With more than 30 years as a senior technology executive with multiple Fortune 500 companies, I am no stranger to transformation. Paradoxically, the IT function is often the most resistant to change. This is particularly true when it appears the transformation will marginalize IT’s role. Yet, as transformations like cloud, mobile, and big data have proven, IT’s role increases, playing an essential role in strategic business changes that result from these transformative technologies. That is why I am a strong believer in the as-service model and the self-service paradigm.
An important transformation is taking place now in every facet of our business where cloud, big data, and embedded analytics are improving efficiency and speed to accessing information for decision-making, compared to traditional business intelligence tools. Instead of creating costly integration projects that take years to implement and end up outdated or irrelevant when complete, we are tapping a broader spectrum of information services that increase speed to market at a fraction of the cost.
Cloud based analytics allow us to simply send all data to a pre-configured data warehouse, with a pay-as-you-go model, and with incredibly faster speed to market. And we were literally up and running in weeks, as opposed to years.
For H. D. Smith, the largest independent pharmaceutical distributor in the U.S., adopting a cloud-based analytics platform enables us to play a more strategic role in our relationship with partners and customers. We are no longer simply a product distributor but an information service provider. The intersection of cloud, big data and analytics found in new platforms allows us to tap into information we have in our existing ERP systems, unstructured data sources, and business applications in real-time in models that are relevant to what we want to know about inventory, financials, sales, customers, partners, pricing, etc. This gives us a single source of truth for our supply chain, as well as for other business functions.
Who hasn’t been in a business review meeting where the debates heat up on accuracy and timeliness of data? How many times has someone been sent away to check the numbers? Cloud-based analytics platforms eliminate this issue because data is integrated into a single source.
In our case, the supply chain involves nearly 100,000 SKUs, and a dynamic customer ecosystem that includes local independent drugstores, major hospitals, and pharmaceuticals innovators. The enormous volume of data we manage to ensure service excellence throughout our operations is challenging. However, the cloud solution we use integrates with our existing data sources and applies the data science that creates advanced analytics to the pharma-specific supply chain models we need. In the end, it delivers the business information our stakeholders can trust, process and act on immediately.
Helping our internal teams gain real-time insights for better data-driven decisions was a primary goal, but as we soon learned we were able to extend the benefits to our customers and trading partners. In the past, sharing data with our customers was a matter of sending historical data that may not have all the context needed for action. This led to a lot of back and forth, and some guesswork when it came to forecasting. Now, with on-demand access to our cloud supply chain platform, customers have a better idea how to plan for their own business operations. They can make immediate decisions, that ultimately, will come back to influence our efforts and we can respond better. Visibility, internal and external, is essential and leads to better service and an extraordinary customer experience.
With cloud-based analytics solutions, our integrated business teams have the ability to pull data from all operations to deliver business value. Ready or not, we are moving to a world where we get beyond worrying about the technical aspects of the infrastructure and can really focus on raising our business acumen, so that we may create value up and down the supply chain. That is IT business transformation at its finest.
David Guzman is chief information officer of H. D. Smith, a national supplier of healthcare products.