Sharing Supply Chain Info: Start with the Why, Not the How

A lot of times, when the topic of supply chain integration comes up, it turns into a technical discussion about HOW to integrate, for example, a transportation management system (TMS) with a warehouse management system (WMS) or order management system. But as Kevin LoGuidice, VP of Integrated Solutions at MercuryGate, discussed last week on Talking Logistics, companies should start by talking about the WHY.

One of the core challenges with integrating and sharing supply chain knowledge is getting people to distinguish between the technical — the How — and the Why. You want to do the Why first. You want to do it from the top down…and get your business analysts together and talk about what information has to move, when is it going to move, and most importantly, what it means.

Kevin raised another important point: there’s a difference between data, information, and knowledge.

Data is really the raw materials that people, partners, and organizations work with, but data in itself doesn’t really have value. You have to add context to the data [to turn it] into information — and certainly, the repeated use of that information could be considered knowledge.


So, the technical aspects [of integration] are really always around the data — that’s the How — and that’s the easy part, actually. It’s very well defined how we are transmitting [the data], how we are formating it, how we are securing it…The Why is what brings value to the data.


You can think of it as a sports analogy. Sports teams have players and player statistics — that’s the raw data. But a good coach [also] has context into what games those players are playing or have played in [that makes those player stats more valuable].


So, putting context with the data is really where the value comes from.

I asked Kevin for some real-world examples of how companies are sharing supply chain information and knowledge, both internally and externally with trading partners. Watch the short clip below as he shares some examples from Walmart, Dell, and Ryder.

The bottom line is that there’s a lot of buzz today about Big Data and The Internet of Things, and we’re generating and collecting massive amounts of data across our supply chains. Turning that data into valuable information and knowledge is not just a question of HOW to integrate different systems together — it’s also a question of WHY the desired information and knowledge is valuable. This requires you to think about context — that is, the supply chain processes you’re looking to enable or transform using this knowledge, as well as your desired outcomes. If you don’t ask and answer the Why first, the How doesn’t really matter.

Note: MercuryGate is a Talking Logistics sponsor.