We are currently witnessing an era in which massive amounts of data are flooding the business landscape, making its management a challenging task. While there is already a lot of work going into the topic of master data management, reference data is often neglected. Improper management of reference data can result in legal issues and delays in digital transformation initiatives, such as the transformation to SAP S/4HANA. Find out how to keep control of your reference data and maximize the potential of your data.

What do we understand by reference data? Reference data is used in master data and transactional data and therefore within all your business processes. Reference data plays an essential role within your organization as it represents the customizing of the SAP system regarding your specific requirements for all business processes. Unproperly managed reference data can cause significant problems:

  1. High operational costs caused by the need to fix data issues. e.g., in data distribution
  2. Discrepancies in data across multiple systems, undermining trust in your data accuracy
  3. System failures, migration complications, and operational disruptions during system transitions
  4. Inconsistent values throughout the organization, leading to miscommunication and errors
  5. Wrong business decisions due to relying on invalid data

To illustrate the importance of reference data for your business, let us take an example of material and customer master data. Both have the attribute sales organization. The reference data defines the allowed values for this attribute. If sales organization 1001 is missing in your reference data but is present in your master data, the migration of this data to S/4HANA will fail. Moreover, your sales department that belongs to sales organization 1001 will not be able to use this material and customer in their transactions.

Figure 1: An illustrative example of reference data usage in material master
Figure 1: An illustrative example of reference data usage in material master

Mastering Reference Data

To keep control of your reference data, Camelot launched an enhancement for the Camelot Data Analyzer with the new release Q4 2023. The extension offers validation of reference data tailored specifically to SAP solutions. It focuses on material master data and business partner master data and ensures synchronization of customizing across the system landscape. The extension is available as a Software-as-a-Service and helps you to identify deficiencies in your reference data management. It addresses three main pain points:

Figure 2: Camelot Data Analyzer for Reference Data: addressing the key issues in reference data management
  1. The Camelot Data Analyzer identifies values in material and business partner master tables that have not been created in their corresponding reference data tables, uncovering potential data issues. This eases data mapping by pointing out relevant data which are not properly categorized.
  2. The tool compares the values in reference data tables across multiple ERP systems and identifies inconsistencies. This helps you to harmonize the data and achieve a single source of truth as well as an improved reporting.
  3. By identifying inactive values in your reference data tables, the Camelot Data Analyzer for Reference Data helps you clean up irrelevant data. This process can prevent the system from being overloaded, improving the overall workflow.

The functionalities of the Camelot Data Analyzer for Reference Data are available independently. You can choose the solution that best suits your individual requirements.

Figure 3: Dashboard snapshot of the missing customization - summary
Figure 3: Dashboard snapshot of the missing customization – summary
Figure 4: Dashboard snapshot of the missing customization - detailed overview
Figure 4: Dashboard snapshot of the missing customization – detailed overview

Use Cases – Transform, Enhance, Accelerate

It is important to wisely choose the time when to start improving your reference data. Reference data remains relatively stable over time; cleaning it on a weekly or monthly basis is an unnecessary use of resources. Based on our experience, there are three key business instances where reference data management and leveraging the Camelot Data Analyzer for Reference Data can add the most value to the business:

Prepare for SAP S/4HANA transformation

  • Reduce number of reference data to be migrated by identifying and removing inactive customizations.
  • Introduce missing customizations early on to prevent the project delay or data loss during.

Increase the Data Quality

  • Minimize the data to be handled by eliminating inactive data and as result, save money on data cleansing.
  • Monitor and improve data quality continuously to have the system ready for upcoming Transformation.
  • Clean the clutter of reference data before making investment in advanced data analytics.

Boost the system performance

  • Increase the speed of your system by getting rid of the data you do not use anymore.
  • Reduce the amount of data loaded in dependent objects.

The Ways to Enhance Your Reference Data

If your business reached the point when it is the time to address and improve reference data, there are two possible ways. The first is that you decide to implement these activities internally. For example, you can develop your own tool for reference data management or even do it manually. Each approach demands careful consideration of various factors: the choice of IT platform, licensing costs, objects in scope, technical implementation, human resources, internal expertise, aggregation and visualization of the results.  While executing these tasks in-house is feasible, it might not be worth it. Given that reference data management is mostly performed once, the investment of time and resources outweigh the benefits, especially if there are other projects to focus on.

The second way is to go for a ready-to-use solution, developed for reference data management, such as the Camelot Data Analyzer for Reference Data. Our tool requires the minimum technical knowledge and time investment. These are the ways it can help you:

  • No manual work – connect your system and get insights immediately
  • Regular updates according to your business needs
  • Natively built for SAP on its Cloud Platforms –  Data Sphere and Analytics Cloud
  • Analysis of reference data across multiple ERP systems
  • Reduced amount of maintained data and consequently, costs.
  • Results available for all stakeholders in an intuitive dashboard
  • Coverage of critical SAP S/4HANA objects – Business Partners & Material
  • Camelot experts will set up the tool for you and adapt to your business needs

Summary

It is common for reference data to remain unchanged over the years, leading to inconsistencies and outdated values. This poses a significant risk to new digital initiatives within a company. Tackling issues in reference data management is critical to any SAP S/4HANA transformation. With the Camelot Data Analyzer for Reference Data, an easy-to-use SaaS application is available that will help you enhance data quality, boost system performance, and get you ready for your system transformation.

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