The challenge of master data management in an SAP S4HANA project



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In today's ever-changing technological landscape, companies are increasingly turning to integrated solutions such as SAP S4HANA to manage their business operations. SAP S4HANA is an advanced ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform that delivers real-time visibility and integrated management functionality to all levels of an organization. However, to take full advantage of this powerful solution, it's essential to understand and implement effective master data management.



This article, based on the combined viewpoints of two SAP S4Hana expert consultants from our FocusTribes community, explains what this data represents, and why it is of particular interest to companies to manage it effectively. Finally, it highlights the particular attention that needs to be paid to this data in all phases of an SAP S4Hana project, and outlines the best practices to follow to achieve optimal results.



Master data management refers to the creation, maintenance and updating of essential information on business entities, such as customers, suppliers, materials and business partners. This master data provides the necessary foundation for all business processes, and is used in various SAP S4HANA modules. Consequently, accurate and consistent master data management is essential to ensure reliable information and consistent operations.


"Master data is at the heart of the execution of all flows," explains Abdoul, Supply Chain Project Manager currently on assignment for FocusTribes. "The impact of poor master data management can be seen across all financial flows (causing supplier payment delays, for example), as well as physical flows (blocking deliveries)."


"The majority of S4Hana projects are IS convergence projects. Most of the time, the customer has a multitude of information systems with a multitude of companies, and the ultimate aim is to converge them into a single system", adds Abdoul. To achieve this, all master data must be clean, so that it can migrate smoothly into the new system, without incoherence, gaps or errors impacting the smooth running of the project.



Nelson, AMOA Finance Project Manager, has been a freelancer and community member for five years. He tells us about working with FocusTribes for a customer in the industrial sector, and discusses here the importance of master data management in running an SAP S4Hana project.






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My name is Nelson Gomes.
I have 25 years' experience in Finance and Information Systems. My first experience was as a management controller for around ten years. Then I really switched over to the Information Systems side, and more specifically to the SAP world.


Thanks to FocusTribes, I'm currently working on an SAP implementation for Imerys, a major French international industrial group.


At FocusTribes, I appreciate the opportunity to be independent and at the same time to be part of a community within an organization that promotes this working model, to be able to work with top-quality people, while being independent, with a collective spirit of sharing and also with great interpersonal skills.


In the early stages of an SAP project, the key success factors are to have a common management repository and common data.
Next, it is essential to have a team dedicated to master data and master data management in an SAP project.
Another important factor is to clean up past data during the implementation and migration phases, so that new data can be created in the new system, clean from the outset.




Proper master data management ensures that business entity information is correct, complete and up-to-date. This eliminates potential errors and ensures that business processes are based on accurate data. Accurate information contributes to more informed decision-making, smooth operations and solid business relationships with customers and suppliers.


SAP S4HANA is an integrated solution that links different functional modules such as finance, logistics and human resources management. For this integration to work seamlessly, it is essential that master data is managed consistently across modules. This avoids duplication and inconsistency of information, facilitating collaboration between different teams and departments.


Well-managed master data contributes to improved SAP S4HANA performance. When information is correct and well structured, processes run more smoothly and processing times are reduced. What's more, effective master data management facilitates data analysis, enabling companies to make faster, more informed decisions to stay competitive in the marketplace.




To guarantee data consistency, you need to start early! "Setting up a common repository in the upstream phase is a prerequisite for the success of the project as a whole! In my customer's Finance department, for example, we have a common chart of accounts and a common management repository", Nelson also explains.


"In the design phase," adds Nelson, "we have the modeling part in the tool. It's essential to understand the business model in order to choose the right basic data, i.e. the right technical objects. For example, in finance, you need to define how to use different objects such as cost centers, internal orders and work breakdown structures. Once this is in place, it's very structuring for the future and in the long term, and it's very difficult to change after the fact."
"What's more, in the context of a project like my customer's, where we have a Core Model, it has to be well thought out so that when we deploy it across all the entities, it can meet all the needs and so that it doesn't create too many disparities in relation to this Core Model."


As mentioned above, an S4Hana project involves the migration of a lot of data from systems with layers of many different systems from the past. This often results in duplicate customer or supplier data. The clean-up phase is therefore vital to ensure that the databases are clean and that errors are not carried over to the new system.


"After GO LIVE, maintaining master data is a subject in itself. The company lives, so we need to create new objects, new cost and profit centers, sometimes new business models. I therefore recommend that, ideally, a master data governance tool be put in place to ensure that clean data is always shared, and that the system remains an integrated one."
As Nelson testifies, establishing clear policies on the creation, modification and deletion of data, as well as processes for validating and verifying information, ensures the long-term viability of the tool. Data governance rules thus ensure data consistency, integrity and quality throughout the company's lifecycle.


Effective master data management also relies on early awareness-raising and user training. It is important to train users in data management best practices, data governance rules and established processes. This will help them understand the importance of master data and actively contribute to its proper management. Ongoing training is also essential to keep pace with SAP S/4HANA evolutions and upgrades.



Master data management is an essential element of a successful SAP S4HANA project. Accurate, consistent and well-managed master data ensures reliable information, promotes seamless integration and improves overall business performance. By implementing clear business processes from the outset, data quality controls, governance rules, and user training, organizations can maximize the benefits of SAP S4HANA and achieve their business objectives more effectively and efficiently. Proactive master data management is the key to a successful and sustainable transformation.



If you need to surround yourself with quality consultants and project managers who are experts in SAP S4Hana, to bring your projects to fruition, don't hesitate to contact us via the link below:


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To find out more :

- The crucial role of the Project Manager in ERP deployments

- How to choose the right freelance consultant ?