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Suffering From Poor Master Data Quality

Did you know that the most time consuming issue during Go Live support for any ERP implementation is about bad master data?

How many consultants I have seen hunting phantoms, because any user complaint about wrong running processes during the first days or weeks after an ERP production start. How often the error was raised by wrong master data settings only!

But what can we do pro-actively to prevent these kinds of failures?

There are some steps quite prerequisite to avoid bad master data after a Go Live. These were the most important ones, which I found in a lot of projects. Here they are:


  1. Data Cleansing long before you start your project. This is the task of the business departments, of course to be supported by their IT departments. It is not just about deleting double entries or deleting “dead clients”. It is furthermore to check and clean-up all kind of data elements, which are used for classification. This is often simply harmonization, e.g. over the years you have created a lot of different customer account groups for just one and only one real-life group. Thus you need just a sub-set of your account groups.
  2. Assign one or more master data owners, who are responsible (like process owners) for a certain type of master data, e.g. material master. I made quite good experience with master data owners coming from a business department rather than from the IT.
  3. Another key element to avoid problems after Go Live is comprehensive training, which is not only about explanation of each field, but much more process related: what entries are required to make an individual process running accurately.
  4. As a good tool for training and the specification of master data migration programs I can recommend the so-called Master Data Charter. This tool was created in a specific project, and a lot of our project managers applicate it in their SAP implementation projects.
  5. The specification of the master data migration programs themselves of course is another success factor. These specifications again are not just to be created by the IT experts of the legacy systems and the SAP consultants. The involvement of the business experts is a must. And the Master Data Charter again is an excellent tool.

And, finally share your experiences after Go Live! All subsequent SAP projects which you do in your company can significantly benefit by an accurate evaluation of the failures due to bad master data settings during Go Live (and afterwards).

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  • I like the idea of a master data charter however I guess the piece that I see as somewhat missing is the piece that speaks to the transformations, is that incorporated into the spreadsheet master document?
    • Clinton,
      if I understood you right, you were asking about the conversion rule of a specific master data field of the old system to the corresponding one in the SAP system? That is included, the most right column is called “conversion rule”.
      But you are right, this is not sufficient space in many cases. Then we use a specifiaction form, which is beyond the Excel sheet. The cell in the column “conversion rule” is just for simple rules.