Consolidation, Harmonization, and Central Management

March 7, 2007 by SAP News

Knowledge is power. Today, this saying is more valid than ever in the business world. In many large corporate groups – and increasingly in midsize companies – awareness is growing that corporate information in the form of master data is a crucial corporate asset with an enormous potential for cost savings.
In companies with heterogeneous IT structures, quality gaps and error-prone business processes have long been an exasperating issue. Mergers and acquisitions only complicate the problem. Process quality in a corporate context ultimately depends directly on the quality of master data. Data consistency must be guaranteed throughout all areas of a company, and companies need a targeted master data strategy to do so.

Point solutions are insufficient

Because master data is used in so many ways, point solutions are insufficient to counter redundant data storage in heterogeneous system landscapes. Although extract, transform, and load (ETL) or product information management (PIM) solutions do deal with master data, they are not comprehensive enough to include consolidation, harmonization, and central management. Instead, they simply focus on special considerations.
Companies need a comprehensive view of master data. The SAP NetWeaver platform addresses this requirement with the SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management (SAP NetWeaver MDM) component. SAP NetWeaver MDM can process different types of master data objects, including business partner, employee, or product data. SAP NetWeaver MDM also delivers predefined business content so it can also model customer-specific master data objects.

Comprehensive master data management

SAP NetWeaver MDM supports various methods of master data storage, as well as the consolidation, harmonization, and central management of master data. The component also supports specialized business applications, such as those for comprehensive product content management, integration of customer data, and global data synchronization.

  • Master Data Consolidation

Master data consolidation centrally combines master data from various systems, recognizes and cleanses identical objects, and manages the local object key for cross-system communication. After consolidation, the master data is available for company-wide analysis.

  • Master Data Harmonization

As a supplement to master data consolidation, master data harmonization enables the transfer of consolidated data to connected client systems over a distribution framework and throughout a company. This approach guarantees a uniformly high level of quality over the long term in heterogeneous systems.

  • Central Master Data Management

Harmonization of master data guarantees that that every branch office of a company is supplied with the same information and maintains the quality of the data, but master data management focuses on central data maintenance. Ongoing data cleansing and enrichment processes and the distribution of centrally created data to connected applications are important elements of central master data management.

  • Comprehensive Product Content Management

The component offers comprehensive product content management that is designed especially for the PIM market. SAP NetWeaver MDM offers multiple functions for central management of product data (along with the related graphics files) and for publication-ready formatting of product catalogs – whether they are on the Web or in print.

  • Customer Data Integration

With customer data integration, SAP NetWeaver MDM harmonizes customer data throughout heterogeneous systems.

  • Global Data Synchronization

Global data synchronization synchronizes unified object information in a standard industrial format with data pools, such as UCCnet and Transora, and makes it available to business partners.

Tailored to various industries

All industries wrestle with the problem of master data, and they often have similar needs. A good example is the consolidation of product and vendor data in wholesale and retail that also applies to the consumer goods industry. In the healthcare industry, the harmonization of patient data among hospitals, insurance companies, and physicians’ offices is important. For public agencies, it’s important to manage data on residents across various administrative agencies and instances. The automobile industry needs the consolidation and structuring of product data according to standard classifications.
In addition to its support for these scenarios, you can flexibly customize SAP NetWeaver to meet special industry requirements.

Data consolidation in detail

Actual data consolidation (the ability to recognize and eliminate duplicates and to define a quality standard for individual data records) is the basic precondition for comprehensive master data management. Since August 2006, SAP NetWeaver MDM also offers an option to define matching rules and bundle them into matching strategies. The option can use matching scores to find, and, if necessary, merge most identical object records within a master data repository. This approach systematically discovers similar objects and groups them according to the probability that they actually are duplicates. Particularly in groups with a high probability of hits, the master data records can be compared interactively and merged if necessary.
Open data enrichment architecture can seamlessly integrate quality-optimized services for data enrichment from third-party providers. A certified Trillium connection to enrich and validate address data is one example.

Flexible architecture

SAP NetWeaver MDM is very flexible in terms of its architecture and its concrete use. The component can be used on a stand-alone basis or networked with additional SAP NetWeaver components, such as SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure, SAP NetWeaver Portal, and SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) enable SAP NetWeaver MDM to grant other systems access to the data and functions of master data management. SAP NetWeaver includes SAP Composite Application Framework, which can use guided procedures to create enhanced functions.
In the future, IT landscapes will continue to move toward service-oriented architecture (SOA). Business processes can work successfully only when they refer to consistent data. Data standardization and the related harmonization of master data are therefore also a precondition for the introduction of SOA.

Dr. Stefan Klose

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