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Author's profile photo Christopher Solomon

Who is the master of your master data?

(*originally published March 2004)
My timing could not have been better….rolled off one project and right on to a MDM project just in time to find the *new* Master Data Management (MDM) area here on SDN.

When I first got word that I would be joining this project, my thoughts were “MDM….oh yeh, that’s that master data thing SAP put out”. Past that…I knew very little about it (which is not saying much eh?). Like some of you, my initial reaction upon arriving on-site was “What is this MDM product?” because, hey, I am just the “portal guy” assigned to the project…

That’s where I had the luck (?) of having a very knowledgeable SAP Platinum consultant (with the patience and ability to communicate technical concepts coherently) on hand to explain it all. For me, I tend to do best to visualize the whole landscape and then understand how the system behaves and how the process(es) all work….not unlike many here, I am sure.

In talking through it, I was pleased to find that like many products from SAP, it (MDM) utilizes and re-uses many existing “technical components” in forming an overall product offering. Makes it very nice for us SAP tech-ies. For example, the good ol’ “Content Integrator” (CI) which I was slightly familiar with from EBP days gone by is even back again. For my role specifically on the project, the portal is used as the interface/presentation for MDM specific functionality. In there as well, you have workflow/webflow and XI (another nice one to get experience with on this project) as well. There is a bit more to the overall architecture, but I won’t go into each and every piece here (hey, I am long-winded enough already!)…..just know that if you are familiar with most of the NetWeaver stack, picking up on MDM will be quite simple to comprehend.

Now, the real *fun* for me came when we started talking through scenarios and the (tiny)light bulbs went on for me. First, we talked through the age-old example….Company “A” had “x” number of plants/offices around the country and each has a separate account(and vendor master) with Office Depot (or pick your own favorite office supply source). At some point the company runs reports of how much they spend with their vendors in order to better negotiate contracts and Office Depot appears “x” different times on “x” different reports because the system has not figured out nor been told that they are all the same. Sooooo the “early days” of ERP’s promised to solve a lot of this via integration. However, the process was still (up until now) largely manual….someone had to figure out that “hey, we have 15 different Office Depot vendor masters” or some process had to be put in place so that a single source would be responsible for taking requests for new/change of master data (customer, vendor, material,etc), would then manually “look it up” and then take the appropriate action. (but then there is always the case where “someone knows someone” that can add a vendor for them on the fly and get around the system, right? haha) Well,drum roll please…..enter MDM! It automates this process as well as provides 3 “levels” of distribution/management. Given the above example, MDM would easily identify the duplicate vendors and react appropriately. When good ol’ Company “a” runs their reports from BW to track their historical spending with Office Depot they will truly get the full picture. This REALLY hit home when my SAP pal gave me the story (I can not speak to how true this is, but it sure sounded good) that Shell recently did something similar and found out that they were the biggest distributor/seller of Coca-Cola products world wide….think of how many Shell gas stations sell Coca-Cola…get it? Wow! Think of how powerful that alone is… think of it when working smoothly with SAP Enterprise and Global APO ! =)

Anyways, just wanted to share…as I said….my first thoughts/experiences with MDM. I am *really* looking forward to getting underway with this project….quite a departure for me with my typical EP work. I hope this helps others and gets you excited about MDM as well.

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