Situation and Challenge
As a consequence of gradual IT development over the years, many companies have several core systems that contain the same basic information about customers and products. Each of the systems is dependent on its own databases to function. Many companies work to achieve process improvements where the processes are partially executed by these core systems. The processes often falter for two basic reasons. In part because the basic data is not synchronized between the different systems, and in part because the structure of the information to be processed has not been similarly defined. If customer concepts are not clearly defined, it can be difficult to monitor sales results, for example.
Required skills – problems with implementation
One main problem is that there is frequently no set definition for basic data with attributes that covers the entire organization’s set of requirements and the IT applications’ requirements for information content. Semantics-related problems then obstruct technical integration of processes. If the concept of “customer” is not defined in a uniform manner with the same attributes, translating it from one system to another becomes problematic.
Additionally, a general wish is to have veracity of basic data. One master with accurate customer and product data improves the quality of all processes where the information is used and processed. Only this information needs to be synchronized between different systems. Oftentimes one of the systems becomes the master where basic data is generated, and automatic updates take place automatically in the other systems.
Another major problem is that investments might already have been made in existing systems. The systems are no longer able to support the organization’s working methods satisfactorily, but they exist and employees have to make the best of the situation. This results in efficiency losses, and many people see no appropriate way of moving forward other than tossing everything out and buying new systems. The business benefits of this course of action, however, are limited.
What is a structurally correct approach?
It is important to work on the basis of operational objectives. What is working well, and what needs improvement? What do we want to be able to do better? It is often a matter of getting a better handle on operations from a monitoring perspective, creating more efficient processes for smarter working methods and achieving a higher level of quality in operations.
Typically, an operations-driven specification of requirements is produced. This is based on operational processes and information needs, which need to be produced in operations-driven workshops and be documented in a repository-based tool. The definition of requirements forms the basis for modified working methods and IT support.
A business process management platform allows new IT support for users to be created, while recycling older applications. New graphical user interfaces are created on top of processes that span all applications and that are customized based on preferred working methods. The logic of the underlying applications is consumed via the service interface.
A master data management tool (MDM) allows gradual improvement of data quality, and the MDM platform becomes an integrated part of the process flows where main data is created and maintained.
We have done this before!
Ferrologic has helped several successful companies modify their operations and IT support as described above.
For a media group, we produced common definitions of information, processes and business rules for defining requirements for modified IT support with high precision. We implemented technologies such as BPM, SOA and MDM, which were used in a loosely coupled architecture where information was synchronized between systems. Implementation resulted in better support for operational processes, new user interfaces and recycling of services from older underlying systems.