Those who decide to implement SAP S/HANA face a challenge: Each program or version change of a software package is associated with the fact that the master data of a database also has to be exported correctly from the old system and imported into the new system, which therefore includes the material master data. When migrating to SAP S/4HANA, the migration of the master data is associated with particular challenges, as SAP has changed the tables and/or structures for certain master data objects.

Therefore, data migration is a task that cannot be underestimated. After all, depending on the type and size of the company, the amount of data records can be considerable. These records are also the basis for a large part of the business processes. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the data migration is error-free and complete.

At the same time, however, this task also offers the opportunity to optimize the data quality and to streamline processes so that they can work efficiently with the new system right from the start. After all, it is frequently the case that material master data in particular and master data in general aren’t managed flawlessly. The goal should be to get rid of legacy data in advance, and to only transfer correct, complete and redundancy-free data. This can also have a positive impact on the migration work, as the more obsolete material master data you transfer to SAP S/4 HANA, the more costs and resources you require for the migration. It is estimated that poor data quality causes approximately 40% of the total migration project to cost more in terms of both the timescale and budget.

In this respect, a certain amount of preparatory work is required. In the following, we present the four steps of the successful migration of master data to S/4HANA.

1. Data analysis – know your data!

Before you start optimizing your data, it is essential for you to complete a stock-take. Insufficient knowledge of your own data and processes is one of the most frequent reasons for additional costs and time overruns during migration projects. Make sure that you gain an overview of the quantity and quality of your material master data, as this is the only way to correctly estimate the total migration outlay. You should therefore complete a critical check of which data you actually still require. You may have data that is no longer valid or that will no longer be actively used in the new system. If you look at the business processes, it should rapidly become clear what else is relevant. This is an opportunity to get rid of unnecessary ballast, and to keep the new system clear of old burdens right from the start. Therefore, instead of migrating everything, material master data that is no longer required can be archived, for example, if it cannot be erased due to legal requirements.

Duplicates are a frequent source of errors in material master data. In this context, it is necessary to define when data records are considered duplicates. How do I manage two data records that are basically identical, but differ in terms of the spelling of the material description, for instance? Therefore, to identify duplicates, it is necessary to determine the degree to which two records must match in order to be considered duplicates. This can be done on the basis of the material designation, manufacturer part number or both parameters taken together, for example. It is also important to search for fragments of the material designation, as this is the only way to ensure that similar designations are identified. It is also a good idea to shed light on the reasons why duplicates occur. If too many employees have write access to the database, this can encourage the creation of duplicate data. Defining exactly who actually needs access and who should have what level of authorization is therefore worthwhile.

Incomplete data is another common problem. Moreover, data fields are often not maintained consistently. For example, there may be discrepancies in the spelling of country codes, which are sometimes entered as single digits and sometimes as multiple digits. Also, fields are often not used for their intended purpose, but for entering different information. This creates an inconsistent data source that can cause problems with your master data management. For these fields, it is necessary to define which contents are allowed and in which format, and to therefore avoid these problems.

Another point to consider in your analysis is the differences between legacy systems and new systems. As mentioned at the outset, SAP S/4HANA brings in a number of changes. There may be process changes, or the length of the input fields may differ, so that content may possibly be truncated during the migration. These discrepancies and possible solutions should also form part of your analysis.

2. Data cleansing – the basis for a clean start in SAP S/4HANA

Once you have a picture of the quantity and quality of your data, it is time to take the next step on the path to data migration to SAP S/4HANA: cleansing the material master data.
In addition to erasing data records that are no longer required, such as duplicates, it is also important to supplement and complete incomplete data records, as only then can you work efficiently with them.

A crucial question is how to carry out the cleansing and data enrichment. This can, of course, be completely manually, but this has the major disadvantage that it is extremely time-consuming. Alternatively, there are ways to automate the cleansing process. However, as this is not entirely without risk, it is often advisable to use a service provider. After all, important data can be lost if the procedure is not carried out correctly.

3. Migration of data to SAP S/4HANA – efficient and coordinated

After the groundwork has been done, the time has finally arrived: Your material master data can now be migrated to the new system. By checking and cleansing the data to be transferred beforehand, old and incorrect data is excluded, and you only transfer high-quality and relevant master data.

Here, too, it should be checked in advance exactly how the data can be transferred to the new system and which tools and auxiliary products come into question.

Once the data migration is complete, it is essential to check whether all the data has been transferred completely and correctly. In this way, you guarantee high quality master data as the basis for your business processes.

4. Have confidence in your data!

You’ve done it! Your master data has been successfully migrated to SAP S/4HANA, and you can now make a fresh start with a clean database without legacy data.

A well-planned changeover with cleansed data has several positive developments. These include, for example:

  • Improved performance of SAP S/4HANA
  • Optimized business processes
  • Reduction of duplicates
  • Less disk space required after cleanup
  • Easy administration of the database
  • Lower running costs for space in the main memory
  • Fewer resources for the changeover and reduced overall operating costs

Your hard work and advance planning has therefore paid off. To prevent its benefits from fizzling out, however, it is advisable to ensure that the data quality remains consistently high. Even if it seems arduous: take time to complete a regular quality check. Have duplicates crept in again? Are any data records incomplete or incorrect? This not only affects the material master data. Remember that all master data (e.g. vendor or customer master data) can change regularly, due to relocations or changes in company name, for instance.

The time that you spend on quality control and maintenance of your material master data is therefore well invested if you want to work with it to optimum effect.

About Antonia Hohenberger
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