The Need for a Systems Integration Strategy / Tactical Plan
Author: Brion Carroll, CEO of Digital Solution Group, LLC
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems in support of the Retail Market have always been targeted to provide centralized organization of all product data and basic product development in one system. I know this because I led the effort in developing / delivering the retail market’s first enterprise PLM system. This followed years of experience as I led the birth and penetrated use of PDM/PLM in the Aerospace, Automotive, High Tech (Discrete) industries where CAD “vaulting” / management, parts / bill of materials (BOM) management, and configuration management were the basic operations supported.
In those more matured Discrete industries, use of PLM provided (at a minimum) the ability for these systems to share data with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to enable complex BOM structures to be accurately delivered to shield against costly incorrect parts ordering or manufacturing mayhem that took days or weeks and hundreds ($) to tens of thousands ($$$$) of dollars to resolve per occurrence.
Retail PLM is used to manage a much more expanded “common set” of product data that supports a much more expanded set of “basic operations” of Assortment / Range Planning, Line Planning, CAD “vaulting” / management, materials / color management, BOM based technical specification development, supplier / factory management, and product quality / sampling / testing management.
The Retail PLM functional profile is much broader than Discrete PLM, and therefore there exists a proportionally broader number of “other” systems that are required to send data to or receive data from the Retail PLM.
In both markets, common data is housed within its PLM to perform the product development process / functional operations, and each shares its data with other systems and therefore this data exchange is equally NOT an option. It is either done manually, semi-automated (export/import) or systemically (direct data exchange).
When systems are “manually or operationally integrated” a business suffers operational issues or IT support costs with examples being:
… data is inaccurately reentered in upstream / downstream systems: an example being the inaccurate entry of a Product’s characteristic or pricing that causes operational distress when the data is trusted to be correct;
… OR … operational delays due to the lag that occurs when data needs to be manually reentered in upstream / downstream systems; an example when Product characteristics and pricing have to be reentered in ecommerce site causing lost product sales where days equal dollars;
… OR … when scarce IT resources are allocatedto export, validation / transform, and import data into upstream / downstream systems that results in the loss of opportunities to utilize IT resources on more critical activities.
Financial losses or misallocations of funding can range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per year with no means of establishing progressive improvements in seasonal business operations.
What is lost is lost. The resolution to these issues requires the focusing of business and IT organizations to take action to transform this distressed configuration of systems into a PLM Based SolutionScape that creates digital fluidity throughout the systems supporting seasonal business operations.
Digital Solution Group (DSG) provides brands and vertical retailers with a range of services focused on establishing a Strategic / Tactical plan that will produce that digital transformation. We begin by going back to the basics of defining the integrated SolutionScape. This means assessing each “manually connected” system and identifying the value to the business of creating a systemic integration.
The image above presents a means of assessing the value of each system integration with PLM, first requiring that we profile “WHY” each system should be integrated. This operational efficiency is established by defining the digital fluidity of “WHAT” data serves as the basis for that efficiency. DSG then works with the business to define “WHEN” that data is to be exchanged, such as the status change of a Product or a Material or a BOM or a Technical Specification.
DSG concludes by working with the IT organization to define and develop “HOW” the data is to be interchanged; whether it is through a common middleware facility or point-to-point integration; each leveraging system APIs after ensuring “data conformity” with the receiving system.
DSG is then able to offer the unique service of monitoring all system integration transactions that ensure instant visibility of success or issues in transmission. This results in the highest level of real-time support in the 24x7 world of business operations. This also enables DSG to provide a wealth of technical, business, and executive level reports and dashboards that detail the value metrics of the digital fluidity throughout the evolving PLM Based SolutionScape.
The development of the WHY, WHAT, WHEN and HOW PLM should be integrated with other critical / key business systems is the basis of both the Strategic and Tactical Plan. Strategic planning defines the business value of integrating; while Tactical planning establishes the sequentiality of the system(s) integration.
NOTE: Though Strategic planning defines the business value of each integration, which will directly influence the Tactical sequencing, the Tactical sequencing is also influenced by technical feasibility and the ability for the business to “digest” or support the phasing of execution.
Digital Solution Group is uniquelyskilled in working with the business and IT organization to define the Strategic and Tactical Plan for developing what is often referred to as the ASIS (Current State) to TOBE (Future State) digital transformation; an example of which is represented in the image below.
As noted previously, DSG works with both the business and IT organizations to define the TOBE profile (noted by the systems outlined in red) or the Strategicfuture state. DSG then works in a similar manner to formulate the Tactical plan of execution. Each system set / integration will have business value profiles that are then used to justify the cost of each integration AND is later used to validate the business value achieved by each integration over the cost recovery (or ROI) period.
Nothing has changed from the way in which PLM is operationally integrated with other critical systems by the Discrete industries that have become mature adopters of this technology. The only difference in the Retail industry is that it has four to six times more critical systems that should be integrated to ensure the digital fluidity;' thereby extending the value of PLM is achieved.
Each system set must be assessed based on the business value of its integration to formulate the Strategic and Tactical plan of what DSG refers to as a PLM Based SolutionScape. Digital Solution Group has the experience and expertise in not only providing this vital service, but it is also equipped with the resources skilled in its execution, monitoring, and support.
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