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Data Construction 101: Key Recommendations for an SAP ERP HCM Rollout

by Brian Regan | insiderPROFILES

January 1, 2013

When tackling a large-scale implementation, such as rolling out SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM), it is important to consider potential challenges before you approach the beginning phases of the project. Learn one key challenge that is present in every human resources project, and why “data construction” can solve this issue.

When starting to plan a large-scale implementation, it is easy for project teams to get ahead of themselves. The end goals are always in mind, and excitement can brew over the functionalities and efficiencies the new software will bring. However, in order for these new features to function properly, it is imperative that the project team take the necessary steps before the implementation begins to ensure a smooth go-live and optimally working solutions.

Implementing SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) is no exception, and in fact, with so much employee information, it is even more important to consider potential challenges before your team approaches the beginning phases of the project.

Back to the Basics: Organizational Management

One key challenge that is present in every human resources (HR) project involves gathering and maintaining employee data through a process called “organizational management” (OM). SAP ERP HCM has OM functionality that defines the enterprise reporting hierarchy, where each job position is described with key attributes, such as the type of employee and the manner in which costs should be distributed. The OM functionality provides HR systems with a persistent backbone that endures across individual employee movements since HR data at the employee-level is very transient — people are continually being hired or transferred. By contrast, the organizational structure tends to be administered in a controlled manner. Positions are usually authorized centrally, and reorganizations are administered with HR input. For this reason, the OM functionality in SAP ERP HCM supports several important functions, including authorizations, workflows, and manager self-service capabilities.

Your legacy database probably has less of an organizational structure than you would think. Moreover, very few businesses have this information ready at the outset of an SAP ERP HCM implementation, and most legacy systems do not exactly correlate to the SAP organizational structure. Even when the structures are similar, it is almost always necessary to augment and validate the system. For example, it is common for legacy systems to contain supervisory relationships (for instance, John reports to Mary), but it is much less common to find position control or an organizational hierarchy. Usually, the project team will begin with a collection of Visio diagrams from various departments and somewhere between 20%–80% of the required information from the legacy system. The remainder will need to be “constructed.”

Filling in the Blanks: Data Construction

“Data construction” is the project activity where the team gathers information that is needed for the SAP implementation, but is not available for migration. In almost every SAP implementation, the new system will need more master data than existed previously, usually because SAP software will support more functions than the old applications. It is important to start the data collection at the beginning of the implementation phase so major test cycles can be performed several months before go-live. With each test cycle, the migration team will begin by getting the most current organizational structure and loading it into SAP ERP HCM. Then the system will load all active employees into this structure.

If the OM data is not ready early enough, the project team will not be able to test crucial aspects of the SAP system. Therefore, it is essential to start this collection early, and to do so in a manner that will support multiple iterations of end-to-end data loads. This is best achieved by following seven key recommendations for data construction:

  1. Designate a central repository that will be the temporary store for all constructed data
  2. Extract as many “pieces and parts” from the legacy system as possible to pre-populate the repository
  3. Create a periodic refresh process to import updated data from the legacy system
  4. Establish and communicate data standards with validations
  5. Ensure data owners edit the data directly in the repository
  6. Start the process three to six months before the first end-to-end test
  7. Create reports to ensure fact-based progress tracking

While performing the key recommendations, it is also important to keep in mind the common missteps that can erail an implementation project:

  • Do not use spreadsheets to construct data
  • Do not construct data directly in the new production system
  • Do not build a lot of file-based imports and exports in our repository

In this architecture, the end-to-end process is supported by a temporary central online system. All users interact with this system directly as opposed to with intermediate files or spreadsheets that can introduce challenges because multiple versions must be managed, formats are sometimes changed, data must be revalidated, and everything has to be imported correctly with every trial load. Staying on top of so many files and spreadsheets consumes an excessive amount of esources and introduces risks. If all users edit the structure in the one, central repository, the data is always in a onsistent format and no additional imports are required.

Show and Tell: Business Validation

As the data construction progresses during your project, we recommend that you periodically validate the data with the senior business owners from the responsible departments. Even in a well-organized process, it is possible for data owners to input records with factually inaccurate or out-of-date information. These mistakes can have far-reaching consequences because SAP EPR HCM is designed to use the rganizational structure whenever possible. For example, workflows will route approvals up the reporting chain, security will restrict visibility to subordinates, and compensation planning will manage budgets and incentives by department.

In each case, if the organizational structure is accurate, there is a lot of great functionality that will work seamlessly. If it is inaccurate, the users will experience disruptions that are hard to understand. For this reason, it is best to organize the validation with the responsible division chiefs before o-live. The best approach is to perform an end-to-end trial load into a test SAP environment to demonstrate the data.

Enlist an Experienced Study Buddy

To prepare for data construction of the organizational structure, it is best to begin early and to establish centralized tools to support the collection, rather than using disparate spreadsheets and approaches. (See the example below) ultimately, the organizational structure will have a widespread impact across SAP ERP HCM, so it is essential to confirm its validity with the users who will be affected.

An example of an optimal data construction process
  An example of an optimal data construction process

To learn more about how BackOffice Associates can assist your company in preparing your data for an SAP ERP HCM implementation, please contact us at or visit us at

Brian Regan has been with BackOffice Associates for the past five years, specializing in HR data migration projects. Prior to joining BackOffice, Brian specialized in SAP program management and data architecture.

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