Supply chains are very complex and sophisticated processes that deliver a product from a supplier to a consumer. They’re an integral part of American and global commerce and make the complicated acquisition of products seem easier to the naked eye. A complete supply chain transforms raw materials into a finished product, usually using many different providers along the way. It’s a process completed through organized distribution of information and resources by both humans and computers.

Supply chains require the highest level of collaboration by all parties, including IT operations. With current technology, everything is expected in real time to satisfy the immediate expectations of customers. Within any given company there are so many simultaneous processes happening at any given time that organization from top to bottom is mandatory. Many data process management systems within business are not focused enough to handle all of the different demands. Below are some tips to consolidate data management and improve supply chain efficiency.

1. Find out exactly what you need to consolidate.

Every business is different, and therefore the processes that need to be consolidated vary. For a bank, it’s possible that the monthly bank statements for two separate account groups need to be merged during batch processing. Maybe there are two different servers crunching the statements when really it could be done with consolidated mainframe performance. For a massive online retail outlet, maybe the monthly product audits need to be processed bi-weekly to avoid cramming at the end of the cycle. It all depends on the situation, but it is important to take your time when deciding what to consolidate. Usually there is a lot of information and money involved with such decisions and care should be taken before making a decision. Consult with other management to determine what consolidation is necessary and where, as fusing too many or the wrong processes can put a business in a worse position than it was before the change. Consolidating, in this case, can mean decreasing the number of employees in a certain department or decreasing the number of jobs a person is responsible for.

2. Analyze the decision you have made with regards to the supply chain.

Now that you have decided what to consolidate within your data management system, the technical IT decisions need to be assessed. The good thing about consolidation is that it doesn’t inherently mean down staffing. Consolidation of data processes usually means centralizing job focus and limiting the amount of employees handling a certain area of oversight. It can also mean that the software or applications are themselves consolidated, meaning that an employee controlling many processes will be able to do so more simply and efficiently. When you have decided what to consolidate, you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis of your supply chain. How will consolidation affect both suppliers and consumers? Will your decision help with data job scheduling? Will your decision create a better situation for the end user and the company? Is your decision a short-term fix?  The consolidation should lead to increased communication between suppliers and consumers, leading to a better long-term business foundation. If you have doubts at this point, reassess your decision at step one.

3. Go all in.

The worst scenario for a supply chain is confusion. If you decide to adopt an alternative data management system, you need to commit. From top to bottom and left to right, your business needs to be all in. In an ideal world this would include all suppliers on the outside who contribute to your practice. Consolidating resources, either employees or software, concentrates expectations and responsibility. This concentration can mean added pressure and the appropriate parties need to understand that. If you are a bank and you consolidate the monthly billing system by down staffing the department and acquiring new well rounded software, make sure everyone in the business is through the door with the change. If one employee or supplier is not informed on the changes, drastic consequences can arise that will hamper business and possibly contaminate the customer pool. Some of these consequences can cripple a business to the point of no return in a very competitive economy.

Information is the fuel that ignites the business fire. Data management systems are meant to make the job of managing information easier for people. It’s time to consolidate if the people or software monitoring the jobs becomes the problem. There is an inherent risk in any commercial change relating to business data, but that is natural with most variation in life. Usually the benefits of consolidation increase efficiency, but because every business is different, care must be taken by those making decisions. Prolific IT and data management can make or break a supply chain, and it’s up to the people in charge to decide what decisions best suit the situation and current needs.

Grant Davis is a Data Modeler by day who writes by night. His passion for computers started when he discovered instant messaging in junior high school. When Grant isn’t trying to climb through the computer screen he writes for BMC about ways to optimize mainframe cost.