Companies that run their business on heterogeneous IT landscapes are more the rule than the exception. Accordingly, these organizations need a pervasive master data management strategy to avoid the rampant spread of inconsistent and redundant data across their systems. Relying on spreadsheets to manually track and organize data throughout the system landscape is no longer a sufficient master data strategy; it’s just too cumbersome, too time-consuming, and too error-prone.
To effectively tackle inconsistent and redundant master data, organizations typically pursue one of two master data management approaches:
- With a decentralized approach, the original data ownership lies in the local systems. A master data management instance then serves as a central hub for subsequent consolidation and harmonization of globally relevant master data information.
- By contrast, with a centralized approach, globally relevant data is cleansed and housed in a central repository and then dispersed to local systems. The goal is to avoid misaligned, erroneous data at the point of creation.
SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management (SAP NetWeaver MDM) can play a leading role in both approaches.1 Yet, only when an organization adopts a centralized approach can it ensure upfront that enterprise data complies with company standards and legal obligations.
What’s more, organizations can gain even greater process flexibility by combining SAP NetWeaver MDM with SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management (SAP NetWeaver BPM). By adding SAP NetWeaver BPM to the mix, a business has an ideal environment for nimbly and continuously adapting its processes — all while ensuring that those processes are relying on consistent, high-quality master data. Using these tools in tandem, you can ensure your data’s quality before it is distributed throughout your company’s various systems.
In this article, we’ll pick apart a sample business process — master data creation — from its modeling and definition of the business logic to its execution and quality enhancement. By way of this example, we’ll demonstrate how the native capabilities of SAP NetWeaver MDM and the modeling capabilities of SAP NetWeaver BPM combine to provide the ideal environment for managing your master data.
A Sample Scenario: The Master Data Creation Process
To explore the benefits of a centralized master data management approach, let’s consider a sample process: master data creation. Figure 1 depicts the process that one company uses to create master data centrally. The process comprises four steps: request, check, approve, and create. Let’s walk through these steps in more detail.
||Four steps of a sample master data creation workflow
Consider that a sales manager is speaking with a buyer who would like to place a large custom order. To get started with the order, the sales manager (the line-of-business owner) first checks to see if the customer’s record already exists within his customer relationship management (CRM) system. If the record doesn’t exist, the sales manager requests the creation of a new record using a specific request form. The sales manager can now check the data entered in the request form against SAP NetWeaver MDM to find out whether the customer’s record already exists in the central SAP NetWeaver MDM registry. If the record doesn’t already exist in the central registry, the sales manager dispatches the request. Next, the request appears in the inbox of a designated local data steward who enriches the customer record with missing information and runs specific validations. Then, the enriched data is automatically forwarded to the head data steward, who reviews the enriched data and gives final approval, which triggers the record’s actual creation in SAP NetWeaver MDM.
At this point, the high-quality record is available in the central SAP NetWeaver MDM system, and it is also distributed to the local systems — back to the CRM system, for example — that are connected to SAP NetWeaver MDM. The sales manager who initially made the request is notified of the available data; he can now use it to place a new sales order.
Process Implementation: From Modeling to Execution
With a firm grasp of how the master data creation process should ideally flow, how can our sample company now go about implementing and executing it? Armed with an understanding of the supporting technical architecture behind this process (see sidebar), let’s dive deeper.
Modeling the Process Using SAP NetWeaver BPM
The starting point for implementing the new master data creation process is modeling it. Knowing the process’s necessary steps, a business process expert can create a model using the Process Composer, the design-time environment of SAP NetWeaver BPM.2 Integrated into SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio as a separate perspective, the Process Composer provides business process modeling notation (BPMN) capabilities.
Figure 2 shows the completed, modeled process, consisting of three roles — requestor, data steward A, and data steward B — represented by three swim lanes within the modeling “pool.” The first role is the requestor — the sales manager, in our example — who requests a new customer record. The second and third role is the data steward who is responsible for both the enrichment and the approval of the new record. (To simplify the example, we’ll have one data steward represent both A and B.) The intersection of SAP NetWeaver BPM and SAP NetWeaver BRM is relevant here: Based on company standards, a business rule is created within SAP NetWeaver BRM and integrated into SAP NetWeaver BPM to help determine whether data steward A or data steward B is responsible for the enrichment and approval tasks.
The process itself consists of a flow of steps, including human and automated activities. A human activity represents a direct user interaction, and an automated activity represents a service interface or call.
A modeled master data creation process
Defining the Process’s Business Logic Using SAP NetWeaver MDM
Now that we have a modeled process, the next step is to make it executable by defining the business logic. To do so, we first need to create and integrate Web Dynpro UIs, and also create and assign services.
Developers use Web Dynpro, which usually requires sophisticated programming skills, to create complex UIs for business applications. However, we can use the new SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro Configurator to ease the creation of the UIs for our master data creation process — a UI designer can configure SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro components with this tool without coding and thus without relying on IT.
The Web-based SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro Configurator can be accessed via a browser (see Figure 3). This application supports the following types of UI components:
- Search: This component enables a search for master data records in an SAP NetWeaver MDM repository.
- Result Set: This component displays master data records that match predetermined search settings.
- Item Details: This component is used to manage, modify, and maintain a master data record.
||A view of the SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro Configurator, showing a project and its associated UI components
The following three steps explain how to create the Web-based data governance UIs and integrate them into the process:
- Within SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro Configurator, create a project containing the connection data to your SAP NetWeaver MDM server. The project also acts as a container for the configured UI components (refer again to Figure 3).
- Configure the SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro components with the necessary fields, actions, and buttons — for example, the “Validate,” “Save,” and “Edit” buttons.
- Plug the ready-made SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro components into the process. The Item Details component can even be directly consumed by the BPM process. To integrate the components into the process, you only have to specify the project and component name in the corresponding human activity process step (see Figure 4).
||Assigning an SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro component to a human activity within a process using SAP NetWeaver BPM
To complete the step of defining the business logic, we also need to create and assign Web services. SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Services Generator can create MDM schema-specific Web services to create, read, update, and delete (CRUD) master data records. A developer can assign these services to automated activity process steps within SAP NetWeaver BPM.
Now that we’ve modeled the process flow and defined the business logic by integrating UIs and Web services, we can deploy and execute the process.
SAP NetWeaver MDM Web Dynpro Configurator is available with the release of SAP NetWeaver MDM 7.1, support package 4.
Process Execution: Validating and Enhancing Your Master Data
With the process now deployed and ready, we can go ahead and run it. In our example, the sales manager requests the information, and the data steward then processes the request (see Figure 5) and checks and enriches the record to ensure its quality and correctness before it is dispersed to local systems.
||The local data steward processes the request and can view the validated data cleansed by SAP BusinessObjects Data Services
The Data Quality component of SAP BusinessObjects Data Services is integral to guaranteeing the utmost quality of the new master data records we create.3 Specifically, a developer or development consultant can create an SAP BusinessObjects Data Services job that processes the address data of a new customer through the global address cleanse engine provided by the Data Quality component. This address cleanse job can be exposed as a Web service on the services layer and seamlessly integrated in our process — it can be consumed by a UI or an automated activity.
As a result of the integration into the process, when a data steward runs the address cleanse to check the data, he can view the validated information in a pop-up screen (see the right side of Figure 5).
To ensure the continuous use of accurate data across the business, a designated data steward should be responsible for monitoring the quality of your organization’s data (see sidebar). This way, you’ll know that the business processes running throughout your organization are leveraging top-quality, accurate, and cleansed data.
We’ve now come full circle. Through this sample master data creation process, we have explored how to model a process and define its business logic using SAP NetWeaver BPM and SAP NetWeaver MDM. We have also seen how you can maintain the quality of your master data with SAP BusinessObjects Data Services.
Companies that embrace a centralized approach to MDM can rely on a data governance model to eliminate master data redundancy from the point of the data's creation.
Companies heading for a centralized approach to master data management can use a flexible process infrastructure from SAP. Preventing duplicate and inconsistent master data at the point of creation affords significant benefits. Flawless end-to-end business transactions and reliable enterprise analyses can far outweigh the initial change management challenges that might accompany such a strategy shift.
By making both SAP NetWeaver MDM and SAP NetWeaver BPM central pillars of your overarching data management strategy, you can benefit from a flexible environment that allows you to adapt your processes as the business changes — and truly put business users in the driver’s seat. Combining process modeling, data integrity, and data quality capabilities in a flexible, end-to-end governance environment can be an ideal solution for agile companies that run their business on diversified landscapes.
To view a demo of a sample data creation process, visit www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/elearn?rid=/library/uuid/5027e2ef-ddf6-2c10-da89-f6eef81044f6.
Matthias Kretschmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a solution manager within the enterprise information management group at SAP AG. In his role, Matthias focuses on master data management. He has a strong background in Java and ABAP programming, composition environment, mobile infrastructure, and process integration.
Markus Ganser (email@example.com) is a solution manager focusing on master data management within the enterprise information management group at SAP AG. He is also an experienced technical writer with additional expertise in ERP topics such as enterprise asset management and quality management.
1 For a comprehensive overview of SAP NetWeaver MDM, see “Misaligned Master Data Is a Compromised Corporate Asset” by Markus Ganser in the July-September 2007 issue of SAPinsider. [back]
2 For more details about SAP NetWeaver BPM, see “Gain Control of Your Critical Business Processes” by Donka Dimitrova and Ralf Schaub in the January-March 2009 issue of SAPinsider. [back]
3 For a detailed example of using SAP BusinessObjects Data Services to cleanse and enrich data, see “Base Your Business Decisions on Cleaner, Smarter, and More Meaningful Data” by Heiko Schneider in the January-March 2010 issue of SAPinsider. [back]
4 With dynamic, customizable Xcelsius 2008 data visualization software, users with different skill levels can create insightful and engaging dashboards from any data source with point-and-click ease. [back]