Leveraging supply chain data integration for actionable business intelligence

By Freddie Pierce
By Donna Fritz, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management for TAKE Supply Chain Introduction Its no secret that your supply chain is only as...


By Donna Fritz, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management for TAKE Supply Chain


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’s wise to routinely review the 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 Enterprise Resource Planning (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. This article provides a checklist of steps for optimizing supply chain integration to provide accurate data businesses can leverage for actionable business intelligence, giving you increased resiliency and competitive advantage.

A method for maintaining clean and accurate source data

To ensure you are getting the most accurate data, first 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.

Then, 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 enable you to make strategic decisions using the latest data. With the current accelerated pace of business, 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, the tools are only as good as the data and integration methods they use.

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.

The ability to perform advanced functions with your data

The next step is to ensure that all 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.

Consider the increased value of data to your supply chain when integration provides the abilities to:

·         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.

·         Assess performance benchmarks (KPIs) of any part of your chain using custom reports and graphical dashboards.

·         Create custom alerts and notifications that allow you to manage by exception (MBE).

These are just a few 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.

The 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 two steps. 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.

·         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.

·         You can perform advanced functions with your data, such as analytic dashboards or custom reports.

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. The closer you can get to real-time, accurate data at-a-glance (the Holy Grail in the supply chain industry), the more resilient and successful your organization will be.


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