Does anyone else find inspiration in the oddest of places? The idea for this blog came to me while on the phone trying to order a pizza. Journey with me, if you will, and together we’ll uncover what my pizza order and data management have in common. It all started with the cheese. It was one of those evenings when the family needed an easy dinner option. After trying to order online with our favorite pizza shop and getting errors, I finally picked up the phone. An exasperated worker answered the phone and I was told the pizza place was “out of cheese.” How does a major pizza chain run out of a key ingredient? Didn’t the cheese people communicate with the sauce people, and the dough people, and what exactly was the communication with the order people? Yes, I’m aware that’s not exactly how it works, but you get my point. It seems to me that the Great Cheese Crisis of 2022 could have been averted with a little communication – both between humans and systems – it’s all about the data.

Data is at the core of all business

Evolving a robust data management strategy and diligently executing on it can steer an organization around potential pitfalls (e.g., running out of cheese); and enable valuable insights to streamline operations, identify new opportunities for business growth, facilitate workforce retention, drive sustainability practices and much more. Data is the connective tissue that runs through all aspects of a business. Data doesn’t just sit within the confines of the enterprise, but it weaves its way across the supply chain. Understanding how this data is collected, managed, analyzed and used across the supply chain is important. Insights from this data are the key to predicting and fulfilling changing consumer demand, avoiding process breakdowns, improving resiliency and delivering a superior customer experience (Ex. satisfying pizza cravings)!

Three steps to understanding your data and maximizing your value

The greatest impact on your success comes from how effectively this data makes its way through the supply chain, stitching together the people and processes to create actionable insights to help interpret and respond to events in your environment. The obvious first step is to gather and understand the data you already have. Most organizations succeed in this first step – at least in some form or fashion, but it’s the rest of the journey that often trips them up.

  1. Gather your data

    This step is just about creating a multi-dimensional map of the data you already gather and/or have access to. The biggest challenge is that often data sits in silos, possibly across different systems that are managed by different teams. Developing a good view of what data exists, who originates it, where it resides, who uses it, when and how often is a good start to any data journey.

  2. Start putting people at the center of the process

    The ultimate goal of any business is to drive value for all stakeholders. That is where incorporating human-centered design (HCD) into your data management strategy comes in. It moves your stakeholders (people) from the periphery into the center of your processes.

    Whether it’s your customers who interact with your organization, employees managing the back office, contractors, suppliers, regulators, investors etc., understanding their needs and intent more holistically is the starting point for a business case to prioritize your investments. Applying HCD to the supply chain allows you to evolve more well-rounded processes, which when supported by good data, can drive the desired outcomes and right experience for the stakeholders. It will also grease the change management wheel leading to better acceptance and adoption to be successful.

  3. Connect the … in your ecosystem

    Once you’ve gathered your data sources, built an understanding of the processes and the people at the center of the processes, it is now time to connect the dots. What data is critical to your critical processes? What data is important to the key stakeholders in your value chain? Do we have a uniform interpretation or understanding of this data across the supply chain? Who is going to act as the steward of this data? What important data is missing or problematic? How does this impact your supply chain?

    Successful data management strategies look beyond the borders of a single team, system or organization. There is a growing need for data exchange between entities throughout the interconnected supply chain ecosystems of today. Challenges occur when data moves across multiple organizations, integrating varying systems and processes. Luckily, the digitization of data has been enabled by significant advances in technology needed to facilitate data sharing across a heterogeneous ecosystem.

Okay, so the correlation between data management and my pizza dilemma may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s a very probable scenario of how poor data management practices can impact the end customer. How do you ensure you don’t run out of the proverbial cheese? Focus on data across your ecosystem. Ensure you have the right data in the right form at the right time at the right place in your supply chain to drive business outcomes and stakeholder satisfaction. Constantly look for opportunities to gain insights from the data you’re collecting and using to drive innovation and deliver predictable value. This will result in streamlined communications and drive a more predictable and valuable outcome for all parties involved (especially hungry customers).

Learn more about how CGI works with partners at the University of Tennessee Supply Chain Institute to manage and drive efficiencies across the supply chain.

About this author

Dilip Nair Headshot

Dilip Nair

Senior executive with over 25+ years in business technology consulting, currently serving as U. S. East Consulting Services leader for manufacturing and retail clients. In his role, Dilip continues to advise and guide diverse enterprises on strategies and tactics to transform supply chains, enhance ...