Data management not keeping pace with the business
Icebreaker had not realised that managing product data across two hemispheres and two seasons required a Master Data Management (MDM) solution.
When Icebreaker was a small company Excel was a sufficient tool for managing product data, but as the company grew to become New Zealand’s leading global brand for merino clothing, this approach began to hinder progress. As the business and product lines continued to grow, creating and managing seasonal and regional product master data for a New Zealand based supply chain and US based product development became increasingly inefficient and frustrating.
A lack of ownership of the data and no version control or governance over the data meant that the business was suffering downstream problems of inaccuracies across systems, loss of productivity due to data not being available at the right times, and other wide-reaching system limitations.
Although a Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP replacement project was underway, it was becoming clear to Icebreaker that this would still not provide the functionality to manage product data effectively. They needed a solution.
Microsoft master data services
WalkerScott recognised the problem with the Excel data management and suggested an MDM solution.
While working on the Icebreaker reporting solution ** in another area of the business WalkerScott quickly recognised that poor data quality was a primary factor in preventing the business from getting the information it needed. A key component of reporting needs was centred around the performance of a product, but poor processes of data collection and storage throughout the product’s lifecycle were leading to poor information. We also observed the frustrations of staff attempting to use Excel to manage master data across two distinct geographical locations and seasons and wondered about a better approach.
At this point we needed to engage with all levels of the business, including the executive team, to raise awareness of the need for structured reusable data. With the CFO’s go-ahead we were then able to begin work toward a proof-of-concept pilot solution to the data management problem.
We began by working closely with a business analyst to document the full product data lifecycle from concept to end of life. Attribute groups were defined and associated to the needs of each of the relevant systems. This included Demand Planning (Just Enough), ERP (Dynamics AX), Ecommerce (DemandWare), Asset Management, and other related marketing tools – some 13 systems and tools in all.
The initial proof of concept was to allow for the data to be captured in preparation for loading into the ERP. This involved:
- Defining the timeline and process to collect the data at key points in the seasonal cycle
- Creating data stewards (with clear ownership of their respective data)
- Building a product master data model
- Deploying a MDM solution to the data stewards using the Microsoft Excel plugin
- Version control and auditability on changes
With the successful delivery of this early pilot, there was significant improvement to data management processes. We were then able to transition a team member to the newly created role of Master Data Manager to enable the on-going improvements that would come from having a MDM solution. Through up-skilling by the WalkerScott team the Master Data Manager evolved the pilot solution to become a key aspect of the integrated systems architecture and also leveraged it as a key component of the data migration for the ERP project.
Transformation on a grand scale
The pilot MDM solution has now transformed data management inside the organisation and provided a clear future direction.
The creation of a central repository for product master data instantly enabled improved workflow and controls around the data quality. The immediate gains in productivity of the team, accuracy of the data and ease of use of the information were transformative.
The original pilot of the MDM solution has significantly grown in the business to incorporate other key business data and now acts as the primary data repository for all business information that needs to be shared across systems. The impact of the change has been far reaching.
Extensive use of Microsoft SSIS to extract and transform the data for other systems has enabled an internal approach to deliver on all integration needs.
- IT – Microsoft Dynamics AX master data loading
- Finance – supports reporting and analysis on seasonal pricing process. Margin and cost analysis to support market pricing decisions.
- Marketing – provides tools to centralise the language-related data capture for promotional activities and ecommerce.
- Ecommerce – reduces upload preparation time for global ecommerce platform DemandWare data (from eight weeks down to one).
- Product Development – integrates with the Product Lifecycle Management system (PLM).