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Master data governance is often an afterthought of most ERP-driven business transformation initiatives. As a result, its design and execution is typically performed in a reactive manner leading into a slow but steady decline of master data quality and consistency that will eventually plague the core business processes. So how do we avoid this natural tendency?

The first step is to realize that master data governance is a discipline that requires several key components to be effective – process design, organizational model and architecture.

Process Design

  • First and foremost, data governance should be viewed as a collection of business processes, not just a technical activity performed by IT
  • Each data governance process workflow must be clearly defined and optimally designed based on the business requirements for managing master data
  • It is important to start with an architecture-agnostic view of the master data governance process and leverage open standards in the process design

Organizational Model

  • As with any collection of business processes, we should create a clear definition of roles and responsibilities
  • Due consideration should be placed upon segregation of duties, security and controls

Architecture

  • We should define and implement an architecture design that effectively realizes the business requirements defined for data governance

 

 

NOTE: For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the architecture. If interested, you can obtain a better overview of data governance process design and organizational model by reviewing a recent webinar that SAP and Deloitte co-delivered  – “Enabling effective data governance through Business Process Management” (the recording is available on http://webinars.sapinsideronline.com/). This webinar also includes a demonstration of the concepts that we will be covering in this post.

 

Realizing Master Data Governance Architecture

We’ve often observed a misguided pursuit of a single tool that provides all the functionality required for data governance. From our perspective, it is necessary to decompose data governance architecture into several layers including:

  • Orchestration layer to drive the workflow of data governance
  • Presentation layer to provide a simple user experience
  • Application layer where the data resides and where it is consumed by the business processes
  • Integration layer that facilitates the syndication and distribution of master data across your application landscape.

Please take note, that the realization of this framework will vary based on your business requirements. Let’s apply this framework for a global MDM environment with decentralized maintenance of master data across multiple SAP ERP systems with a complex data governance process requirement including syndication and distribution of data. The resulting architecture may include deploying NetWeaver BPM for the orchestration, Portals for the presentation, NetWeaver PI for the integration and the MDM and SAP ERP systems for the application layer.

 

Why we like NetWeaver BPM for Data Governance

1. It provides a very good orchestration capability

The following table summarizes our perspective on the value of NetWeaver BPM. First, the ability for collaborative process design where you have one platform for functional and technical design. This enables the usage of a rapid development methodology therefore reducing your total Design and Realization/Build cost. Next, the ability to support cross-system workflow driven by the process model.  This helps minimize the risk of translating the functional design incorrectly because the flow is based on industry standard Business Process Modeling Notation. The ability to integrate a rules engine to separate technical code from the business logic is another critical capability. This reduces your cost of ownership because you do not need to trigger a software logistics process for every change in business rule. And finally, integration with BW analytics. The ability to readily export the process information to perform business analytics is a very powerful feature.

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2. It simplifies the user experience

NetWeaver BPM can help improve user experience because we are able to invoke the specific user interface at the process step or activity level independent of the underlying application. As far as the user is concerned, he/she only needed to deal with the user interface independent of the underlying application environment. Basically, NetWeaver BPM allows you to separate the business logic and it reduces the opportunity for error due to the tight orchestration of human interaction and system-to-system integration.

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It is because of these two reasons that we recommend that any current and future discussions regarding Data Governance should include consideration of NetWeaver BPM for the Orchestration layer. Certainly, as briefly discussed earlier, data governance architecture must be driven in conjunction with process design and organizational model.

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8 Comments

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  1. Guillaume GARCIA
    Hi,

    Thanks for this useful comparison between workflow-related tools.
    One question though: I think you can leverage WS invokation through ABAP custom coding in SAP Business Workflow, can’t you? It seems as easy to do as integrating BRF Plus.
    Don’t you think?

    PS: Link to SDN library “Consuming Services in SOA Manager”
    http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/go/portal/prtroot/docs/library/uuid/b043ef4e-e8d1-2c10-7d88-8077b209ce55?QuickLink=index&overridelayout=true

    Best regards,
    Guillaume

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    1. Darwin Deano Post author
      Thanks Guillaume. Yes, that is a feasible option but we excluded custom coding from the comparison to avoid any confusion. More and more, the ABAP stack is expanding to embrace open standards but its primary purpose is still to support the business logic of the SAP business applications. One of the primary advantages of BPM is that you can separate the orchestration from the underlying business application and that is not easily done with SAP Business Workflow.
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      1. Ivan Mirisola
        Hi Darwin,

        I agree with Guillaume’s point of view.
        The comparison leads to misleading and untruthful information.
        For instance, Portal Based Front End is supported for Business Workflow trough UWL and ITS in a standard way – it might not be as neat as a Webdynpro UI or a VC UI, but is there and it is used widely by corporations. Also, Business Workflow allows the use of BI for KPI data extraction with standard cubes.

        You should consider re-evaluating this chart, either by correcting this information or by setting some notes like you did for BRF Plus.

        The chart seems to be focused only on the aspects of the good side of BPM. There seems to be a tendency to depreciate other technologies – specially on the ABAP side.

        Best regards,
        Ivan

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        1. Darwin Deano Post author
          Thanks for your feedback. The intent was certainly not to negatively portray any technology in favor of BPM. However, this BLOG is a “perspective” and the table is a “simplified view” to facilitate comparison.

          As you mentioned, the Portal-based front-end “might not be as neat” – in my view, the option you described is not necessarily an ideal solution.  However, that is just my perspective and I certainly respect your perspective.

          On a separate note, me and my team will investigate and assess the BW integration of business workflow through standard cubes and refine the chart accordingly.

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