As organizations contemplate migration to SAP S/4HANA, concerns about the quality of their data to support such a move are understandably top of mind. According to recently published research, 58% of CEOs are concerned that their data quality is insufficient to support the advanced automation capabilities available within SAP S/4HANA.

As I speak with our current and future clients who operate in asset-intensive industries, I repeatedly engage in relevant, high-level conversations about the importance of master data to succeed with SAP S/4HANA.

Here are some of their most-pressing questions.

Our data is working for SAP ERP Central Component (ECC). Why would it not work for SAP S/4HANA?

Organizations are often attracted to SAP S/4HANA for its advanced automation and analytics functionalities, but these same functionalities require accurate, complete asset master data to be leveraged effectively. Such exciting capabilities as reliability-centered maintenance, asset performance analytics, and risk-based inspection cannot be trusted if the underlying master data being leveraged is inaccurate or incomplete.

Another concern is user adoption.

Good first impressions are crucial as SAP users leave the technology they know and move to the advanced automation of SAP S/4HANA. If the system appears confusing or illogical to end users due to subpar data quality, the road to full adoption will be much longer and more complex.

We are a top-tier global organization. How could our master data be that bad?

Most of today’s asset-intensive industries operate with aging legacy infrastructure. These technologies have been modified, expanded, and renovated over time—and, quite often, documentation of those updates has become fragmented or even lost over time.

The master data of operating assets continues to change daily due to planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, shutdowns, and capital projects. These organizations can still thrive today thanks to seasoned, well-trained workforces familiar with the systems of record they work within each day. They already know what needs to be done and can readily recognize and work around data imperfections.

However, without a proactive program for asset master data governance, even a top-tier global organization’s asset data quality will inevitably deteriorate over time, undermining its ability to trust and effectively utilize enterprise data.

Why emphasize “governance” when moving to SAP S/4HANA? Can’t we just include a quick “data clean-up” in our S/4HANA migration process?

As mentioned earlier, operational assets in asset-intensive industries are ever-changing. Without master data governance to keep track of modifications and upgrades, investing in data clean-up is a stop-gap measure rather than a long-term solution—and many consider this type of measure to be a waste of money amid the larger business transformation of SAP S/4HANA migration. Sooner or later, that cleaned-up data will once again be inaccurate and incomplete.

Prometheus Group is honored to partner with SAP for workshops this month in Texas and Canada, which will discuss how asset-intensive industries can address their asset master data quality problem with a strategy that allows them to ‘Get the Data Clean and Keep it Clean.’

We all agree that better master data would be nice. However, our IT budget is completely consumed with SAP S/4HANA transformation. How can we prioritize a “nice to have” data project in this environment?

Since 2017, Prometheus Group has partnered with SAP’s Value Engineering organization to benchmark organizations in a variety of asset-intensive industries and develop a business model measuring the impact of asset master data quality.

The findings have been impressive. These benchmarks and analyses prove that improving the accuracy and completeness of an organization’s asset master data can have a measurable impact on the following:

  • Maintenance productivity
  • Asset availability
  • Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) supply chain efficiency
  • Environment, health, and safety (EH&S) assurance
  • Auditability and regulatory compliance
  • Achievement of operational excellence

SAP Value Engineering analysis has also proven that properly planned and executed master data transformation and governance projects can see a significant return on investment (ROI) in under one year.

Our individual business processes are unique and complex. Since our master data needs are different as a result, how do we address this challenge?

Across different companies and industries, you may be surprised to learn that your master data needs are likely not as unique as you might think.

Below is a high-level list of master data categories that shows how most of them are not that different from company to company.

  1. Equipment: Your equipment is not unique, apart from serial numbers, and any rare modifications that have been done.
  2. Materials: These will not be unique, with the unusual exception of customized materials. Any customized materials you are using can easily be added to the database.
  3. Plans, Items, Bill of Materials (BOMs), Tasks Lists, and Measuring Points: These will all be uniform to start, although they may be customized as you move towards a predictive maintenance goal.

As organizations move toward advanced automation within SAP S/4HANA, what are some best practices for master data?

SAP and Prometheus Group strongly recommend that asset-intensive organizations develop and implement a data transformation plan early, ideally during the preparation phase of their S/4HANA journey.

By addressing data quality issues early, organizations can realize performance improvements and positive ROI well before their SAP S/4HANA system goes live.

During the prep phase of an SAP S/4HANA journey, organizations can also engage Prometheus Group and the SAP Value Engineering organization to develop a business case for master data transformation.

With this business case in hand, an organization can develop and get support for a master data transformation plan, to ensure maximum value from their SAP S/4HANA investment.

Your organization will harness new abilities through SAP S/4HANA, but only if the data you are feeding into the system is accurate. SAP S/4HANA leverages technology and a different method of database design. This will provide you with real-time insights into your processes.

While SAP S/4HANA can greatly simplify your SAP landscape and give you the information needed to streamline your workflows, the time, effort, and money used to implement SAP S/4HANA will be wasted without continual access to accurate data. The “digital core” nature of SAP S/4HANA ensures all your apps are interconnected. However, without clean master data, you will not realize the greatest possible benefit from implementation.

What will I learn in the upcoming SAP-Prometheus Group master data management workshops?

During the workshops, SAP and Prometheus Group will discuss the top master data challenges SAP customers face, explain how Prometheus Group and SAP’s Master Data as a Service (MDaaS) and Master Data Governance (MDG) solutions address these challenges, and demonstrate how artificial intelligence (AI) improves the ability to achieve and maintain improved asset master data quality.

Learn more about these workshops:

About the Author

Mike Jordan is the Vice President of the Master Data Practice at Prometheus Group, a leading global provider of comprehensive and intuitive enterprise asset management software solutions that work within enterprise resource planning systems and span the full work management life cycle for both maintenance and operations. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at

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