Tackle SAP master data templates in phases for better SAP ERP success

Focusing on SAP master data templates twice before go-live can improve a project's chance of success, writes Jawad Akhtar.

What's the best time to incorporate SAP master data templates?

At the end of an SAP ERP implementation project, teams often share lessons learned of what they could do better the next time around. These might include a greater focus on change management or better integration between SAP ERP modules. Master data management, and the role it plays in an implementation project's future success, is one area that is often overlooked when it comes to ERP implementations. That's a mistake. Overlooking master data during project planning and implementation can lead to problems down the road. Taking advantage of SAP master data templates is an important part of developing that master data management strategy.

Master data templates are Excel files that business process owners fill out; they are then uploaded into the SAP ERP system to ensure greater master data consistency throughout the ERP system, rather than adding master data terms in an ad-hoc fashion, which leads to inconsistencies and errors. The templates also include instructions and guidelines on how to complete the templates themselves.

Filling in correct and comprehensive master data in these templates is a massive exercise. It involves cleansing data, or filling in missing data that is required in SAP ERP, such as payment terms for customers, planned delivery times of vendors or reordering procurement level of a material. Regardless of the fact that a project is a new SAP ERP implementation (including a greenfield project) or an upgrade, process owners have to go through the rigorous process of filling in master data templates for their eventual availability in SAP ERP system. SAP implementation consultants can conduct master data templates workshops, but these are typically held at later stages of the SAP ERP implementation. This leaves insufficient time for process owners to fill up the master data templates completely and correctly. In their rush to submit the master data templates to meet project's stringent deadlines, process owners often either submit incomplete or incorrect information. This leads to chaos immediately after the SAP ERP go-live, resulting in the business having to slow or even halt business functions. The problems caused by incomplete or incorrect master data may range from delays in processing a customer's new sales order to communication of an incorrect delivery date to customers, due to.

To ensure the business process owners have enough time to complete the templates, templates should be completed instead in two different phases of the project. The first phase is during the very initial stage of SAP ERP implementation, known as the project preparation phase. Addressing master data templates early, during project preparation, gives business process owners enough time to extract, cleanse and consolidate data from their existing or legacy system, and enter that data into the templates. A second, follow-up, round at the end of business blueprint phase focuses on objects such as company code, plant, sales organization or sales offices, which may not previously have been finalized.

Focusing on master data templates twice during the SAP ERP implementation ensures much more focused and dedicated efforts are put in place and that only the clean, consolidated and comprehensive master data is eventually available in SAP ERP system.

About the author:
Jawad Akhtar is the author of the SAP PRESS book Production Planning and Control with SAP ERP. He is the head of SAP delivery in AbacusConsulting, where he focuses on logistics and SCM issues.

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