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The Business Processes of Enterprise Information Management

When I first started this blog, I called it “Processes of Master Data Governance”.  The point was to talk about the business processes related to creation and approval for master data elements such as new customers and products.  This is the most common application for BPM at SAP so far.

But I feel like I’m part of a start up company inside the 4th largest software company in the world.  Things are still developing quickly for BPM@SAP.  Sometime I forget that its still been less than a year that SAP NetWevaer BPM has been generally available to the market.  Even before I had finished this blog, I learned something new that made it incomplete.

EIM business processes include more than just MDM Governance

I just recently found out about a customer who is using BPM to manage business processes related to SAP BusinessObjects Data Services.  The high level scenario is data migration.  The business processes in BPM automatically match related data elements to ensure data quality, and simplify manual intervention for matching that cannot be automated.  We hope to broadcast this story by Sapphire.  I will probably be revealing it here on SDN first.

Managing enterprise information is nothing new to SAP customers – most spend quite a lot of energy trying to cleanse and perfect the data entry and maintenance in their systems.  

Process-oriented thinking is also not new to many SAP customers – at least those who have matured beyond application-centric thinking.  Many customers have invested in process modeling using SAP Enterprise Modeling by IDS Scheer and linking it with SAP Solution Manager to plan and implement their SAP configurations.  And, in the last year, many customers are now investing in SAP NetWeaver Business Process management in order to extend business processes outside of SAP Business Suite as well as compose automation to support their own processes.

The schism between data and business process

A funny thing , however, is that many companies treat data and business process as separate disciplines.  A report from Forrester “Warning: Don’t Assume Your Business Processes Use Master Data” by Rob Karel and Clay Richardson starts with the damning assertion:  “In most large enterprises today, business process and data management professionals tactfully ignore one another.”  Karel and Richardson also claim that data architects are too IT focused with little consideration for business adoption.  – I have to agree with them after sitting in a recent sales call where the data architects were asking about Web Dynpros with no consideration about the process by which their users would be utilizing their composite application – or concern about the user adoption of their governance application.

Integrating business into EIM through process-orientation

Over the last year, I’ve met some customers and partners that realize that managing enterprise information is really a series of business processes.

Take governance of master data for example.  It’s a series of dependent steps involving matching of existing data, or creation of new data and its approval that extends between multiple systems and departments.  It’s best if the business users who create and maintain master data are the same ones that have a vested interest in its quality.  For example, have sales reps and managers enter and approve customer contact information, and the finance department enter and approve customer financial and credit information.  In such a case, this data would bridge between CRM, ERP, and BW at a minimum – not including any other non SAP systems you might have.

Also, consider that master data maintenance itself is a sub-process that is part of a larger “mega” process.  For example, customer master data creation would be part of a lead to opportunity process, or product & materials master data as part of an idea to market process.

Observations of SAP customers regarding information & process

Here are some observations I would like to share based on what I’ve seen in the SAP customer base over the last year:

  • Many SAP customers manage master data management as a global, but manual process – master data creation is handled via forms through email – often leading to slow or lost requests
  • Some SAP customers manage master data in local teams – as a result suffering from a proliferation of disconnected systems
  • New implementations or consolidations of ERP are providing opportunities to roll out master data governance business processes
  • Utilizing a business process management approach is rapidly becoming the best practice for defining master data governance business processes

Suggested resources to get started

If this topic sounds like something you want might want to consider, here are some resources to get you started:

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