ERP Success: Data Cleansing

Ask any veteran of an ERP implementation to cite critical success factors, and you will always hear “data cleansing” near the top of the list. Then ask those same veterans to identify the top two or three tasks that they most underestimated, in terms of scope and complexity, and see if “data cleansing” does not also make that list as well. Let’s talk about why data cleansing is important to ERP success, and some tips to improve your approach.

Data cleansing is a huge factor in ERP success because it is leveraged in every phase of the operation. An ERP implementation will be exactly as successful as its testing execution, and the only limitation on testing execution is master data completeness and accuracy. An ERP implementation will be exactly as successful as its training program, and effective ERP training requires master data completeness and accuracy. An ERP implementation will be exactly as successful as its synchronization of business data at go-live, and that synchronization requires master data completeness and accuracy. Every success that occurs has complete and accurate master data as a prerequisite.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

There are three primary reasons that people underestimate the task of data cleansing, which, if avoided, will make your ERP implementation better: (1) because master data is usually dispersed among multiple systems in legacy, people rarely appreciate how much of it there is; (2) some data cleansing ends up being an iterative process, which creates a bit of a Catch-22 – you can’t test without master data, and the reason for the test is to evaluate master data; and (3) it is extremely difficult to objectively measure progress on data cleansing, particularly in light of number 2; , data that you might have considered cleansed and complete does not test well, and suddenly it becomes “uncleansed”.

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But to be forewarned is to be forearmed, so with this knowledge, there are lots of steps you can take to improve the data cleansing process: (1) Make progress where you can. Some data will take time to accumulate, but in the meantime, you can recognize that you have addresses on “South Main Street”, “South Main St.” and “S. Main Street” and “S. Main St.” and work on fixing those. Look for zip code and city mismatches. (2) Schedule routine data cleansing review meetings, and be relentless about probing for bottlenecks and problem areas (3) Establish an aggressive completion plan – which you probably will not hit – but invest the time to understand exactly why you are not hitting it. (4) Assign the right people to the task. Smart, hard working, detail-oriented people – match the right skills with the job need.

Unlike most of an ERP implementation, the lessons learned, and the processes created for data cleansing become part of an organization’s DNA; complete and accurate master data will be as essential for success two years after go live as it is on day 1. Make it part of your ERP success story.

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Richard Barker

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Richard Barker