ERP Master Data in a Post Go Live World

The fact that master data needs to be maintained and added to after ERP go-live should not come as a surprise to anyone associated with an ERP implementation. Thinking through who does the actual work, and what controls and procedures they should follow with ERP master data, however, is not something that most organizations have experience with, or address in advance, and it often ends up developing through trial-and-error.

The first decision you need to make about ERP master data is where corporate-wide data should reside. For example, if one computer company supplied all of the corporate laptops, you would want only one vendor information record for them, not many. Likewise, no matter how many different divisions of the company sell products to the same customer, you only want only one customer record. This is to control both the business agreement rules with the customers and vendors, and as a cross-check means of preventing fraud. After ERP is implemented, centralization of this type of function is often new, and invites the question as to where it belongs, who should supervise the activity, and what the service expectations are.

The second ERP master data decision you need to make is who will maintain business- specific or plant-specific data, and whether they will do so on a corporate level, a plant level, or some level in between. If it is maintained at an “in-between” level, is the function responsible for global data maintenance or only data from that country? Who in the organization is responsible for data consistency and service expectations?

Ownership

A third decision is whether all master data is going to be owned, in total, by a person or team, or rather, if different functional areas will own a segment of each master data record. As a general rule of thumb, the service level (how long it takes to load a new record or fix an existing record) is exponentially better when a small team owns the entire record, but that concentration of knowledge carries the increased risk of turmoil in the case of turnover or illness.

Another decision is who has responsibility for the calculations behind a new record. Clearly, there is an administrative task of entering a new product cost or a new bill of materials into ERP, but who has been designated to determine what the correct figures to enter should be? Does bill of material accuracy belong to finance, supply chain, engineering, or manufacturing? Or someone else entirely?

After several months of evaluating these types of questions – and there are more – you will reach the conclusion that master data is actually a strategic issue. You’ve never had data in a single format, in a single place, and without corporate governance, every functional area and every geographical region will feel empowered to define data fields as they see fit, just as they did with their local legacy systems. Taking firm control of ERP master data governance is a necessary step in retaining the “Enterprise” portion of ERP.

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Phil Marshall

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Phil Marshall