Podcast: Mastering retail data management

Putting the pieces together for an efficient supply chain

The retail supply chain is more complex than ever. Disparate systems and fragmented processes lead to gaps in visibility into inventory and, ultimately, the inability to give customers what they want, when they want it and in the channel they prefer. Now is the time for retailers to put all the pieces together for a unified, big-picture approach to their supply chain. Find out what our Subject Matter Experts, Patty McDonald and Trusha Pandya have to share in this episode.

Interested to learn more? Find out more about Retail Master Data Management solutions from Symphony RetailAI

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    Sean:                                   Thank you for joining us. In this episode, Symphony RetailAI supply chain experts, Patty McDonald, and Trusha Pandya will be discussing mastering retail data management, and why it’s vital to create a manageable and actionable big picture view of your retail business.

    Patty McDonald:              Hi, this is Patty McDonald from Symphony RetailAI, and I’m here with Tricia. I’m really excited to have a conversation today about master data management.

    Trusha Pandya:                 Likewise, Patty. I’m excited to have this conversation with you. Trusha Pandya here also with Symphony RetailAI. We have many conversations off the record, but now we’re going to be recorded. So this is going to be a good conversation, I think.

    Patty McDonald:              Great, looking forward to digging in. And before we start, I just kind of wanted to lay a framework around some of the challenges that retailers are facing and retailers that we talked to. And I think that one of the problems is there’s so much money trapped in old legacy systems. And I think for a long time, retailers have really been challenged and have been struggling with their data and really not intentionally, but messing up their data, working in silos. And I think our retail culture’s really part of the problem and so we’re going to talk about having a good foundation for data, which is really important for all of the business process in supply chain. And talking about the need to break away from those silos and optimize because there’s a lot of opportunity and money to be had for retailers for getting it right.

    Trusha Pandya:                 You think about the word data and the shift of over the past 10 years there’s a shift, I think, from a data where information system to also a process aware. So it goes hand in hand in the workflow and the management systems and the governance, and basically what you do with that data, and how do you use that effectively? It’s out there, but working with your business partners and your IT partners in harmony to really look at and utilize that data effectively.

    Patty McDonald:              No, I agree completely. Without using it to their advantage and really telling a story and enabling it to influence to add that value across the business, that’s really where retailers are getting tripped up. And we saw some of those challenges being intensified during the pandemic and just looking at visibility and struggling to keep.

    If we think about grocery and even convenience during the pandemic and that shift in e-commerce, there’s so many things around that that retailers need to manage. In looking at different channels and forecasting and making sure the inventory is moving. And as we know for groceries specifically, with the rise in e-commerce, the inventory was really a challenge. Sucking inventory out from distribution centers, into the stores, and then suppliers trying to keep up. All of these things, if they’re not underpinned by the right data telling the story, retailers will continue to be challenged and not keep up with their competitors.

    Trusha Pandya:                 Well, the key takeaway that I’m getting from you just from your statements here is that retailers, they’re under a lot of pressure. There are a lot of channels. There are a lot of products out there, and there’s a massive shifts in demographics with the consumers out there and expectations, preferences, they have a lot to choose from. It’s forcing retailers to really making sure that they have everything in order. They have their house in order. And I think that’s the main tenants of what I want to talk to you about today is how do you get your house in order for these retailers? What makes sense? What are the building blocks? And how are retailers looking at master data management in a more strategic way than just more of an operational expense?

    Patty McDonald:              Tricia, yeah, that’s a great point. As retailers continue to look at where they need to be efficient, I really think the first stop when you look strategically of where you want to realign is the master data management. Because like I mentioned before, it’s underpinning everything. We’ve kind of in our retail culture, been ingrained at trying to keep up. You buy the coolest tech and then you buy another cool piece of tech from someone else. And pretty soon you have multiple inventory systems, several different replenishment systems, all sitting on top of sometimes not even an MDM or multiple types of data management systems.

    I think it’s really important to look for a way to manage that data that is specific to your unique needs. And that is able to, from a business process perspective tie things together. We talked about grocery and convenience and you want to make sure you have something that understands that business, that understands how to manage that short life, shorter lead times, quick turns.

    Trusha Pandya:                 When I think the retailers… They were looking for… They need access to their data fast, consistent, accurate, and they need to make better decisions from a strategy standpoint and they need those insights rather than those historical reports. They need to develop or are in the process of developing that main single point of truth, that consistent viewpoint of product data across all their retail business channels.

    Patty McDonald:              And I think really the next big thing, and the next area of focus is going to be around that data and making sure that that data is good and pure and clean. And having AI over that data that’s underpinned in a master data management system and being able to look at the insights around it.

    Trusha Pandya:                 Versus what we see out there historically have that Frankenstein disparaged approach of, okay, you have something here and you have another system there, and nobody’s really talking to each other. The business is not talking to each other within our organization. I think that is a relevant point of what we’ve just made is how does everybody see the same thing, that single point of truth? The MDM implementation is gaining more strength as a core element of a transformational journey from a digital aspect, and then it could be played out through your different parts of their organization.

    Patty McDonald:              Yeah, absolutely. It’s not just about bringing data into one spot, it’s about it being used as an advantage to being driven by machine learning and not to be poorest, to be able to use with algorithms and provide insights to users. Bringing it all together. And like you said, that digital perspective.

    When it’s done right, we see retailers that are able to see huge advantages, getting to market quicker. A lot of people are looking at tools where they see a lot of value. I’ll just use forecasting or replenishment as an example, those implementing those types of tools, there’s huge gains. And a lot of times retailers forget to look back at the basics like the data. And if you think of efficiencies there and all of the manual work, when that’s eliminated, it provides a huge boost and alleviation of pain in a retailer.

    Trusha Pandya:                 We’ve been talking about the positive ramifications of having that single point of truth inside an organization, but also it helps your partners working as they introduce product items or they’re looking at again, that delisting of a product. It’s a smoother process to flow through one system versus multiple spreadsheets, multiple technology points, multiple touches.

    Patty McDonald:              No, that’s an excellent point. Having that cohesive connection to where you’re able to work with your partners and onboard products quickly into one platform where you’re sharing data easily, versus sending over a packet from a supplier to say, “Here’s all the information you need to manually enter-

    Trusha Pandya:                 That’s where that-

    Patty McDonald:              … to get your item up and running.”

    Trusha Pandya:                 Exactly, that’s where that efficiency comes in. The technology is only good as the process behind it.

    Patty McDonald:              Yeah. It’s really all about the collaboration, not just internally within a retailer, but externally with suppliers. Being able to foster all of that, so people are working together, it just streamlines and saves a lot of time.

    Trusha Pandya:                 Again, when we talk about in business where operational efficiency is paramount. Retail teams, the executive teams must really meet the challenges while also take advantage of the opportunities for growth through market expansion. And we’re talking about innovation here, we’re talking about improved assortment localization. We’re talking about understanding your private labels, that’s where we go back to retailers are leveraging data and handling data in a very strategic view. In that aspect, choosing the right technology is now a game changer. It is a key decision that executives are looking at.

    Patty McDonald:              Yeah, agree Trusha. I think that tied to that, one of the biggest assets of all of those things for a retailer is the bottom line, is the inventory. When you have too much, it can be very expensive. When you have not enough, we all know what happens, those dreaded out of stocks. I think tied to that data platform, it’s important to have a connection with one central visibility of inventory. And it sounds simple, but it is such a challenge for retailers to have one spot where you can see the inventory for all of your different channels, the inventory in the stores, being able to share inventory to suppliers.

    I’ve worked with many retailers that have disparate inventory tracking systems. We know retailers for fresh specifically where they’re struggling with tracking that inventory, the perpetual state of that inventory. For such an expensive, important asset that you want to get right that feeds all of the other tools, that an MDM supports. It feeds forecasting and replenishment and order fulfillment and inventory that flows throughout the entire supply chain.

    Trusha Pandya:                 In another podcast, we focused on category management and assortment optimization. But if you think about that, making the right decisions of what needs to be in your stores at what time, how many, which aisle, the right products mix. All these are important, but in order to do that, you have to have the right data to make those decisions.

    Patty McDonald:              You talk about picking a tool that can make or break. You want to make sure that the platform you’re using is able to foster that core aspect and the essential pieces of inventory to share to all parts of the organization.

    Trusha Pandya:                 Right.

    Patty McDonald:              Whether it be stores or operations or up at corporate, it’s really, really important.

    One last thing that we didn’t touch on is when you think of the cloud technology, I think that the boundaries between cloud and ground are really disappearing and one of the things that can help retailers along quickly and to expedite things is to have a solution that is in the cloud and enables them to quickly access and learn from that data.

    Trusha Pandya:                 No, I agree. It’s back to that other statement again, right? Get your house in order.

    Patty McDonald:              Yes.

    Trusha Pandya:                 And then you can clean up the different rooms in the house, as I tell my kids [crosstalk 00:14:23].

    Patty McDonald:              Yeah, I like that.

    Sean:                                   Thank you Patty and Trusha for your insights, and we hope this episode has been informative. For more information about retail master data management, please visit Bit.ly/retailmdm.

     

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