as much a case of mutual back-scratching as of SAS incorporating some form of DataFlux’ data quality expertise.

“We’ve been doing this for about ten years now. We’re best of breed, so there’s that build up of knowledge over time that informs our knowledge base. We also have SAS, and they have more extensive knowledge in a solutions delivery area; they have been key in validating what we’ve done or helping us in areas where DataFlux didn’t necessarily have the expertise,” he said.

Recently, DataFlux again flexed its best-of-breed muscles, fleshing out its still-gestating line of data quality accelerators—i.e., pre-built workflows, templates and best practices—with a new Customer Data Analysis (CDA) accelerator.

This offering builds on DataFlux’ inaugural CDI offering—which it released early last year (http://esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=7861)—as well as its revamped Data Quality Integration Platform (DQIP), which it announced only last November. The upshot, analysts say, is that in addition to its best-of-breed DQIP platform, DataFlux is slowly cobbling together a formidable customer data integration (CDI) stack, too.

At the same time, DataFlux’ CDI offering is still very much a work-in-progress. Its CDA accelerator will ship sometime this month, but several other accelerators—including offerings designed to address product data quality and watch-list compliance requirements—aren’t slated to debut until later this year. Once they do, DataFlux could have more than a little to crow about.

The Accelerator Value-Add

DataFlux officials say the company’s newest DQ Accelerator can provide organizations with rapid insight into their customer data assets.

“Before you can begin any broad-based program with your customer data, it is critical to understand the areas of strength and weakness within your data,” said DataFlux president and CEO Tony Fisher, in a statement. “The DataFlux Accelerator for Customer Data Analysis provides an intuitive, business-focused dashboard for analyzing valuable customer data assets.”

The CDA assesses pre-defined criteria (such as data completeness, consistency and structure) to help give organizations a baseline assessment of the “health” of their customer information, DataFlux officials say. It’s tweaked for hands-on use by business users and addresses a variety of scenarios—including the comparing and contrasting of disparate data sets and the setting of thresholds of acceptability and/or the weighting of importance for different data fields.

One key Analyst says he likes where DataFlux is going with its line of Accelerators. “The accelerators will speed implementation of DataFlux-based projects, help the vendor gain adoption among business-analyst data stewards in customer organizations, and allow [DataFlux] to address new opportunities in DQ, MDM, compliance, and other markets,” writes James Kobielus, a principal analyst for data management with consultancy Current Analysis Inc. In addition, Kobielus points out, once DataFlux delivers a planned version 2.0 update for its DataFlux Solution for CDI—expected this August—that product will incorporate features initially delivered last November in DQIP.

“DataFlux has productized its considerable expertise and experience in the DQ and CDI markets by packaging field-proven data-profiling services, metrics, roles and workflows in its new accelerator,” he argues. “In the process, it has provided customers and channel partners with a platform for tailoring customer-data profiling and governance workflows to the specific needs of each organization.”

Kobielus doesn’t anticipate completely smooth sailing for DataFlux, however. “DataFlux’s full set of CDI/DQ accelerators will not be generally available until the middle of this year, and customers will have to wait even longer to acquire the equivalent DQ accelerators for PIM and watchlist compliance,” he points out. “Also, it has not yet integrated its new DQIP v8 features into the forthcoming DataFlux Accelerator for Customer Data Analysis.” Ditto for DataFlux’ plans to develop verticalized MDM accelerators for various industries, Kobielus notes: the company still hasn’t published a concrete timeline for rolling out these solutions.

And while DataFlux’ putative autonomy is certainly an advantage, it shouldn’t be afraid to tout its ties to parent company SAS, either. “DataFlux should integrate its DQ accelerators, MDM offerings, and DQIP platform more completely into its parent’s metadata, BI, [corporate performance management] and [data integration] environments. Considering that many DQ rivals—including IBM, Informatica, Business Objects, and Pitney Bowes Group 1—are stressing their same-vendor platform integration, DataFlux should not be afraid to play the SAS card to its advantage,” Kobielus comments.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.