Bringing Master Data Up to Speed

From customer and employee information, to product lists and supplier profiles, organizations depend on master data to carry out crucial tasks across many lines of business. The accuracy of this data, therefore, is paramount to a company’s efficiency, compliance, and its bottom line. But gaining a single view of master data is easier said than done.

Whenever a new system is integrated, like after a merger, master data must be added, matched up, and consolidated into the existing system. Even within one company, some data, such as customer information, is used by several lines of business. If there are even slight variations in the data – using Mike instead of Michael or Inc instead of Co – the system ends up with multiple, inconsistent versions of the same record. And it makes business process efficiency, reporting, and analytics impossible. On top of these challenges, cloud computing, big datasocial media, and other technology trends are presenting further obstacles.

Companies that deploy their business applications in the cloud face the same difficulties in cleansing and consolidating data as their on-premise peers, but they have the added complication of bridging their data to the on-premise world. The increase in big data and social media data, on the other hand, offers organizations the chance to create much richer customer profiles by linking up social media information with master data. However, if the business system contains duplicate customer records, companies won’t experience the benefits of integrating this additional data.

The answer to these problems is master data management (MDM). Based on a set of  policies for data creation, replication, aggregation, reconciliation, and consolidation, MDM technology enables businesses processes to adhere to rules, ensuring continuous data quality. For many leading organizations, this discipline forms the foundation for their information governance programs. SAP currently offers two ways for companies to manage their master data: the SAP Master Data Governance application and the SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management (SAP NetWeaver MDM) component.

Soon, companies will also have a third option for master data management. The planned innovation, project code name SAP Master Data Services, will support high velocity integration of master data for scenarios such as Customer Data Integration. SAP Master Data Services will be powered by SAP HANA, and will also embed SAP Data Services and Information Steward. The first release will focus on Customer Data Integration, allowing organizations to enrich their customer data across on-premise data as well as cloud-based data and social media data. It is planned for release in the second half of 2012.

On the following pages, we’ll give you an overview of the new offering and take a look at the innovations planned for SAP’s existing solutions for master data management.

Innovations in the existing MDM portfolio

The SAP Enterprise MDM portfolio supports centralized and decentralized (ad hoc) authoring of master data. In some cases, a company may want to centrally manage its master data, which means data is created through a change request and approval process. This kind of up-front governance of information prevents errors and duplications before they are entered into your production business applications, ensuring that master data is accurate and consistent across the organization right from the start. The SAP Master Data Governance application is intended for this type of master data management. It is the industry’s only packaged application that enables customers to establish a governance process before errors are introduced into their application stores. It has native integration with SAP Business Suite and provides pre-built content for customer, supplier, material, and financial master data domains. It also enables the creation of custom master data domains.

In other cases, a company may be better off using a decentralized, or ad hoc, approach. This means that data is created in different systems and then it is aggregated, reconciled, and consolidated to make sure that only one version of master data is in use. Companies would choose this approach after a merger, or to perform reporting on a global scale, among other scenarios. The SAP NetWeaver MDM component is intended for the decentralized ownership of master data.

The innovation strategy for the existing Enterprise MDM portfolio is twofold. First in terms of business value, SAP plans to keep building industry solutions and master data applications for lines of business, addressing the specific needs of business applications and analytics. Second in terms of technology, SAP plans to leverage SAP HANA as the data platform for SAP Enterprise MDM, providing support for all MDM domains and use cases on one platform. Furthermore, the portfolio is evolving in line with the broader trends of mobility, cloud, big data, and social. Project SAP Master Data Services is the first step in that direction. Thanks to SAP HANA, it will allow businesses to tackle big data velocity in large scale master data hubs.

Achieving data quality faster with SAP HANA

The first release of Project SAP Master Data Services will focus on real-time customer data integration (CDI). CDI is the process in which companies achieve and maintain a single, accurate, up-to-date profile of a customer across multiple channels, lines of business, and even organizations. Since customer data is often stored in many different application systems and it contains a huge amount of information (name, address, purchase history, service history, relationship, risk-level, privacy preferences, and more), CDI can be an extremely time-consuming process. And if a company is working with outdated information – let’s say a customer has changed their contact information and has purchased another product, but the profile doesn’t reflect it – the company’s reputation and its bottom line could suffer. That’s why real-time CDI is such an exciting addition to SAP’s Enterprise MDM portfolio.

Leveraging SAP HANA in-memory technology, the new offering will be able to scale to over one billion records in real time. This includes integration of data from all sources including social media and big data. SAP plans to make SAP Master Data Services available in the second half of 2012.