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1 ebook 4 Steps to Leveraging Supply Chain Data Integration for Actionable Business Intelligence

2 Content Introduction 3 Leverage a Metadata Layer to Serve as a Standard Template for Integrating Data from ALL your Different Systems 4 Method for Maintaining Clean and Accurate Source Data 5 Ability to Perform Advanced Functions with Your Data 6 Processes to Ensure Your Data Integration Stays Current 6 The Road to Integration and Beyond 7 2

3 Introduction It s no secret that your supply chain is only as good as the data that drives it. Regardless of the level of integration you ve implemented to date, it is a wise practice to routinely review the access and accuracy of the data that drives your decision-making. Recent technology and process changes in the supply chain have created new obstacles to easily accessing the data you need to make strategic decisions. Where once you may have relied on your ERP for most of your data, and manual processes for the rest, that strategy is no longer effective, nor will it help you stay agile and competitive in today s networked economy. With the rise of rapid fulfillment expectations, big data technology, and business process changes that mandate seamless integration with all of your trading partner systems, it is necessary to ensure your data integration strategy is poised to meet the shifting requirements of the modern supply chain. If you don t regularly evaluate your data integration tools or strategy, chances are you are due for some technology and process upgrades. This ebook provides a checklist of strategies for optimizing supply chain integration to provide accurate data you can leverage for actionable business intelligence, giving you increased resiliency and competitive advantage. ERP Outdated!!! 3

4 Leverage a Metadata Layer to Serve as a Standard Template for Integrating Data from ALL your Different Systems It s a fact of modern business that companies often use multiple ERP systems. While some companies operate the same platform across facilities and geographies, it is more common to have different systems and platforms. Mergers and acquisitions, as well as differing geographic and operational needs, can often produce multiple ERP/back office platforms within a single organization. It is also common to have additional (non-erp) systems for a variety of functions that could include: procure-to-pay (P2P) warehouse management (WMS) order management (OMS) transportation management (TMS) business intelligence (BI) software for analytic reporting Don t overlook systems at third parties/partners In addition to multiple internal systems and platforms, it is also necessary to integrate with external trading partners such as suppliers, CMOs, and 3PLs. Typically, each of these partners has their own system as well. Depending on the vendor s function, these systems might contain information that is either not in your systems or is different from what is in your systems. If the data is not integrated into a single console, and reconciled for accuracy, different users will be working with different versions of the truth. This can cause a host of miscommunications, as well as inaccurate POs or invoices, fulfillment delays or errors, among other potential headaches. For example, imagine what could go wrong in your organization if your systems are not integrated with your trading partners, and data such as any of the following is changed in their systems, without your organization s knowledge or notification: item prices delivery schedules lead times inventory quantity in stock freight carriers manufacturing times contact information These are just a few examples, but it becomes clear that your supply chain cannot perform optimally until all connected users are working with the same data. This is the first step toward better, faster decision-making and execution. When planning to add new suppliers or contract with new transportation or distribution vendors, remember to list all the relevant data fields for each vendor and implement data mapping and synchronization as needed using a metadata layer, as described in the next section. Implementing a Metadata Layer Fortunately, disparate systems and data do not automatically sentence you to a lack of business intelligence or mandate a reliance on heavy manual processes. Nor do they require a multi-year, costly implementation process to transfer data onto a new, single system for all of your departments, divisions, and partners. Different systems were developed and are used for different purposes to support the priorities and data requirements of each 4

5 Leverage a Metadata Layer to Serve as a Standard Template for Integrating Data from ALL your Different Systems particular user group. 1 The challenge is to ensure that the data from all systems is optimally integrated and accurate. Metadata Layer Data mapping using a metadata layer provides the technical means to accomplish this, so that all systems can talk to one another. Simply stated, metadata is data about data or information about information. In practical terms, this translates to lowering your total cost of ownership through centrally storing and managing all information about data sources, content, business rules, and access authorizations in a single metadata layer. This layer often uses XML and application programming interfaces (APIs) to pull and transmit the data from different systems. Chances are that many of your existing database structures can be used, and most of the labor and costs associated will involve the process of mapping fields from each system into the integration layer to eliminate duplicates and provide the single version of the truth. Look for solutions that employ a service-oriented architecture (SOA)strategy to minimize costs and your integration project s complexity. Creating and leveraging a metadata layer doesn t have to result in a lengthy process for your internal IT staff. Supply chain management software consoles, combined with coordinated data analysis and mapping during implementation, provide a consolidated format for displaying, analyzing, and transmitting your data to and from your various systems. Vendors of this software can help you implement a metadata layer with architecture that allows you to map fields accurately from each database, as well as synchronize data that appears in multiple systems. 5

6 Method for Maintaining Clean and Accurate Source Data The competitive stakes in supply chain execution continue to reach new heights: One need only look to the most recent developments at Amazon to get a glimpse into what s to come. In the span of a few months, Amazon announced both: the launch of Amazon Fresh in Seattle and LA (the service that allows consumers to order groceries and have them delivered to their door the same day); 2 and a contract with the US Postal Service to provide Sunday delivery to Prime customers in LA and New York, with expansion to other cities beginning in Notably, Wal-Mart, E-bay, and Google are shoring up their same-day delivery capabilities for online orders as well. These examples of rapid fulfillment times as standard operating procedure turn the pressure up for other supply chain companies. In order to compete, many companies are looking for the best tools to get the job done, something that often cannot be accomplished with existing systems. Successfully meeting these demanding fulfillment schedules requires seamlessly integrated systems with near real-time, accurate data across the supply chain. Accurate data is the linchpin for accelerating key areas of your supply chain to gain and protect competitive advantage. 2. Check that the timing and synchronization of data pulls from your ERP to your other systems occur either in near real-time (as data is entered or updated) or at intervals that allow you to make strategic decisions using the latest data. With the current accelerated pace of business as mentioned in the examples earlier, batch processes are only useful if the timing is done in increments of minutes, not hours, days, or weeks. As companies increasingly turn to best-of-breed software providers for solutions that integrate with their ERPs, here again, the tools are only as good as the data and integration methods they are provided. To reap all the benefits from these tools, invest in the resources required to analyze all existing data for parts, customers, suppliers, vendors, accounting, and freight/logistics. Make sure all the data you currently work with is clean unduplicated as well as accurate, if you haven t already done so. Going forward, you will only have to perform this verification with new data and for new systems. Tips for maintaining accurate source data How do you make sure you are getting the most accurate source data? In addition to implementing a metadata layer as discussed earlier, the following basic steps will keep you moving in the right direction: 4 1. Perform an inventory of all the high-impact data needed for decision-making that is pulled from your ERP to your supply chain systems. Check to make sure that these data fields are, in fact, being populated with the correct ERP data. 6

7 Ability to Perform Advanced Functions with Your Data The next step is to ensure that all of your critical data is both visible and actionable. This now goes far beyond standard transactions and reports into advanced searches, real-time notifications and alerts, business analytics, and the ability to filter data using any desired criteria. This depth of visibility and analytic capability equips you with the data needed to avoid disruptions and make better strategic decisions. Ultimately, these decisions propel your organization forward to achieve your goals of increased performance, revenue, and customer satisfaction for greater agility and competitive edge. These are just some examples of advanced functions that enhanced integration provides. The bottom line is that these capabilities free you to focus your valuable time and energy analyzing and responding faster to disruptions in the chain and making strategic decisions to meet your goals. Consider the increased value of data to your supply chain when integration provides the abilities to: 5 Perform advanced searches and filter results to view details for any data point, such as a document, shipment status, package numbers, or a history of orders from a supplier. With all of your data integrated and current, you need only visit one place to locate information, minimizing time, labor, and errors. Search KPIs Alerts 5 Assess performance benchmarks (KPIs) of any part of your chain using custom reports and graphical dashboards. For example, quickly create, access, and view graphical dashboards for each of your supplier s on-time delivery, quality, or compliance performance. Even further: Do this from your tablet anywhere, at any time. Create custom alerts and notifications that allow you to manage by exception (MBE). Only spend time managing and monitoring problems or discrepancies in your chain, such as invoices that fail the matching process, purchase orders that require approval based on your business rules, or shipment delays. 7

8 Processes to Ensure Your Data Integration Stays Current Finally, make sure you build into your corporate processes a standard review cycle interval to repeat the previous checklist items. Whether it is quarterly, annually, or any time you add a new internal system, vendor, supplier, or business process, ensure that: Your integration layer connects in near real-time with all of your systems so they can communicate as if they were one. This single console provides a single version of the truth, greatly reducing disruptions in efficient operations such as miscommunications, inaccurate POs or invoices, or fulfillment delays or errors. Your source data is clean and accurate. Accurate source data is the key to accelerating key areas of your supply chain for lasting competitive advantage. To ensure your data stays current and accurate, create standard processes for adding new suppliers, vendors, or customers. For example, make sure that the company, part, and accounting information are entered correctly and can be seen and re-used by all of your systems. You can perform advanced functions with your data, such as analytic dashboards or custom reports. Advanced functions provide increased visibility deep into your supply chain so you can make better strategic decisions, helping you achieve increased performance, revenue, and customer satisfaction. Going forward, make sure you analyze data integration requirements for new processes. For example, you may need to build new standard reports for new KPIs or to assess a new supplier s performance. 8

9 The Road to Integration and Beyond If you have gone through the checklist of criteria presented in this ebook and you do not have these elements, your supply chain data integration is likely outdated. Although it can be a painful process to streamline, analyze, and integrate your data using a collaboration tool or other integration layer, the sooner this happens, the better. Some basic steps to accomplish this process include: 1. Begin by engaging your IT team or CIO to get an accurate assessment of the current state of your company s skills, resources, databases, and integration capabilities. 2. Then, form a Strategy Team for your integration project, consisting of IT as well as key project stakeholders with deep knowledge of your ERP and other systems. 3. List the resources (internal and external) needed to accomplish the data integration project. This step may require a vendor assessment to determine the best fit of external partners to help implement your solution. Be sure to look for the right combination of cost, expertise, implementation time, and ability to deliver a scalable solution that can integrate with all of your systems. 4. Budget and plan the schedule for the project, and engage all internal and external resources in a kick-off process to communicate deadlines and expectations. In order to ensure that the integration project stays on track, and that your data integration is assessed regularly after implementation, assign primary responsibility for overseeing and managing the project to a member of your Strategy Team. In an era where the volume and variety of data increase exponentially on a regular basis, the benefits from accurate, current data will be seen immediately with results such as: Reduction in PO and invoice discrepancies, made possible by processes such as invoice matching and single versions of order quantities and prices. Increased shipment accuracy and on-time fulfillment, providing capability for shorter lead times. Sharp decrease in manual processes and time spent on tasks, such as searching for information in multiple databases. Faster time to respond to problems in the chain (increased agility) due to enhanced visibility and traceability throughout the product lifecycle. Eventually, you will be able to take your data further by using predictive analytics to enable even better, faster strategic decision-making upstream and downstream, throughout product lifecycles. 6 The closer you can get to real-time, accurate data at-a-glance (the Holy Grail in supply chain), the more resilient and successful your organization will be. 9

10 Endnotes 1 Chase, Peter. Scribe Software Corporation. A Success Model for CRM Integration, May Rudarakanchana, Nat. AmazonFresh s Sneaky Business Strategy Compete with Premium Grocers, Build Out Distribution Model, Enter Mass Market with Force. International Business Times, October 1, Hsu, Tiffany. U.S. Postal Service to Deliver Amazon Packages on Sundays, L.A. Times. November 10, Walker, Matt. Three Steps to Getting the Most Intelligence Value, May 2, Syntelic, Data Integration Challenges for Supply Chain Software. 6 SupplyChainBrain, Steps to Successful Supply Chain Data Integration, June 21,

11 6805 Capital of Texas Hwy Austin, TX T F W - takesupplychain.com A division of TAKE Solutions, Inc TAKE Solutions, Inc.

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