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Customer Master Data 101: Challenges and Solutions

Authors Photo Rachel Galvez | May 2, 2024

In the digital era, your data is a crucial key to operational success – and the strategic importance of SAP customer master data can’t be overstated.

When it comes to customer-related transactions and analytics, your data’s integrity, accuracy, and accessibility directly impact your business’s ability to operate efficiently and deliver value to customers.

That’s what makes slow, manual customer data management so damaging. These processes are prone to errors, and poor-quality data can lead to delays in order processing and a host of downstream shipping and invoicing problems that put your customer relationships at risk.

Alternatively, organizations that are able to speed up and simplify their SAP customer master data processes can book orders faster, reduce shipping and billing errors, and, ultimately, create happier customers and sales teams.

What’s the difference between the businesses that struggle and those that succeed? Automation.

Let’s explore this more with a dive into the basics of customer master data, common challenges of manual management, and how to overcome those obstacles through process automation.

What is Customer Master Data in SAP?

Customer master data refers to the essential information that your business needs on your customers in order to support your operations, marketing, customer service activities, and more. These details can include:

  • names
  • addresses
  • phone numbers and/or email addresses
  • billing, shipping, and payment conditions
  • tax information

These may seem straightforward enough, but one small mistake can create major implications for your business. This data within your SAP ecosystem is the foundation for accuracy and success in nearly every customer-facing and operational activity. From orchestrating seamless order-to-cash processes to tailoring marketing campaigns, the ripples of customer master data impact it all.

And yet, despite the value of customer master data, managing it effectively presents its own challenges – with factors like manual error-prone processes diminishing its accuracy and trustworthiness.


How to Solve the Top 10 Customer Master Data Challenges in SAP

In this eBook, we’ll highlight the top ten challenges that companies typically face with managing customer data in SAP and show you how to build smart automation solutions—without needing SAP technical coding skills.

What are the Top Challenges of Managing Customer Master Data?

Embarking on a journey through the dense forest of customer master data management, businesses encounter various obstacles that impede their progress:

Let’s walk through some of the most common, painful challenges of SAP customer data management.

  • Slow, manual create and update processes
    How do you create or update your customer records today? If your process is like that of many other organizations, here’s how it may look: someone, usually from sales, initiates a request via email. This kicks off a long process of passing emails around the parties who need to supply or approve data, which often takes days, or longer if people are out of the office.

Eventually, an email reaches the master data team, who must then manually key the data into SAP, only to find that some of the data is missing or dubious.

  • Data duplication
    Duplicate customer records in SAP create an all-too-common problem for many organizations. These duplications can lead to confusion in sales operations, marketing efforts, customer service, and more – not to mention, reporting inaccuracies, higher costs, and customer frustrations.

Without adequate controls on the data coming into SAP, it’s easy to see how duplicate sold-to, ship-to, bill-to, or payer records can be created.

  • Lack of compliance with business procedures and rules
    If you’re using manual processes to create and update your customer master data, it’s extremely challenging to enforce your business rules and procedures consistently. For example, your policies may state that a credit check must be completed for certain order sizes before you can create a new customer record.

Without formal controls in place, it’s easy for this type of rule to be circumvented or missed, leading to compliance breaches and unnecessary business risk.

  • Unstandardized, poor-quality data
    The adage “garbage in, garbage out” holds particularly true in the context of customer master data. If you manually enter data via the SAP GUI, chances are that there’s little standardization when it comes to data formatting. Inaccurate, unstandardized, or incomplete information can derail order processing, billing, and customer relationship management, eroding trust and undermining business outcomes.

 How many of these customer master data challenges are feeling familiar to you? The difficult truth is, these are just a small sample of the challenges and consequences of ineffective customer data management.

While every business has different goals and needs, the common solution to tackling all these challenges effectively lies in automation.

customer master data - woman staring intently at her laptop screen

Why You Need Automated Customer Master Data Management

In confronting these challenges, automation isn’t just a technological solution, it’s a strategic imperative.

To dramatically reduce the time it takes to process requests and improve the overall level of data quality – all without SAP technical coding skills or reliance on IT – automating your manual customer master data processes is critical.

To stay on top of your mountain of data maintenance tasks, you can use Excel-based solutions that exchange data with SAP in the background – eliminating data entry via the SAP GUI.

Precisely Automate empowers SAP analysts, SAP super users, and master data professionals to build these SAP-enabled Excel workbooks with a simple “record, map, run” process.

These workbooks help you create or change thousands of records in a matter of minutes and can validate and standardize data along the way to improve data quality. Not only does productivity soar, but morale improves, and your team has more time for higher-value tasks.

Take the SAP XD02 t-code (customer update), for example. Using our Excel-based Automate Studio solution, users see average time savings of 99%. For XD02 (create customer-material info records), they see an average of 97% time savings.

With the ability to create or update thousands of records in just minutes, you free up time that can be focused on other valuable business objectives.

Now, with all of this in mind, let’s revisit those challenges covered above, and explore the impact of intelligent automation solutions:

Challenge: Slow, manual create and update processes

Solution: Streamline and accelerate with powerful process automation
Get ready for dramatic time savings. With Precisely Automate capabilities, you can:

    • automatically route create or update requests to the responsible parties
    • have different people work in parallel on supplying or approving the customer data
    • validate and post data to SAP with just a couple of clicks, instead of manually keying data in

With all these automation capabilities at your fingertips, you’ll process orders faster and better serve your customers.

Challenge: Data duplication

Solution: Make it easy to search for existing customer records
Give your teams an easy way to search for existing records using the fields that make sense for your business, and drastically reduce, or even eliminate the number of duplicate records created.

With Automate Studio, you can quickly build an Excel-based solution to extract customer records based on your chosen criteria, identify duplicates, and flag them accordingly. Then with a click of a button, change the status of those records in SAP – no coding required.

Challenge: Unstandardized, poor-quality data

Solution: Enforce business rules and enhance data with web forms
Build and rollout a forms and workflow solution with built-in data “guardrails” and put an end to unstandardized data. Enforce your business rules for formatting key fields, like requiring dashes in phone numbers or using all caps for customer names.

Precisely Automate provides an extensive range of data stewardship capabilities that enable your business teams to improve data quality, whether they’re using a web form or an Excel workbook to exchange data with SAP.

Challenge: Lack of compliance with business procedures and rules

Solution: Build automated workflows with formal controls

With sophisticated SAP data automation software, like Automate Evolve, your team can build and roll out solutions that ensure compliance with your business procedures.

Whether it’s defining formal approval flows or using smart form logic to trigger workflow steps or data requirements based on business user input, you can lock down your customer master processes to reduce risk and improve data quality.

It’s clear that automation transforms the way we work, in SAP customer master data processes and beyond. It provides the speed, agility, and data quality and integrity required to quickly pivot when needed and make faster, more confident decisions.

SAP Automation in Action: Kellogg Company’s Success Story

Feeling inspired to start your automation transformation yet? Here’s one real-world story of automation-powered transformation.

Kellogg Company has been bringing people together around the table for more than 100 years. Their story started with the creation of the first-ever breakfast cereal, and today their brand portfolio has expanded to include frozen foods, snacks, and other breakfast staples.

With all this success and growth, it’s no surprise that the company has vast amounts of customer data to manage – but the team wasn’t satisfied with their Excel-based solution, which was creating audit and customer relationship issues caused by routing inconsistencies.

The solution? Simpler, faster customer master data management powered by automation.

Precisely Automate turned the company’s routing issues around, with particularly high value being found in the flexible forms tool that enabled them to build in data governance and route correctly to the appropriate business users.

In a fast-paced environment like Kellogg Company, the time savings made all the difference – as did the integrated nature of the software. Streamlined processes have given team members a sense of business ownership, making it easier to accomplish what they need to do and meet deadlines.

Not to mention, the software has also helped to resolve those previously troubling audit issues, and improved business KPI’s.

Read their full story and watch the video

Start Your Automation Journey Today for Bigger Wins Tomorrow

When it comes to customer master data management in SAP, it can feel overwhelming to think about overcoming the many challenges that manual processes present. But when you’re willing to embrace change via automation, the payoffs are massive – guiding you toward enhanced data integrity, operational efficiency, strategic agility, and more.

Think of it this way: the journey begins with a single step – a decision to move away from manual, error-prone processes toward an automated, streamlined future.

When you leverage the power of automation, you unlock the full potential of your customer master data, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation.

For even more in-depth insights and practical tips to elevate your customer master data management practices and solve your biggest challenges, read our eBook: How to Solve the Top 10 Customer Master Data Challenges in SAP.

Interested in a full demo? Contact our team of experts today.

Seamless, efficient, and effective customer master data management awaits.