Most MDM solutions out there take a collaborative approach to MDM, by this I mean that they accept that other systems have master data in them and elements such as survivorship and matching are used to identify and manage the information from these multiple sources.  The MDM solution then determines the golden record and publishes this back to the systems.

This is a traditional view and its often the easiest way to implement MDM as it doesn’t require significant amounts of change to existing systems and in particular people processes.  However it does have a significant overhead as you need a central data steward team that verifies all of the information and you can have complex processes around matching, particularly if multiple divisions use the same, or similar, supplies.

SAP have looked at this problem from another perspective.  The people processes.  What they’ve decided is that in certain areas, particularly around products, materials, BOMs etc, the lifecycle of the information process is linked but separate to the standard transactional processes.  For this reason its better to move towards a centralised authoring model, for instance backed by a corporate shared-service, where requests are centrally authored and then pushed to the various other systems.

The heart of this concept is the idea that you are moving the people processes from the source systems into a central authoring approach.  So in the SAP MDG approach you are first making a major business decision:

All master information for this domain (e.g. product) will be centrally authored and controlled, no information will be created elsewhere for this master domain

That is a big switch for many organisations but one that can come with significant cost savings and benefits.  Firstly you can move to a centralised shared-service where all information is passed to which means you drive consistency across your divisions via that central control.  This new approach to MDM for slower moving master elements might sound in some ways a step back to old school mega-hub approaches but its critically different to those as they still aggregated information rather than taking a people centric approach and focusing on the authoring and publishing of information.

So is SAP’s approach right for you?  Well it really comes down to whether you can make that switch.  If you’ve genuinely got a single SAP instance that contains all of the information today or  you can make the switch to central authoring for your company then the answer could well me ‘yes’.  The first decision to make when looking at SAP however is not a technical question its a people and business one.

Can we move to central authoring?