• Conrad Chuang

How United Technologies made MDM a central piece of its supply chain strategy

Updated: Jun 12, 2018

How master data management can contribute to enterprise strategy was the topic of a recent case study delivered at the MDM/DG Summit in New York by Lydia Tilsley and Larry Keyser from the United Technologies Corporation, or UTC. Their highly informative talk described how their MDM project became an enterprise initiative with executive visibility that is central (literally, see beneath) to UTC's supply chain transformation efforts.

The scale of the data management problem is big. The United Technologies Corporation is a sixty-five billion dollar company with millions of parts and suppliers that require the full complement of master data management features. Here's a selection of the more important capabilities that UTC considers to be key to their supplier MDM program:

Tilsley and Keyser applied the capabilities—and EBX's ability to generate role/use-case specific master data driven applications—to addressing a key issue in their organization: Supplier Designation (rating, certification and consolidation of suppliers). The project included imports from upstream systems, forms/UI, authoring/review/approval/governance workflows, audit trails, and was "stood up" in a couple of weeks. It was a big success.

Like all vendors we would love to claim that the technology deserves a huge portion of the credit for the program's success. While technology does deserve credit, like most vendors we also know that technology plays a supporting, not leading, role. When considering the problem from the "people, processes and systems" perspective-the systems, or technology, are a small piece of the MDM puzzle. At UTC, as it is in most organizations, the master data management problem is much more about people and processes (or the internal politics) than systems. One reason is master data's cross cutting nature. Because master and reference data are shared across the organization program teams have to satisfy a lot of different stakeholders. Successful program teams have strategies for navigating the political environment, facilitating change management, end user adoption … and (as you'd might have guessed) fostering business and IT collaboration.

The importance of business and IT collaboration was a point that Tilsley and Keyser drove home again and again (it started with their very first slide). They noted that they were one of the few case studies at the summit to feature distinctive voices from both sides. In fact they pointed out how specific capabilities in EBX, when combined with input and feedback from the business, facilitated their efforts to change the culture and address the all important "people" side of the equation.

The importance of the Supplier Designation project was that this application helped change Operation's culture by providing a concrete tool that business teams could use to experience the value of high quality master data. The application created excitement (we can see up-to-date hierarchies!) that led to new ideas about how to use the data. For example, Tilsley even mentioned how Hurricane Joaquin factored in. Team members were asking "Now that we know the suppliers addresses, can we figure who might be at risk?" Tilsley and Keyser knew the initial excitement was transitioning into culture change when they started hearing business users discuss master data management and master data issues around the water cooler. Master data was becoming part of the vocabulary of Operations. And they knew the program at been taken to the next level when the VP for Operations, in his corporate presentations about the transformation of UTC's supply chain, featured master data management (and EBX) at the very center of the enterprise system.

A final note

What's also notable, is that UTC is not just a great example of business and IT engagement, they're also a great example of how multidomain MDM programs create value. (n.b. For clarity's sake we're using the Gartner definition of multidomain, or a single platform/system that holds multiple domains of reference or master data. Multidomain is not equivalent to MDM of multiple domains, when multiple software solutions are used.) At UTC, operations is just one of the many areas where EBX is being used. Another key area is Finance. The Corporate Controller's office keeps finding new ways to expand its use of EBX with projects in Tax to Financial Reporting, to Controls. What is unique is all of this activity is happening in one single, simply licensed platform, EBX. This means master data teams from Operations to the Corporate Controller and beyond share the same technical foundation, can swap resources, consolidate/harmonize reference data, and create/maintain cross domain relationships/hierarchies/workflows—creating not just economies of scale but new ways of looking at the organization.

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