How to Create a Competitive Edge with Data Management?

To succeed in a competitive global market, Finnish companies should fully grasp the value of processes throughout the supply chains. This new competitive edge is created by automating operation modes and entire process chains. This is a view strongly shared by Tuomo Wall, CEO of consulting company Fuga Group.

Tuomo Wall has international executive level work experience from UPM, Ahlstrom, Walki and Fuga. He has contributed to sales, marketing, manufacturing, supply chain management, strategy and transformation work. The demanding positions have provided him with a strong insight in the management of international companies.

Wall ran into data management questions at Walki. He was appointed as sales director, but soon started focusing on the supply chain process, which at that time was the bottleneck of the business.

“Our work with supply chain development was a success and it was decided that the development would be extended to the whole group. We set up a group function called Operational Excellence with the main responsibility to manage and continuously improve processes,” Wall explains.

“At Operational Excellence we started investing in building master data for processes. Then our operations really took off. We noticed that it is not until you combine master data management with business operations, that will you start to reap the full benefits for the business.”

A Modern Executive Understands IT Management

According to Wall the recent development in information management is a turning point for corporate decision makers. A modern IT department provides the decision makers with an opportunity to anticipate resource planning and to move from reactive to proactive management. A modern-day executive is able to understand the impact of different models and, with the help of automation, to plan operations inline with best practices.

“Many things in this world have been automated, but mainly single and often simple work phases. Now it is time to automate ways of working and entire process chains by using best practices. If Finnish businesses wish to succeed, they simply can’t afford to allow processes to rely on individual workers’ daily emotions. Best practices must be ingrained in the structure of the business, i.e. automated.”

When data management works, the management system can gradually evolve into management via business practices. Processes become transparent making evident which practices work and which result in the highest grossing results. Then these practices can be copied throughout the organization.

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or even build the same bicycle again and again; these good practices just come out of the system automatically for the users. Thus the greater share of our activities is targeted at good and productive business practices, which suit us the best. Bad and unprofitable ones will gradually drop out.”

How Customers See the Change?

Wall has recently specialized in designing chains of processes that emphasize the meaning of customer experience. Automated processes remove the human element from the supplier side of the service experience, and along with it further customization of orders and delivery. This presents a huge challenge, but according to Wall it is one that can be resolved.

“Customers have a variety of needs and the selection of supplier is based on the overall value. This value consists of different components for each customer: one values speed, another quality, some appreciate reliability or flexibility, whereas others prefer the lowest possible purchase cost in their value chain. You must address all these needs better than your competitors.”

So how does data management benefit employees? Wall believes that a well-processed company will be reflected in occupational welfare.

“Major mistakes and interruptions are reduced, improving the internal atmosphere and employee ability to cope with the workload. The employees can channel their energy to development work i.e. that tomorrow’s best practices would be slightly better than today.”

Strong Data Management Creates Competitiveness

The role of IT management in business development has traditionally been insignificant. Wall sees such a position as entirely backwards believing that all business development should start from information management.

“A well-built data management system produces enlightening figures that enable us to see inside the processes. The management can compare different scenarios and select the most profitable ones. We can also stress different practices according to the results we want: growth, profit, cash-flow, price increase or retention, emphasizing a certain business area, etc.”

When automation is increased human resources are more effectively utilised. Production waste, miscalculations and customer complaints decrease. The stock is reduced and directed more to raw materials instead of more expensive finished goods. The payment behaviour of customers is most likely to be better controlled as well.

“Growth is the fundamental objective of all companies. With the help of strong information management and by copying good practices (which the system enables), we can increase sales, decrease costs and free up working capital. Simply put, growth and profitability are improved. What is required is a symbiotic relationship between good business models and strong information management.”

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