February 2004 | How-To | Ten Tips

Successful Global Data Synchronization

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Data synchronization is a crucial component of e-commerce. As companies increasingly communicate via computer, organizing and synchronizing data with all trading partners poses a greater challenge. Here are 10 tips to undertaking a successful data synchronization initiative, from Craig Bednarovsky, global retail marketing manager, Global Exchange Services.

1. Get educated. Understand the standard bodies relevant to your industry. The Voluntary Inter-industry Commerce Standards (VICS), for example, is one organization that is focused on retail in general, but also plays a significant role in the hardware/home improvement industry. Also identify applicable retailer mandates and retailer-specific data requirements.

2. Identify underlying business needs. Consider how many items you have, how many trading partners are involved, and the landscape of your internal systems.

3. Look for tangible ROI. Identify specific success criteria, such as reducing new product introduction cycles or the number of disputed invoices. Remember, data synchronization is not only about complying with a mandate; it's also about improving your supply chain effectiveness and efficiency.

4. Create a data management strategy. Your strategy should encompass the people involved, the processes associated with data synchronization, and the technology that will apply to your initiative. Are you going to approach data synchronization as a tactical or a strategic initiative?

5. Get organized. Prepare for any potential role changes within your organization, including changes to how you distribute product information. Understand how item authorizations will flow within your organization. Finally, know how to get your hands on the right data.

6. Begin to implement. Decide if you need to participate in UCCnet and sign up if appropriate. UCCNet is a not-for-profit subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council and provides a single "electronic library" (The Global Registry) for product and trading partner information. Many retailers require that their suppliers participate in UCCnet. Next, gather internal data and validate it against the standards. Solidify your internal processes.

7. Prepare data for publishing. Extract the internal data for communication with your trading partners. Make sure you do a final review and authorization.

8. Publish. Know key information, such as your trading partners' global location numbers and target market. Get data into The Global Registry and to your trading partners.

9. Build a plan for ongoing alignment of your data with trading partners. Recognize the requirements involved when your data changes or when a new GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) is needed. Be sure to communicate those changes internally and externally. Keep everyone in sync.

10. Implement a solution that's right for you. Organizations of all different sizes and solutions from many providers can facilitate data synchronization either within the context of UCCnet or independent of it. Get an understanding of what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it, then create a basic road map to get there. This will provide tremendous clarity when selecting an appropriate solution.

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