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

Authors Photo Precisely Editor | September 15, 2022

Poor data quality in your customer master records in SAP leads to inefficiencies and miscommunication. Duplicate records are common, resulting in wasted time and money reaching the same customers multiple times. Inaccurate or inconsistent addresses lead to messages that never reach their intended targets, or worse yet, goods being shipped to the wrong location. Bad demographic data or customer history can drive poor segmentation, which means more time and money spent getting the wrong messages to the wrong people, not to mention lost revenue opportunities.

If you’re responsible for maintaining customer master data in SAP, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the many problems that can arise from poor data quality, as well as the meticulous effort required to keep your company’s customer master table in good order.

In this article, we’ll highlight the top challenges most SAP shops face with their customer master data management. We’ll explain how smart automation solutions can streamline your processes to save time and increase data quality, without any software code or technical skills.

Challenge 1. Creating and Updating Records Is Too Slow

In many companies, the process of creating a new customer record in SAP begins with a manual request, such as an email from a sales account executive. That’s often followed by a string of communications asking for more data, then some validation and approval processes. If key people are on PTO, that can sometimes take days or even weeks. With that information and the proper approvals in hand, someone from the master data team keys that information into SAP.

Automated forms and workflows remove inefficiencies from that process by routing requests to the responsible parties, allowing different people to work in parallel, and verifying that information is complete. Instead of manually keying the resulting data into SAP, it’s validated and entered into the system with just a few clicks.

The result: Faster cycle times for creating customer records, faster shipments, and improved customer loyalty.

Challenge 2. Duplicate Customer Records

Duplicate records create numerous problems with order-to-cash processes, and they result in inaccurate reports. By making it easy to search for existing customer records, you can dramatically reduce or even eliminate the problem. When employees can search key field values using wildcards, the problem of duplicate customer records can be avoided at the outset.

Nevertheless, virtually every company already has some existing duplicates in their customer master table. With Automate Studio, you can quickly build an Excel-based solution to help you find and flag any duplicate records that already exist. Extract the customer master records you want, identify duplicates in Excel, then mark them for inactivation. With a click of a button, you can import those changes to SAP without ever having to use the SAP GUI.

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Challenge 3. Enforcing Business Rules

It can be very hard to enforce business rules consistently, especially if you’re using manual processes to create and update your customer master data. If a credit check is required for new customers whose orders exceed a certain threshold, for example, it’s likely that process will be missed or circumvented from time to time. Automate Evolve enables members of your team to build business rules into the customer creation process without any technical coding skills. Whether you’re aiming to ensure proper approval workflows or validating that customer data conforms to business rules, automation helps you reduce compliance risk and improve data quality.

Challenge 4. Missing Customer Data

Incomplete customer data can cause delays, mis-shipments, and overdue receivables. Missing data often leads to back-and-forth communication that wastes time and leaves your customer with a bad first impression. By implementing web forms to collect customer data, you can easily specify which information is required, ensuring that other stakeholders in your company will fill out all the necessary fields when requesting a new record or an update, even if those fields aren’t configured to be mandatory within SAP. If you need certain documentation, such as tax-exempt forms or credit reports, you can add those requirements as well.

Challenge 5. Unstandardized Data

If you manually enter customer records directly into SAP, chances are that there are a few controls limiting the format of the data. For certain fields like email addresses, postal addresses, and phone numbers, this can create problems. You can use web forms and workflows to apply ‘guardrails’ to the data being added to SAP. That may include formatting rules for key fields, such as requiring dashes in phone numbers or using all caps for customer names. You can even use third-party web services to validate addresses, postal codes, and email addresses.

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Challenge 6. Managing Multiple Types of Customers

Most companies find it useful to maintain multiple customer types or account groups. Very often, each of these categories has its own unique set of data requirements. A flexible automation platform enables you to assign different workflow participants for each customer type, with distinct business rules governing those master records. With Automate Evolve, you can even specify field-level details by customer account group—including whether the field is pre-populated with default values, required, or read-only.

Challenge 7. No Visibility to the Status of Requests

When someone in your organization requests that a new customer be added or that an update is made to an existing record, they are usually interested in knowing when that request has been completed. They may need to process a large order, for example, before the quarter-end closing. With automated workflows, interested parties can have visibility as to the exact status of requests at any time. Even better, there’s no person-to-person communication required; the information is available on a self-service basis. They can see which actions have already been taken and what the next step is in the process.

Challenge 8. Auditability

Auditing your customer master data can be slow and challenging. With the right automation software, you can easily generate reports to show who uploaded, extracted, or approved data; when the activity took place; and which systems and t-codes were involved.

Automate Evolve provides rapid access to all data files exchanged with SAP, allowing you to export them to Excel for a vastly simplified audit process.

Challenge 9. Measuring Performance

Organizations perform well when they measure their results. Automation helps you measure how long a customer creation or update process takes, including the time required to complete each step. Automate Evolve provides pre-built reports that make it easy to monitor productivity, data errors, and time and cost savings. You can even track key metrics by user and t-code, including the number of records processed, and time and cost savings.

Challenge 10. Unhappy Customers and Stakeholders

All of the preceding business problems have an impact on your stakeholders, especially customers and sales teams. In many cases, the master data team shoulders the blame for delays and errors. With automation, it’s possible to avoid most problems in the first place, but when problems do arise, automation can help identify the root cause so that it can be addressed, preventing the issue from recurring in the future.

To learn more about how Automate Evolve can streamline and improve your SAP master data processes, read our free ebook“How to Solve the Top 10 Customer Master Data Challenges in SAP.”