The Importance of Clean Master Data: MDM and Other Lessons Learned from an SFA Project

  • by George Fratian, CRM Project Manager
  • October 15, 2008
In this excerpt from George Fratian’s new book from SAP PRESS, Planning Your SAP CRM Implementation, learn some tips to ensure that the master data you add to your new SAP CRM system is error free.
Key Concept

Although it is critical to manage your master data in all SAP projects, it is even more crucial in SAP CRM projects in which communication to the end customers is based on this data. Before starting a new SAP CRM project, make sure you have a solid master data management team in place to take care of scrubbing the data.

In this excerpt from Chapter 9 of Planning Your SAP CRM Implementation, I discuss a case study for one of my recent sales force automation (SFA) projects. The content here is specific to that case study, but in the book you can see how this master data management topic is incorporated in the big picture of how to implement CRM projects.

One of the toughest issues my team and I deal with in this project is data management. If your company already has an ERP system with clean data, then your CRM project is in good shape to start with, because most of the CRM data is downloaded from ERP (e.g., accounts, products, and prices).

External Data Sources Might Be an Option

However, in our particular case, we can’t rely on an ERP with clean account data, and to mitigate the risk associated with maintaining and constantly cleaning this customer master data, we decided to “outsource” this work. “Outsource” is probably a bit misleading term, because what we actually did was select an industry standard database for customers, and standardized on it.

There are de facto standards for most industries, and the typical example is Dun and Bradstreet (D&B, is a well-respected company that operates in the financial realm. If you want to find out the credit rating of a company, its database is probably the first option you should consider. Similarly, for the healthcare industry, there are at least two major database vendors, Verispan SMG ( and MII (

So, if your company does not have a clean customer database to start with, a relatively cheap and simple solution is to buy it from a well-respected provider. This will simplify your environment, reduce the number of people that have to maintain this data (because the vendor provides regular updates), and reduce the risk of getting bad or duplicate data in the system. This is of particular interest to merging companies, especially if neither has very clean data to start with. You will, however, have to deal with the exceptions, as in the typical case when a given customer is not available in the database provided by the vendor.

Most companies prefer to maintain their own customer master data for two main reasons: control, and the “we are different” syndrome. The first reason is a reasonable one, but the second one is not. Most companies think they’re different than any other enterprise, and their own requirements are not found anywhere else in the industry’s realm (or at least they’re different enough). Most of the time this is false; in reality companies in the same industry are much more similar than different, and perhaps it makes sense to standardize on a third-party solution.

But why is clean master data such an important aspect of your CRM project? Let’s start with an obvious example: let’s say you’re looking to find a company or person in the Yellow Pages or the White Pages book. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to deal with garbled data, such as misspelled names, incorrect addresses, or old phone numbers? The same thing translates very well in the business world — and having clean data is a prerequisite for any successful CRM project.

George Fratian

George Fratian is a CRM project manager with more than 11 years of experience in the SAP arena (CRM and R/3). The past five years were dedicated to various projects implementing mySAP CRM systems in different industries such as Oil & Gas, Health Care, and High Tech. He has designed and implemented complex mySAP CRM-based solutions for Fortune 20 companies in the areas of Internet Sales and Online Sales, Sales Force Automation, Case Management, and Interaction Center WebClient.

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