Time to Eat Your Vegetables, Supply Chain

By February 20, 2020Beyond Supply Chain
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Quick, name one of the most “unsexy” topics you can think of in the area of supply chain management.

Chances are some of you thought about the need to better manage the availability and quality of the data you use to plan and run your operations. The fact of the matter is, no one likes spending time and resources on this critical supply chain performance enabler. Yet in the same breath, many would concede that, without a solid data foundation, the ability to quickly and effectively assess the upstream and downstream impacts of the present coronavirus outbreak is challenging.

Moreover, strong data governance is not just about enabling timely crisis management. Quality data is the fuel that all of our (really sexy!) advanced analytics run on. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of participating on hundreds of company briefings as part of Gartner’s Supply Chain Top 25 leadership program. Almost to a company, the most advanced supply chain organizations will, at some point, mention that cleaning up data and establishing effective ongoing governance was a huge part of their journeys. This foundation allows for faster and more successful product launches, a comprehensive digital voice of the customer and more synchronized upstream supply planning, just to name a few areas of value.

On the flip side, many in supply chain say that a lack of a solid data foundation is what’s holding them back from making their next big leap in digital enablement.

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OK, I’m Convinced that Data Governance is Important. Now What?

If you’ve come around to the idea that a solid data foundation is worth pursuing, but are a bit daunted by the prospect of making it happen, here are a few best practices to consider:

  • Partner Up and Get it Funded — The value of clean and timely supply chain data increases exponentially when it is enabled end-to-end, as opposed to in functional silos. Work with your fellow travelers in supply chain and IT, and with other enterprise partners in R&D, and sales and marketing, to pursue data quality management as a larger corporate objective and capability. It is also extremely difficult to justify investment in data as a standalone project. Instead, attach funding requests to related capability programs that would be enabled and are more easily pegged to tangible business value drivers. One example: improved planning capabilities that will ultimately lead to less inventory and higher service levels for your company.
  • Execute on the Fundamentals — Once you’ve passed the initial milestone of funding for your data foundation initiative, the next step will be staffing and establishing governance structures to assign ownership and assess the associated quality of your various data elements over time. This is too large a scope of work to cover in a blog post, but there are resources available in Gartner’s broader research library and advisory services, for instance, to aid your journey. The following table, taken from a research toolkit on data governance fundamentals, lays out the different governance domains, as well as the artifacts and work to be done within each one.

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  • Build a Data Quality Culture — Another critical element of any successful data quality initiative is fostering a culture where, like safety, everyone considers it a part of their responsibilities. There will, of course, be specific ownership assigned for each data domain, as content is created and modified throughout its life cycle. And like any effective change management effort, clear leadership prioritization, inclusion in individual “management by objective” goals and public recognition for those demonstrating alignment to the values and objectives of the initiative are powerful reinforcing mechanisms.

Healthy Data, Better Insights

Just as eating vegetables makes our bodies and senses sharper and more capable, effective data management helps eliminate supply chain “brain fog” when we seek visibility to operational performance and conduct analyses to determine our next best plans.

OK, maybe broccoli or carrots aren’t your favorites, but you have to admit, they’re pretty good in a stir fry. Open wide, supply chain … here comes the airplane!

Stan Aronow,
VP Distinguished Advisor,
Gartner Supply Chain
[email protected]



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