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For most organizations, data is the most important asset in their ERP systems, yet it's often treated as an afterthought.
Organizations with poor data quality management run the risk of creating inaccuracies that compromise the trust in the data, said Kevin Campbell, CEO at Syniti, a provider of data management platforms in Boston.
Syniti, formerly BackOffice Associates, has developed the Syniti Knowledge Platform, a data quality management platform that enables organizations to set governance rules around data and ensure that data from various systems is not duplicated and uses the same conventions, such as names.
"A lot of organizations have dumped themselves into data lakes or data oceans. But a lot of those have become data swamps because the data that comes out the other end isn't governed and [can't be trusted]," Campbell explained. "For example, do you know the origin of that data or if there are any conflicts? ... That's what brings in governance and data quality."
Dairy cooperative needs data management
FrieslandCampina, a dairy cooperative in Amersfoort, Netherlands, uses Syniti Knowledge Platform for its data quality management challenges.
FrieslandCampina, which serves a global market, has a continual flow of raw dairy products coming in daily from its network of 18,000 farmers, which it then turns into products like consumable milks, butter and ingredients for other dairy-related products.
FrieslandCampina runs its manufacturing and supply chain operations on SAP R/3 ERP, and its IT landscape includes other platforms such as Salesforce for sales and Coupa for procurement, said Lenno Maris, FrieslandCampina's global director for the enterprise data and authorizations competence center.
With data being collected by several systems, it was a challenge to manage its quality and ensure that it was synchronized across the systems, Maris explained. For example, much of the data entry was done manually in each system, which often led to inaccuracies and data duplication. Data anomalies had to be managed and resolved through Excel spreadsheets, emails and manual rekeying efforts.
In 2018, FrieslandCampina implemented Syniti Knowledge Platform to get a grip on the data chaos, Maris said.
"We wanted to be able to capture the data only once and then have that distributed across the whole landscape, removing the double entry of data and making sure the data quality was spot-on," he said. "We also wanted to measure the data quality for its transactional ability, such as making sure our invoices are correct, the payments can be made, the orders can be generated and sales distribution can be generated."
One version of data truth
Syniti Knowledge Platform integrates across all of FrieslandCampina's enterprise applications and has data governance tools that help it focus on data quality starting with master data management (MDM).
The improved data governance and data quality has helped FrieslandCampina with important business initiatives like new product development and launches, which typically involve data from a variety of systems and business units, such as R&D, marketing, sales, distribution and supply chain.
"We have established the data in building blocks on the Syniti Knowledge Platform, which brings it all together into one end-to-end orchestrated process," Maris said. "The minute that people enter the data, we know that it's right the first time and we can publish the data into the core systems and then the business can effectively transact with the data."
An account manager, for example, may generate a prospect account in Salesforce, he said.
"The prospect needs to receive some test items, so they also need to be known in SAP because that's our core operational delivery platform," Maris explained. "In the old days, someone would have to rekey the data in SAP as a manual step. Now the Knowledge Platform retrieves the data from Salesforce and then initiates the validations, normalizes the data, and then publishes it into SAP, then republishes it back into Salesforce."
While there are other data quality management applications that FrieslandCampina looked at, and SAP has its own MDM functional module, Syniti Knowledge Platform was the most comprehensive application, he said.
"Syniti Knowledge Platform has the ability to go beyond the typical data objects," Maris said. "Typically in an MDM solution, you can cover customer, material, supplier and finance, and that's about it. We knew that we wanted to go beyond SAP MDM and, at some point, wanted to be able to drive transactions. None of the other platforms could effectively get to that end state."
Data quality key for S/4HANA implementation
Besides everyday data quality management, Syniti Knowledge Platform could be a vital tool for SAP organizations moving from legacy SAP ERP systems to SAP S/4HANA, a significantly redesigned ERP system.
Handling the data requirements well is one key to a successful S/4HANA implementation, Campbell said.
"Usually, anyone who has worked on an S/4HANA migration project previously will start on data first thing when they start a new project rather than thinking about data until after the project's halfway done," Campbell said.
Syniti Knowledge Platform scans SAP systems and finds where all the fields are and how they are used, he said. These can then be mapped to the future S/4HANA systems or discarded if the field and its data are no longer relevant.
"A lot of people want to convert all their old data, but that makes no sense when you're trying to do real-time in-memory with S/4HANA," he said. "For example, if you look at your part numbers, it's typical that only 30% of those part numbers are still used, so why bring all that over? You can also find out which customers are still active and being used, and you can take a lot of the old data out."