Understanding the usage and the impact of certain data attributes on business processes is a challenge for many companies. This challenge can be tackled by combining master data management with business process management. In the following article, we show you how this works!
In our previous article, we presented seven steps to building up a reliable master data management. All those steps pursue the goal of eliminating impediments on crucial business processes by reducing different kinds of waste (e.g., loss of capacity, loss of time). But even with a mature master data management in place, a lot of companies are still missing the insight which data and especially which data attributes are used in which business process and the impact they are having on them.
It is important to understand which attributes must be filled for each data object and which ones should be equipped with special governance as they are steering certain business processes. For example, a four-eye-principle can ensure that a second person checks the provided data before it is used in a critical process. This prevents errors and potential loss of time or revenue if the process is stopped by false data.
To get a better understanding of the dependencies and the impact a data attribute has on different processes, we will explain how we as CAMELOT can help our customers to derive this knowledge using a template we developed.
Why combining process and data management
Business process management and master data management are two disciplines often managed separately in a company. This results in the situation that the knowledge is separated as well and there is no integration in place. So, there are several questions unanswered:
- Which data is needed in a specific process (step)?
- In which processes is a specific field used?
- Which data needs special governance within the company?
- Which processes need regression tests to ensure a new data model works for the business processes?
Of course, there are possibilities and initiatives in the market which attempt to create a documentation to derive the answer to those question. But if we look at concepts like enterprise architecture management and modelling languages such as “Archimate”, we discovered that they focus on the connection between a business process and a data object but are not able to do a more in-depth analysis.
With our approach we are stepping a layer deeper and can give our customers the opportunity to create real value when connecting the information.
Our approach to connect master data with business processes
Our approach covers four components in which we analyzed different business processes, created a template to visualize the outcome and developed a concept to spread the knowledge.
First, we started with connecting the two most common business processes “Order-to-Cash” and “Source-to-Pay” with the two master data objects “Business Partner” and “Material”. Here, we primarily focused on the standard setup in SAP, but it is also possible to use this information in different ERP solutions.
For each process we identified generic process steps which described the general sequence of tasks. For the “Source-to-Pay” process, this means creating a purchase order, receiving the goods from the supplier and paying the invoice:
Next, for all the process steps the relevant data objects were determined (e.g., a material and a supplier are needed to create a purchase order).
Using the standard SAP data model for the relevant data objects, we were able to list all attributes the data objects consist of. With this list we went through all the process steps and marked the relevant attributes (e.g., the name of the supplier and its address is required to create a purchase order).
The different attributes can have a different impact on each process step. Therefore, we classified the attributes into different categories. This classification consists of two parts, which on the one hand indicate whether an attribute is mandatory or optional according to the SAP standard setup. On the other hand, it distinguishes between identifying, steering and describing attributes.
In detail, looking at the material number for example which is classified as identifying because there is only one material with this number and therefore it is mandatory for the process step “Purchase Order” which depends on a given material. In contrast to this, the phone number of a business partner is just an optional information item (classification: describing and optional). This helps the user to directly understand the impact the attribute has on the process step.
To be able to use this data basis, we created a template which makes it possible to adapt the process setup to the specific use case of our clients (e.g., by adding a return to vendor step into the “Source-to-Pay” process). In addition, we are also able to visualize the outcome of the analysis.
With this visualization it is possible to answer the questions raised in the first part of this article and to show it to different audiences. This provides a low-entry barrier to familiarize someone with the topic. Also, it makes it possible for our clients’ new joiners to directly understand the dependencies between business processes and master data in their new company or a certain business area. In addition, the template and its analysis results can be re-used for different kinds of projects once it is adapted to the company.
In the end, it is also important to spread the knowledge gained while conducting an analysis on the connection between certain business processes and attributes. Therefore, there is also a concept on how to spread the knowledge and a detailed description on what the visualization tool is capable of.
Example Analysis: The Business Partner in the “Source-to-Pay” process
To understand how all of this can be used in a real use case we would like to provide a short example on how the outcome of such an analysis can look like. The template which is used as a basis is being enhanced with information from the client. For example, based on current settings in an ERP system or based on interviews conducted with experts from a certain business unit.
In our example we focused on the business partner in SAP in the end-to-end process “Source-to-pay”. Here you would interview experts from the procurement department and analyze the customizing settings in the SAP system. The result is displayed in the following picture. It shows the attributes of the business partner which are relevant for the process step “Purchase Order”:
At the top the visualizing tool shows the overall end-to-end process and the process step which is currently selected. In addition, the applied filter criteria are provided which make it possible to do different kinds of analysis with the tool. In this example, we have filtered for the business partner and the vendor object. The result of the analysis is the table in the lower part of the picture, which shows all relevant attributes with their clusters, tables and field names in SAP as well as the classification on the role and the UI condition of the attributes.
At CAMELOT, we are offering a solution to understand the connection of business processes and master data objects. Using the presented template, we are able to give you insights into various standard end-to-end processes and are also in the position to adapt the template to the specific needs and use cases of your company. With this, it is possible to answer the various questions raised in the beginning of this article and take the right actions. For the future, we will continue to include experience from various companies from different business sectors to further extend the existing template and provide an even more comprehensive data basis for our clients.