When we think of how technology has revolutionized business, we tend to think first of examples that exist primarily online: Web-based CRM, online storefronts, search advertising and the like. But much of what businesses do in the offline world is being turned on its head - and made much more efficient - by digital technology.
One prominent example is supply chain management (SCM), which is the process by which businesses acquire physical materials and resources, assemble them and deliver them to customers.
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For large retailers like Wal-Mart, SCM has been streamlined using technologies like RFID tags and costly, complex systems used to track inventory and resources on store shelves, at the supplier's warehouses and everywhere in between.
While not all companies have the budget for such state-of-the-art technology, there is no shortage of innovation and automation available to most companies when it comes to SCM.
Of course, exactly what SCM processes look like will vary from business to business, but regardless of how complex the process is, automating it will not only reduce costs and increase productivity, but also produce lots of data.
Integrating SCM data with other vital business data
Whichever platform your company goes with, you'll want to ensure it's either part of a larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite that contains other modules like CRM and accounting, or that it's extensible enough to be plugged into third party services with relative ease.
For example, plugging in Web analytics data alongside SCM data using tools like the Google Analytics API or related add-ons can begin to paint a more thorough picture of the relationship between Website traffic and real-world, on-the-ground sales and shipments. Likewise, CRM platforms whether its part of your ERP solution or a separate product can give you a much more detailed picture of who your paying customers actually are.
Even when dealing with SCM by itself, it can sometimes be a challenge to get all of the most vital data under one roof, due to issues like incompatible data formats or other players in the supply chain who may not share the same idea of transparency as you. Thus, bolting on additional sources of information about your business can be critical to gaining a more complete picture of what's going on.
The more data you have available to you, the more you understand about how your business actually functions and thus the more you can do to streamline processes, cut unnecessary costs and gauge productivity.