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When it comes to aftermarket systems, it’s still all about the data

Friday, February 24, 2017 - 09:00
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I was recently reminded by some customers that what’s old is new again. What’s troubling is that what’s new again is often the same old stuff. It’s still all about the data. And, it’s really bumming me out to think about the lost productivity and squandered IT investments that result from some in the supply chain ignoring data best practices for years.

That’s not to say that we haven’t made progress. Many business leaders have embraced the notion that data is the fuel that powers their business systems. And, as with any fuel, as the quality goes up so does the performance of those business systems.

Reports and analytics become more reliable and useful when data is more complete, consistent and robust. Processing transactions such as purchase orders and invoices can be fully automated when data exceptions no longer require manual intervention and remediation.

The return-on-investment analysis and cost justification for any big IT investment is based on the technology performing to its fullest potential. There is no mention in the proposal about 20 percent or more of the purchase orders failing to process due to data errors, and requiring manual reconciliation. Nor does the sales representative address the cost of shipping errors and lost sales attributed to product data that was out of synch between trading partners.

Before any executive takes the time to read a proposal for a major investment that relies on perfect data, they should ask their chief data officer (if they have one), “what’s the quality of our data?” If they’re not satisfied with the answer, that IT proposal should be filed in the bottom drawer.

It was almost 15 years ago that Jerry McCabe, then head of marketing for Dana Aftermarket, addressed the Aftermarket eForum with a most thoughtful discussion of the effect and impact of sub-par product and transaction content. Jerry itemized the effects he had observed from part numbers that didn’t match and basic commerce values that were at odds with those of their customers. He concluded that “it’s all about the data” and advised his peers that there was no greater return on investment a business could make than one in perfecting product and transaction data, and the systems and processes required to keep that data in synch with your trading partners.

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