Site Master Distribution is Best Practice in S/4HANA

A notable feature of S/4HANA is that, unlike ECC 6.0, a customizing request is not raised when creating or maintaining a Site Master in the Customizing Golden client. Given this, should a Site Master in S/4HANA be considered as master data or treated as customizing?

What’s more – perhaps, what’s worse – your Site Master process design critically depends on the answer to this “debatable” question. You better get this right.

A key requirement of every SAP Retail implementation is to provide a simple and straightforward production process for New Retail Store Creation. When possible – and it’s usually possible – that means crafting a process without follow-on configuration steps. Reliability, repeatability, and relatively speedy execution are key requirements. Open a new store. Quick!

Beyond stated requirements, your Site Master process design should adhere to Best Practices unless you’re presented with overwhelming evidence that recommends well-considered deviation. Lastly, position yourself for success over time by considering likely failure points. Will your process design remain effective as business processes change, or as new business processes and attendant configuration are introduced?

The bar is high, and there’s abundant complexity lurking in any Site Master process, to be sure. The good news is that Best Practice and standard functionality ultimately serve both to mask complexity and provide a future-proof design. There is a clear way forward.

Site Master Distribution is a Key Design Decision

Site Master in S/4HANA Retail is technically configuration, but customizing requests are not raised when Site Masters are created or maintained. Transport management is not relevant when using standard T-Codes for Site Master maintenance.

Instead, Site Master Distribution, enabled by standard functionality (Data Replication Framework, or DRF), is used to comprehensively distribute Site Master customizing and master data from your Development customizing golden client to all downstream systems-clients that require Site Masters.

For your S/4HANA Retail landscape, how will Site Masters be created and maintained?

Option A: Create and maintain Sites in Development Customizing system-client and distribute to all systems-clients that require Site Masters.

  • S/4HANA Retail standard process and Best Practice.
  • Distribution of one-version-of-the-truth ensures consistent Site customizing and master data across SAP landscape.
  • Production data is maintained in a Development system.
  • Process implementation is additional work.

Option B:  Create and maintain Site Masters directly in each system-client that requires Site Masters.

  • Simplified security and controls in Development systems.
  • Dependency on humans to act in concert and over time.
  • Possibility of inconsistent Site Master customizing.

S/4HANA Retail Site Master is Configuration

Site Masters must be created in your customizing golden client (a development system) because other configuration depends on Site Masters.

You should always think of Site Master as a single business object, consisting of configuration and a collection of technical objects, such as Site, Site Business Partner, Site ERP Customer, and Site ERP Vendor. The word Site refers inclusively to the complete collection of Site Master components, including customizing.

Site Master is one business object comprised of many technical objects, including customizing.

Anyone can be forgiven for thinking of a Site Master as only master data, given its name. But the metamorphosis of a standard Plant, as pure configuration, to a Retail Site Master, now as pure master data, remains incomplete, even in S/4HANA.

Business Process Owners and Architects (including platform, infrastructure) need to consider that a Site Master is configuration, as they rightfully question why so-called “master data” should be created and maintained in the customizing golden client (a development system) and subsequently distributed.

Creating Site Masters directly in Production creates customizing in Production.

Site Masters are created from Reference Sites, using a Site Profile and an assigned Copy Rule. Consider that, by default, about 50 customizing tables are potentially copied from the Reference Site to a new Site Master at the time of creation.

Creating a new Site Master creates customizing (copies configuration).

Therefore, creating Site Masters directly in Production creates customizing in Production!

This design choice violates a first principal, which is that your customizing golden system-client is the one version of the truth for customizing.

Site Master Distribution is Best Practice

Because Site Masters are customizing in S/4HANA – at least in part – it then follows as Best Practice that Site Masters in S/4HANA should be treated as customizing. That means, in practice, that Site Masters should be created in the customizing golden client and distributed to all downstream systems-clients that require Site Masters.

Site Master Distribution is a Best Practice because process complexity is minimized and outcome consistency is maximized by implementing Site Master Distribution.

Evaluation of Key Decision Options

Process Implications: Customizing and Master Data Consistency

Option A: Site Master Distribution
  • Standard distribution process.
  • Fewer participants, highly trained.
  • One version of the truth ensures consistent testing of customizing and master data.
  • Similar to transport management, but comprehensive: includes master data and customizing.
Option B: Maintain Sites per system-client
  • Standard and manual process.
  • Automation, if possible, would be very-high complexity (non-standard).
  • Expansion of Site customizing as new functionality is introduced is complex.
  • Humans responsible for sequencing Site Master creation, maintenance, and customizing transports.
  • Possibility of inconsistent Site Master customizing.

Process Implications: Complexity to Implement and Support

Option A: Site Master Distribution
  • More than a small effort and complexity for Basis to implement and maintain.
  • Effort for Security to implement roles to support the business process, plus broader effort.
  • Significant increase in effort and complexity (+WRICEF) to implement at a later date (after Sites are manually created in target system-clients).
Option B: Maintain Sites per system-client
  • Low-complexity, standard, and manual process using standard transaction codes.

Process Implications: Security and Controls

Option A: Site Master Distribution
  • Production data maintained in Development system-client.
  • Security roles required to control data maintenance and distribution.
Option B: Maintain Sites per system-client
  • Simplified security roles in non-production systems-clients.
  • Security and Controls is focused on Production systems-clients.

Process Implications: Business Process Orchestration

Option A: Site Master Distribution
One version of the truth. Similar to transport management, but comprehensive: includes master data and customizing.
Option B: Maintain Sites per system-client
Humans are responsible for sequencing Site Master creation, maintenance, and customizing transports across your SAP landscape.

Problematic outcomes with Option B are manifested as new business processes or business process changes — with underlying Site-master-related customizing — are introduced, which is usually the anticipated case.

What’s the one process, or are there many variations depending on sequence?

For example, is a Site Master created first in Production, then in Development, with follow-on customizing in Development that is subsequently promoted to Production? What about the case of a new Distribution Center (again, an anticipated case), which nearly always includes follow-on customizing after creation.

What about the timing of configuration changes made to Reference Sites and propagated by transport, and the timing of Sites created directly in each system-client?

All of these subtle process variations and details are opportunities to introduce Site-related-customizing inconsistencies across the SAP landscape, predictably resulting in business process failure.

Process complexity is minimized and outcome consistency is maximized by adoption of Site Master Distribution.