By Willem van Dijk

Over the last two decades, businesses have worked hard to optimise their physical supply chains. The focus of most discussion around supply chain has been centred on the physical movement of goods — the flow of products from raw materials to consumption. Now, a growing number of companies are focusing on the flow and management of product information through the organisation — the information chain — as a driver of competitive advantage.

The coordinated maximal use of operational knowledge is the differentiator between businesses that bloom and those that get by. It’s the means by which executive teams outperform their industry peers, growing revenue, sustaining profitability and mitigating risk.

As businesses embrace new channels, new markets and new ways of selling, business data is snowballing in size and complexity. Data is increasingly complex for executive teams to manage: it’s spread across silos in the organisation and it’s often inconsistent, stale, and unreliable. And this data piles up, unusable in its raw form.

This influx of data must be managed proactively as it flows across the enterprise from the buying office to retail stores, ecommerce and all the way to service and support. It’s about using data as a strategic asset to the business. In most enterprises operational information is siloed. It resides and evolves independently in multiple applications, point solutions and even spreadsheets, where it cannot flow efficiently. Much of this data is inaccurate or incomplete, yet it’s still used to make many critical business decisions.

Gartner estimates more than 25 per cent of critical information within Fortune 1000 businesses is inaccurate or incomplete. And when a company’s divisions and business units fail to share accurate information when and where it’s most needed, operational efficiencies break down, costs increase and the entire business suffers.

Traditional Efforts to Combat the Challenge
Many companies have turned to their ERP system vendors, hoping for a quick and cost-effective solution to this ever-growing information management problem. Yet many are finding their ERP vendors lack the nimbleness, the know-how and the comprehensive approach to managing every business unit’s information as it flows across the enterprise.

Executive teams looking to survive and prosper in the current environment must look beyond a band aid approach to their information challenges. They must find a more holistic, full-cycle approach allowing them to constantly receive and act on accurate information about their products, customers and suppliers. That’s what information management is all about.

Information Supply Chain Management

Information supply chain management is not just about technology. Rather, it’s a mindset, a philosophy, a new strategy. It’s about using a full-cycle approach to integrate all operating divisions, all sales channels and linking supplier, logistics, product and employee information into one management platform.

It’s about how the business aggregates, cleans and manages data, transforming it into a powerful asset for competitive advantage. It’s about a repeatable process which scales. It’s about operationalising data rather than just generating it.

Our experience shows there are five key reasons why leaders across a myriad of industries from manufacturing, distribution, retail, automotive to grocery are rapidly adopting this mindset:
Reason #1: Accelerate time to market
Reason #2: Reduce operating costs
Reason #3: Improve efficiency
Reason #4: Mitigate risk
Reason #5: Improve downstream value chain

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Willem van Dijk is the managing director for Stibo Systems Australia and New Zealand.