Electronic exchange of business documents should be the last step in improvement of business processes within an organization.
If we start exchanging incorrect data with trading partners, instead of savings, EDI will bring additional costs and frustrations. Errors need to be corrected, orders revised, inventories corrected, goods re-shipped or returned and so on.
In today’s fast moving world, companies do not have the luxury to do all these unnecessary activities. So, before starting with EDI, all data should be error-free, up-to-date and complete. But, hot to achieve this? Best practices, collected from multiple companies around the world can show the correct way:
- 1. Actively involve management in the project of master data consolidation. To make sure master data stays in good quality after initial cleaning, new business processes will have to be introduced. This always sparks resistance from the people who need to enforce these new processes. It is imperative that in these instances management steps in and ensure the continuation of project.
- 2. Start small – think big. Project needs to be designed to affect only a small, representative, part of the organization. Use this, pilot phase, to tweak and improve specifications and measure effectiveness. Only then expand the project to a entire organization.
- 3. Accurate master data is a permanent business process, not a spring cleaning campaign. As with everything, chaos seeps in, and constant maintenance and improvement of system is required to keep data quality at a optimal level.
- 4. Master data management should be independent, centralized service used by all departments in the organization. All data about a single product should be kept at a single place, under single code. Data can be updated and enriched by authorized departments, e.g. marketing, or R&D, but all organizational units must see the same version of data.
Apart from that, it is important to track and log all changes to data. This ensures the accountability for correctness and quality of data.Make sure that management is on board with master data consolidation project. It requires vision and determination to implement it properly
Technically, master data management is usually a web service available to all organizational units. Master data is an ideal point to start introducing SOA architecture into IT system.
- 5. Use existing standards. Resist the urge to make extensive changes to it. There are several well documented standards out there specifically designed to hold master data, and it is important which one you select. Some are general purposed like GS1 GDSN, and some are better suited for specific industries. For example, GS1 offers so called “Data Quality Framework“, designed to help companies consolidate their master data and make changes to their business processes. Selecting the right standard at the beginning of project can have a huge impact on the cost, and indeed, the outcome of the project.
Finally, consider engaging an outside consultant or consultancy company to help set up this project correctly. Master data problems are similar in all companies, and while you’ve faced some of them, experienced consultant will point other pitfalls that might become important later in the process. With the help of consultant, choose an appropriate PIM system. Developing such system from scratch is not your core business – so save time and money and adopt one of already existing ones.