Global numbers for master data – Is it time to accept it as a best practice?
Every organization is now muddled with multi system ERP landscape. No matter how many IT consolidation projects are undertaken, after a few years it is back to square one. The dynamic business environment always allows evolution of niche IT solutions while the big brothers SAP & Oracle can keep gobbling them and enhance their portfolio but still within their portfolio of applications, the niche solution tend to maintain their uniqueness and all SAP & Oracle will do is to create a bolt on to their core product that will make the integration simplified.
The biggest pain area due to the multiplicity of IT or ERP systems is master data numbers being different in different systems. To make transactions pass through such multiple systems, interfaces will have all sorts of logic built-in to ensure the different master data numbers are somehow logically matched so that in all the systems same material/vendor/customer or any common master data is being transaction upon. But this turns out to be the weak link that breaks regularly.
Best practice on numbers for master data is never to build logic or intelligence in the numbering systems. Put it differently make it non-speaking so it will not identify itself to you. But this is the rule that is always broken in the environment I have painted above as the end users want the master data numbers to be intelligent and identify itself. Also in an environment where-in you have multiple applications or ERP systems, achieving common numbering systems means it has to be external numbering system. Sometimes this is called “Global Number”.
Let us take for discussion the concept of “Global Material Number”. By default this number will be externally defined which means some sort of logical process have to be defined. I would say it need not be very intelligent numbering system, but a simple program that can generate sequential numbers with say one character prefix or a suffix. There is no need to even list down the advantages of having a common number like “Global Material Number” across the IT or ERP systems as the benefits far outweigh the shortcomings of such a system.
Hence I strongly feel that having Global numbers that are externally defined in a multi IT or ERP system landscape should be considered a best practice too.
Any thoughts or counter views to my conclusion?