Data synchronization isn't the sexiest of topics. It may excite techies, but not every C-level executive is prepared to become an evangelist for a process that comes with its own global synchronization network and deals with issues such as acceptable levels of error tolerance for data.
Fortunately, however, there are high-level executives passionate about this initiative. They include the dynamic duo at Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.: Danny Wegman, chief executive officer, and Colleen Wegman, president. They realize the importance of this process and have figured out that the best way to sell data synchronization is to speak plainly about it.
"We like getting rid of technical terms - like granularity," Danny said earlier this month at the Grocery Manufacturers Association's Executive Conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "There are a lot of weird words. But the word 'disruption' is English. When you think of eliminating disruptions, that's human."
Eliminating disruptions is the point of data synchronization. Trading partners work to agree on precise characteristics of products in order to exchange information and conduct business without the errors that come from bad data. The cost savings and efficiencies that result are startling. Wegmans, an industry leader in this process, reported it was able to save $3.5 million in annual transportation costs and $1 million in labor and inventory carrying costs in just one program involving only seven suppliers. Multiply that by all of a company's trading partners and the benefits become quickly apparent, even for a relatively small operator like Wegmans.
But the benefits can't accrue without a critical mass of suppliers and retailers embracing the practice. That's why companies such as Wegmans and Wal-Mart Stores, another data synchronization leader, are urging trading partners to come on board. Wal-Mart wants suppliers to synchronize 100% of items with the company. The retail giant is even urging other retailers to get involved to improve industry return on investment.
But none of this will happen without an effective selling job that focuses on the benefits rather than the technology.
Colleen Wegman explained that data synchronization is merely the means to the ultimate end of driving sales, and stressed that it doesn't have to be complicated. She spoke of "driving toward simplification" for the retailer and its trading partners. She said "a synchronized relationship comes from synchronized people, with technology only an enabler."
Wal-Mart should listen closely. As previously reported in SN, the retailer was recently in the strange position of being tripped up by its own merchandising department, which didn't at first buy into data synchronization, according to Bruce Hawkins, the company's senior technical expert. So Wal-Mart will now embark on an internal sell job: "We'll be partnering with our data pool [1SYNC] on training to better explain the process and its benefits," he said.