We all know the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. The lesser known “platinum rule” tells us to treat others the way they want to be treated. It’s an important distinction that I’ve embraced in my personal life, and one that enterprises can learn from when it comes to data.
In today’s ever-changing business climate, business leaders are looking for all types of data, and the pressure to turn that data into insights for faster, better decision making continues to escalate. As a result, CIOs and IT leaders are evaluating their data infrastructure and systems, as well as the processes for business users to access it.
And, if we think about using the platinum rule when it comes to data — empowering users with data the way they want it — it becomes the guiding principle for digital transformations. From accommodating remote or hybrid workforces to changes in global supply chains, CIOs are looking to transform — not upgrade — their digital ecosystems, and that requires a different approach.
Transformation vs. Upgrade
At our company, the goal was greater agility to meet the demands of the business — and the key was data. Finance and human resources were priorities, as with most companies, so we focused on a single system from Workday so our users have only one source for data. In North America we had already brought in a manufacturing system Plex for our plant floor activities, allowing us to go from 262 applications down to seven. We then acquired another business in Europe and Asia utilizing a different ERP solution, so a single system became even more imperative. This allows us to give our business users a single place to go for critical data, even creating workflows for some workers that must still be inside a transactional system.
This has served us well, with much of the transition completed prior to the pandemic. For example, as a global supplier of automotive parts, we saw freight charges escalate at rates we’d never seen following the March 2021 Suez Canal incident where a container ship got stuck for six days causing a backup of 350+ ships. Compound that with China ramping their supply, and shipping containers that used to cost US $4,500 went to US $20,000 per container.
This unforeseen development highlighted our need to operate with greater agility: how we inform, track, and invoice customers, while managing our supply chain amid daily change. We needed real-time data in the hands of business users to move quickly and make decisions about invoicing terms, customer communications, and alternate suppliers and shipping options. Prior to integrating systems, this would have been daunting for our finance or procurement teams to access the information they needed and reinforced the value in the investment to bring our disparate systems together.
How do we do it? We follow these three steps:
1. Establish a single source for data.
It’s much easier to innovate around one platform and one set of data. Making this a business and not an IT imperative, you can connect data into the applications that matter. For example, creating a streamlined procure-to-pay and order-to-cash process is possible only because we’ve broken down data silos. We are now capable of distributing new customer orders to the optimum distribution facility based on the final destination and available inventory in minutes vs. multiple phone calls and data entry in multiple systems that previously would have taken hours and resources. The speed and effectiveness of these processes has led to multiple customer awards.
2. Store data in a way that is accessible and standardized.
Our teams need to store data in ways that is harmonized before our users start to digest and analyze the information. Today many organizations have data in multiple data lakes and data warehouses, which increases the time to insights and increases the chance for error because of multiple data formats. By using Workday Prism Analytics as a data warehouse, we’re bringing in daily information from multiple systems, transforming it to standardized conventions that allows more rapid insights to what is happening with our business globally. As data flows through Prism, we’re able to visualize that same data across multiple platforms while being confident in one source of the truth.
3. Establish a flexible process to output data.
This is where the platinum rule shines in getting users the various types of data they need in the format they want–and as important–that they’ll use. Ena self-service is key asbling organizations pull data from across the company, and different functions have different ways they’re using data. For example, we’re able to get into detail around customer demand trends, if customers are changing their product mix from steel to aluminum wheels, or higher demand for domestically produced products vs. imports based on lead times and costs. If we mix that with financial results, we know how best to plan production and can adjust our resources commensurately, adapting our business in real-time. As the data has been harmonized, it is easy for us to display reports and dashboards in Workday or through natural workspaces such as Microsoft Teams via PowerBI.
We continue to optimize and improve our digital infrastructure, adding to the foundation we’ve built. This will be an ongoing — and never ending — process as technology advances. However, with a focus on accessing and delivering data in the way our business users want, our digital path is clear.