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Kraft Looks To SAP For Help With Data Management

SAP also announced an upgrade to Business Objects' data management software at its TechEd conference on Tuesday.

SAP has put the focus on data management and control at its annual TechEd conference, which started Tuesday in Las Vegas.

SAP announced that Kraft Foods has adopted its SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management software to integrate and consolidate data from its SAP ERP and legacy systems. SAP also announced an upgrade to BusinessObjects Metadata Management XI, to version 3.0.

Research firm Gartner has identified master data management as one of the most important technology-driven efforts of 2008, as companies look to get better control over the growing volumes of data running through their many systems and ensure that the data those systems use is consistent and accurate.

SAP is more of a niche player than a leader, however, as SAP MDM is popular primarily among manufacturing, consumer goods, and retail companies standardized on SAP ERP.

Kraft is the latest one to sign on. It's using SAP MDM following its December implementation of SAP ERP 6.0, which replaced legacy ERP systems, said Sue Barber, a Kraft systems integration manager, in an interview. Kraft compared SAP's master data management offering with others, including IBM; SAP MDM won out for its look and feel, its ability to meet users' needs without customization, and other reasons, Barber said.

Kraft's acquisitions of Group Danone's global biscuit business and United Biscuits' Spain and Portugal operations, among others, have brought different types of data into the company in recent years. SAP MDM is part of a broad company strategy to have more governance and control of data, Barber said. On a more granular level, consistent data means Kraft has a better chance at avoiding transactional inaccuracies, such as incorrect customer invoices, she said.

Kraft created four data repositories with SAP MDM: customers, materials, vendors, and products. Using SAP MDM, it defined data attributes, or fields, and how they can be used by transactional systems within the company.

While SAP MDM is popular among its ERP customers, it does have some shortcomings for managing customer data, according to a July report by Gartner titled, "Magic Quadrant For Master Data Management for Customer Data."

Gartner analyst John Radcliffe writes that SAP has few customer references in the areas of financial services, communications, and government for customer data management; is optimized for read (as opposed to write) applications, making it less suitable for high-volume, transactional business-to-consumer cases; and "is behind the competition" in data quality and profiling. For master data management of customer information, Gartner lists IBM and Oracle's Siebel UCM as leaders, and calls SAP a niche player.

Upgrades in BusinessObjects Metadata Management XI 3.0, for those who want to better organize and control data tapped by Business Objects' business intelligence software, include a "metapedia," or encyclopedia that translates metadata into business definitions, providing users with easier navigation and data discovery, according to SAP.

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