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The Headache of Managing Supply Chain Data

This time of year, we're inundated with predictions. Some of them you look at and forget. Others stick with you and get your problem-solving wheels spinning.

The second scenario happened to me the other day when I was browsing sites and looking up enterprise IT trends. Three of the executive predictions cited on the Business 2 Community site in Brian Rich's article and the related market comments by industry executives got me thinking about supply chain issues EBN readers would be all too familiar with. Many of you can help answer these questions for me. I think they would be interesting topics for future blog posts.

The first statement that stood out was from Brian Reagan, vice president of product marketing at Actifio: “The need for multiple copies of data for various purposes (backup, business continuity, disaster recovery, test and development, analytics, etc.) remains mission critical, yet as data volumes continue to accelerate, the ability to meet service levels at a reasonable cost is challenged.”

This one from Irad Carmi, chief technology officer at TOA Technologies, got me thinking, too: “I believe that in 2013, businesses will look to the applications they have to better use this real-time data in new ways — such as enabling better social connections and making in-the-moment decisions.”

Lastly, Carlos Montero-Luque, chief technology officer at Apperian, makes an interesting point:

Mobile device management will be replaced by a broader view of enterprise mobility management that incorporates a holistic view of apps, content, access to backend services, as well as networks and devices that comprehensively addresses all aspects of mobility within an enterprise.

Let's think about these predictions filtered through the way you work today and the IT issues your organization is struggling with. Seeing these statements side-by-side and coming off the “big data/fast story” I wrote last week, a bunch of questions popped to mind. For instance:

  • How many copies of supply chain data do you need in today's business environment, and who uses those copies? Do you really need all those copies?
  • How quickly are supply chain updates now required by partners, and how quickly can partners really respond today? Have we done so much supply chain automation that we're down to updates every few seconds, or are we still far from that?
  • Have we really arrived at a point where we can get real-time inventory data or pull a consumer question off the Twitter feed and act on it within a few seconds of posting that information?
  • How many different devices does the average supply chain professional use today to get job-related info? Which one is the one you can't live without?
  • How is the convergence of these things (actual real-time information being reviewed on laptops, phones, and tablets in and out of the office) affecting supply chain analytics, version tracking, exception management, team collaboration and information sharing? Pros and cons?
  • Does multi-device, real-time data access make flexibility even more confusing and complex, or it is truly simplifying communication between supply chain teams? How so?
  • What data-related issues are causing you a headache right now? Or reversely, how has modern-day data retrieval and management made your life easier today?

Tell me what you think and I'll consider using it in a future blog post. Email me at jenn@jenniferbaljko.com.

13 comments on “The Headache of Managing Supply Chain Data

  1. Greg Riemer
    January 18, 2013

    Jennifer I think you're asking the right questions. Everyone now has big data and has KPI in place and can look at the data on any device. I think as a supplier we need to do more than provide visibility and information to our customers. We need to help them understand the information. In addition we need to bring innovation to them in real time, not in quarterly meetings or annually reviews.  

  2. ITempire
    January 19, 2013

    How many copies of supply chain data do you need in today's business environment, and who uses those copies? Do you really need all those copies?

    For back-up purposes, 2 copies should be sufficient, both located at different sites. Supply-chain professionals are only ones who can understand hence use these copies in case of disaster circumstances.

    How quickly are supply chain updates now required by partners, and how quickly can partners really respond today? Have we done so much supply chain automation that we're down to updates every few seconds, or are we still far from that?

    We still aren't there to getting an update from supply chain partners within few seconds. Many supply chain partners will only provide information on request and refuse to integrate their system with the concerned company.

    Have we really arrived at a point where we can get real-time inventory data or pull a consumer question off the Twitter feed and act on it within a few seconds of posting that information?

    I don't think we are there yet. But many organizations are trying to integrate social networks with their systems to the extent possible.

  3. ITempire
    January 19, 2013

    How is the convergence of these things (actual real-time information being reviewed on laptops, phones, and tablets in and out of the office) affecting supply chain analytics, version tracking, exception management, team collaboration and information sharing? Pros and cons?

    For supply chain executives or professionals who are on the move, they can remain updated and provide directions. Cons may be the rash usage of mobile devices (esp in the BYOD perspective) which may lead to compromise to data security.

    Does multi-device, real-time data access make flexibility even more confusing and complex, or it is truly simplifying communication between supply chain teams? How so?

    It is truly simplifying communication between teams. Every one knows the true and updated picture at a given point of time.

    What data-related issues are causing you a headache right now? Or reversely, how has modern-day data retrieval and management made your life easier today?

    Too much data is there to manage. A lot of time is wasted on data management rather than doing a productive activity to utilize that data.

  4. ITempire
    January 19, 2013

    @ Greg

    True.

    To add on to your point, data visualization techniques are helping out users to understand the information more easily. For executives' usage, the information today is becoming both updated and readily available and also it is in a form that is easy to interpret esp. due to these visualization techniques.

  5. SP
    January 20, 2013

    So true handling big data is one issue that is very important and required to be addressed. I attended a conferene organized by MIT tech review India and many companies participated. It was amazing to see how different sectors IT, Medical, automaotive, industrial face this big data problem. There are solutions available but then its costly and you would need back up of that too 🙂

  6. Houngbo_Hospice
    January 21, 2013

    @SP,

    “There are solutions available but then its costly and you would need back up of that too :-)”

    The solutions will get better and affordable with time. We are at the dawn of big data and we are yet to understand how to process and manage it. That will not be solved overnight.

  7. Jennifer Baljko
    January 21, 2013

    @Greg – This is a good point: “ I think as a supplier we need to do more than provide visibility and information to our customers. We need to help them understand the information.”

    How is your company doing this? What kind of information are you sharing with customers for real-time visibilty?

  8. Jennifer Baljko
    January 21, 2013

    WaqasAltaf – Thanks for the answers. This was both surprising and disheartening –  “Many supply chain partners will only provide information on request and refuse to integrate their system with the concerned company.”

     

  9. Jennifer Baljko
    January 21, 2013

    WaqasAltaf – I think you're last sentence is true on so many levels, for so many people. “Too much data is there to manage. A lot of time is wasted on data management rather than doing a productive activity to utilize that data.”

     It's becoming an incredibly huge task to sort through all the data that hits us every day and do something useful with it. Hopefully in a couple year, some analytics will be laid on top of this data and help separate info into categories like  “interesting” and “useful”

     

  10. Jennifer Baljko
    January 21, 2013

    WaqasAltaf- what software companies are offering the data visualization techniques?  I'd like to take a look at how it works. 

  11. Jennifer Baljko
    January 21, 2013

    SP, Hospice – Agreed. I think we're at the beginning of a long journey… And maybe some of the cloud storage solutions will eventually help lower the price.

  12. ITempire
    January 26, 2013

    @ Jennifer

    This was both surprising and disheartening

    I believe we must understand that every company has its confidentiality. If a supply chain partner is serving 100 other clients at the same time it is serving you, it will be almost impossible for it to attend to your requests for integrating systems. If that supply chain partner's major business resides with your company, only then we can expect it to honour such requests of yours.

  13. ITempire
    January 26, 2013

    @ Jennifer

    “Hopefully in a couple year, some analytics will be laid on top of this data and help separate info into categories like “interesting” and “useful””

    Hopefully yes. I think the source of data has a lot to do with the management issues it creates. The data gathered from unstructured sources such as feedback from social networks, customer feedbacks through unsolicited methods, etc. is a lot difficult to organize and use it further. Data extracted from a solicited customer survery, production reports generated from MISs, research conducted by agencies on the company's request, etc.  may generate data which is usable for analysis purposes.

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