Is Your Information Supply Chain Working for You?

information supply chain

Exploiting Your Information Supply Chain

 

Last century was characterized as the era of commercial growth. 

We learned how to manufacture goods efficiently and effectively enough to become the world leader in production.  At the heart of this capability was the supply chain. 

Toward the end of the century, you saw companies like Wal-Mart, Amazon and Dell Technologies capitalize on building efficient, expert supply chains.

With traditional manufacturing supply chains, you begin with raw materials that make up your product.  These materials are shipped to manufacturing plants that develop products. 

You might even work with other companies to pull together complete solutions using your products.  These are then priced and shipped to specific markets. The products are distributed and sold through either face to face sales, telesales, online commerce or distributed to retail outlets. 

It’s a model that has been working well for Americans and the world for at least a century or more.

But the 21st century is said to be one dominated by information.  In this world, the supply chain of information itself will lead us to the next big companies.  Just look at the ones that are growing today – Facebook, Uber, Google – all built on information as the product.

An information supply chain takes raw materials (transactional, reference and metadata data) transforms it into information (reports, dashboards, embedded triggers in systems) and makes this product available to managers and executives for use in decision making.

It’s not just the Ubers of the world that are built on data, every company today has an information supply chain.  Most are not recognizing its value to the business.  So let’s look at the elements that need to be managed in the delivery of good, quality information throughout your company.

A good information supply chain shares some of the same characteristics as a physical product one.

1.   Process is king

It starts with process before tools.  Process helps you define what data is most important to you – customer, product, vendor, person.  Which of these are key to your company’s strategy and success?

2.   Organization is queen

What skills do you need on your team and what continuous learning do you think that your team will need in order to operate efficiently and effectively in the supply chain framework?  Do you have people who understand how data is sourced, transformed and moved throughout your organization?

3.   Metrics provide direction. 

Do you have a way of measuring your process and your outputs? 

Are those numbers available to you and your internal and external customers.  Are they the numbers that matter most? 

Here’s an example.  For years, my organization has measured the % of duplicates in our master data.  We are proud of the fact that we have managed that % to less than a half a percent, but our customers still tell us that duplicates complicate their lives. 

As a result, we’ve changed our metric to the actual # of records.  Although it doesn’t solve our problem, it does cast a different light on the fact that .4% of our database in duplicates is actually close to half a million records. 

4.   Leadership is a requirement, not a nice-to-have.  

This starts with you, but more importantly it should start with the highest level executive in your company.  Data would not be such a big deal at my company if it weren’t for our CEO who has declared that we will be a data driven company.

5.   Innovative technology should be the playground

Technology is last on the list, but still important.  To be innovative with information, you need good IT partners, partners that are willing to experiment and fail fast. 

For example, my team has pioneered with IT a continuous development/continuous improvement cycle for implementing changes in our IT environment.  We now deliver changes to our environment on a weekly basis.

Next- A quick list of questions to ask yourself about your company’s information supply chain

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About the author

Theresa Kushner

Theresa Kushner is a journalist-turned-marketer and Vice President of Enterprise Information Management at VMware.  She is responsible for master data management, business intelligence and advanced analytics.  She and Maria Villar co-write a column for LatinBusinessToday.com. They are co-authors of Managing Your Business Data: From Chaos to Confidence, published by Racom Books in 2008.