This blog article takes a look into the day-to-day workings of an IT administrator and the ordeals faced by them. This is by no means a complete or accurate scenario in all companies, just my experiences of having been a part of several large organizations’ inner workings.
IT Systems in a Manufacturing Company
A Manufacturing company is the perfect example to analyze a complex IT environment primarily for the reason that it runs and utilizes several computer applications for its day-to-day operations. For the purpose of maintaining a straight path for the article we are going to discuss only about the various systems a Manufacturing Company uses for its product life-cycle management.
Let’s consider that this company manufacturers industrial tools, there will be several departments within the company involved in the product development, marketing and sales. Each of these departments needs a software solution to manage, document and share their processes, information and output. The major systems used throughout the product life-cycle are
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software
- Product Data Management (PDM)/ Product Information Management (PIM) Software
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Enterprise Resource Planning Software
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) integrates internal and external management information across an entire organization, embracing finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and service, customer relationship management, etc. ERP systems automate this activity with an integrated software application. Its purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. (Source: Wikipedia)
Inferring from this definition an ERP system is the back bone of an Organization. With activities ranging from Supplier Management, Engineering, Product Development, Accounting and Sales various tasks are carried out using the ERP system.
Product Information Management
Product Information Management (PIM) software is a primary tool for both product development and marketing departments. Rich product data is stored in the PIM, the various information stored are Product SKU or Codes, Long Descriptions, Product images, Technical Specifications, Attachments such as User Manuals, Warranty Sheets, Operating Instructions etc. Once the information gets stored they are then published to various media such Print, Web, Digital Catalogs, Product Configurators.
A PIM software is essential for a company to manage its marketing activities such as creating Product Brochures, Catalogs, Price Sheets, B2B e-commerce websites etc.
Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.(Source :Wikipedia)
The Nightmare of disconnected Systems
By looking at the quick overview of these systems we can see that even though the functions of the systems are specific in most cases there are overlaps as well. A company needs these three individual systems to effectively run their business. It is often the task of the IT department within the company to manage and support these systems. The tasks of managing these systems involve maintenance tasks such as server backups, database backups, performing updates to the system, troubleshooting problems that arise with these systems. There may be additional tasks as well such as data extraction and importing into these different systems when a need arises to share data between them.
From just a quick overview we can see that these tasks have to be run by a team or multiple teams of administrators with zero errors and with timely completion of the tasks as any delays or mistakes could affect the entire company. Since each of this software is provided by different vendors, the implementation and underlying architecture are so different from each other that managing all of them is a true nightmare for the IT Administrators
The ideal solution would be to have a single system that fulfills all the needs for the company, in most cases this does not happen. The alternative solution would be to interconnect these different systems so there is a seamless data flow between them. Consider the following examples of a well-connected environment.
Example 1: The product engineering department release a new product and this gets entered into the ERP system. By the means of integration this new product gets created in the PIM, the marketing department then adds additional information such as copy, images to this product and publishes to the website seamlessly.
Example 2: A product on the website is being ordered by the customer, this information is passed back to ERP system for Order processing and fulfillment, The information also goes into the CRM automatically with all the necessary data so that the customer account gets updated with the purchase which helps the Technical Support or the Customer Support team.
In both the examples above the involvement of the IT team is close to zero when there is a tight integration between these disparate systems. With eJeeva Central we aim to achieve this integration which will help the IT department and in turn the entire organization by minimizing errors and increasing productivity.