SAP – Master Data Governance

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SAP have had several attempts at master data management (MDM) software over the years, and have moved from in-house development through to acquisition and then back to in-house code over several software generations. The current product is called SAP Master Data Governance, and has the kind of features that you would expect of a master data platform, with support for data deduplication, workflow, building of data quality rules and the ability to enforce these rules at source within an SAP system. The product can also be applied to non-SAP data, though obviously without the tight linkage that they are able to build with their own SAP core data.

Unlike some competitors, SAP MDG was built from the ground up to be multi-domain, so is equally happy dealing with customer and product data as well as other domains such as material or supplier or legal entity. Having good quality master data supports digitization initiatives and integration projects e.g. from on-premise to cloud. SAP provide various pre-built data models for assorted industries and data domains, some of these provided in collaboration with their large partner network. For example, their materials model provides 500 data attributes, giving a quick start to implementations in that area.

SAP MDG can be deployed both on=premise or in the cloud, or in a hybrid approach. It has one unusual feature, the ability to be deployed in a federation. You can have a core SAP MDG hub as well as multiple separate linked local hubs, for example one per geographic region. Master data can be pulsed out from the central hub to the distributed ones e.g. a new version of a business hierarchy. Once the ownership rules have been defined it is also possible for this to work the other way, so a particular region could come up with a new proposed set of master data (maybe a new product hierarchy) and send this back to the central hub for the data owner to approve. If appropriate, this new master data structure can be promoted to the corporate level and distributed to others. This federation feature is powerful but hard to implement, which is presumably why virtually none of SAP’s competitors have taken this approach.  Yet for any multi-national company with a decentralised structure, a federated approach will often make more sense than a monolithic centralised, “one size fits all” master data approach. This is something that I have considerable personal experience of, and it has been frustrating over the years to see the MDM software community largely ducking this important piece of functionality. In my view, having this capability gives SAP a significant competitive advantage in those use cases for which a federated approach makes sense.