The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration

Another major classification scheme that should form an integral part of the configuration of just about any Integrated Business Information System or ERP is what we term the "Product Catalogue" -- this is the classification scheme that is applied to the Product Master / Item Master / Materials Master / ... depending on which software system you are using


A strategic taxonomy in this master file will add huge value to the overall operation of the systems and the business

Where effectively designed and executed the value that is unlocked is huge -- an intelligent classification allows intelligent analysis of the Master Data when new products or materials or items are added thereby allowing intelligent custom software to add huge value to the business

This sort of intelligent data is behind the sort of exponential increase in value discussed elsewhere on this site

                                  


Refer to the ASCO Case Study at http://www.dr-james-a-robertson--the-erp-doctor.com/Configure.aspx


Contact us on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com to learn how we can help you unlock the full potential of your ERP investment


The stages in developing a Product, Item or Materials Catalogue

The following are the stages in the development of a Product / Item or Materials Catalogue – the term used will depend on the software, for example Syspro uses the word “Product”, Lawson M3 and Infor LN use “Item”, SAP uses “Materials” – they all relate to the stuff the business works with.

In the case of a mine the catalogue will be a relatively static list of approved products, materials, consumables, etc that are used by the mine whereas in the case of a warehouse through which pass a rapidly changing range of products the catalogue may be very dynamic.  In the case of a Professional Services company the catalogue will be different again.  A fundamental understanding of the essence of the business and its dynamics is VITAL to the development of an effective catalogue.

In addition, different software may use the Product / Item / Materials master file for different purposes, for example, Lawson M3 includes all sorts of non-product items in the Item Master including invoice line text, project names, asset labels, etc and drives a huge range of configurable functionality off these records.  A thorough understanding of how the software works and how it will be configured in order to best fit the business is essential.

In ALL cases precision configuration based on precision taxonomies is an essential element of a high value solution.

In some cases the Product / Item / Materials master may use a meaningless reference code such as an EAN Barcode while the intelligent logic sits in the class or group table which sits above the base table.  In other cases the logic should sit in both tables with the master file mirroring the class / group logic and in other cases different logics might conceptually occur although I have not seen this.

This article the general steps that will be followed in developing a Product / Item / Materials master file catalogue taxonomy and coding scheme.

A highly experienced facilitator and supporting team is vital if this entire endeavor is to result in a high value outcome.  Note that NOT all facilitators will produce the same outcome and that some designs will be radically better than others.  Cutting corners in this process is asking for a long term low value outcome that will destroy value throughout the business for as long as the sub-standard configuration exists.


1.  Overall configuration design

Depending on the nature of the business the product catalogue may drive the product master / material master / item master or equivalent or may drive the product class /  material group / item group or equivalent table.  In certain cases the group / class logic may be replicated and extended in the detail table while in other cases the two tables may bear NO correlation with one another.  There is a great deal of diversity in developing the hierarchies for this component and the first stage in the development of a catalogue is to ensure that all team members understand exactly how the business works at a fundamental level AND how the software works at a fundamental level AND how the two are to be integrated in the precision configuration solution.

Undertaking this discovery and first principles analysis is critical and time consuming and it is likely to require at least three iterations to arrive at a solid understanding of how the software configuration is going to be populated to model the specific business in question.  A highly experienced facilitator is vital.

Note that to the extent that strategic drivers such as finance, etc can be different for apparently similar businesses there is NO one-size-fits-all definition – the configuration logic must be assessed from first principles for every project.


2.  High level catalogue logic

Development of the high level product / item / materials catalogue logic requires a fundamental first principles analysis of ALL components of the business.  With tight facilitation this analysis is likely to require of the order of three to five iterations before it stabilizes.  Further refinement down the track is common.

The first 3 or 4 levels of the hierarchy will require executive input with support from senior managers with each element of the master list potentially having radically different characteristics.


3.  Harmonization across modules and tables

Harmonization of the high level taxonomy architecture across ALL related software modules should take place as an integral part of the iterations to develop the hierarchy of the product / item / materials master / class / group.  Failure to do this in a controlled manner across ALL related modules and tables can give rise later to time consuming and highly inefficient iterations if not managed effectively from the start.  The goal is to achieve logic that supports high level strategic and operational objectives harmoniously across ALL modules and ALL tables.  Time required for these iterations is challenging to estimate – it is NOT finished until it is finished!


4.  Comprehensive reference data

At an early stage in developing this hierarchy / catalogue it is vital to obtain comprehensive lists of all types of entity that have historically occurred or which can be reasonably anticipated in the future – effective strategic facilitation by a highly experienced facilitator is absolutely vital.


5.  Extending the catalogue

Having developed the top 3 or 4 levels of the product / item / materials hierarchy with the executive team and having iteratively reviewed this logic across all modules where it is connected the remaining detail must be developed using the managers and supervisors responsible for each section in the code scheme.  A responsible individual with a supporting team of people who know the data intimately must populate a draft list for each section within the high level framework guided by a senior facilitator who understands the parameters defined by business executives.

Once this detail has been collected a series of working sessions with a senior taxonomy facilitator will be required to drive the taxonomy down to the finest level of detail

Note that the same team of facilitators under the direction of one executive level strategic facilitator must facilitate ALL sessions in a highly structured manner that ensures that the body of knowledge and experience pertaining to the hierarchies is progressively elaborated as the project progresses.

Typically between three and five iterations will be required to achieve a high quality taxonomy with broad consultation each step of the way.


6.  Sub-groups

Sub-group taxonomies such as mobile plant components, product sub-categories and other repetitive attribute code components may take 3 to 4 iterations to develop owing to the need to harmonize across the different modules.


7.  Coding

At intervals throughout the process trial code designs must be built in order to ensure that all team members can clearly see how the taxonomies will summarize for operational and reporting purposes.  The resulting periodic reviews of the design associated with these coding iterations may often result in dramatic restructuring of the hierarchy as business personnel become more conversant with how the final deliverable will appear in practice.


8.  Operation and maintenance

Once completed the final taxonomy and code scheme should last for many years if properly maintained.  Proper product / item / materials master maintenance together with associated class or group table taxonomies must be put in place using personnel who were involved in the development of the catalogue and under tight management and supervisory control.


I look forward to discussing how I can assist you in developing a strategically high value product catalogue -- James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com


Considerations in developing a product catalogue

The following are the factors that should be taken into account in developing a product catalogue:

1. Generally one is working with technical staff who are NOT information workers, not keyboard literate and not Excel literate – it will take considerably longer than expected to gather a comprehensive collection of the data to be catalogued and then catalogue it


2. Once the major practical categories and main headings have been agreed with executives technical staff will have to spend considerable time collecting and collating all available information – they may need an ERP technician to assist at the keyboard


3. Arriving at the major categories of the catalogue will be time consuming – the categories that seem appropriate at the executive level quite frequently do not fit well at the operational level and some quite serious mind-bending and to’ing and fro’ing may be necessary to arrive at the final headings


4. Interaction with the work being done in other modules like the Chart of Accounts, Assets Register, etc, etc will be required and may result in early attempts at high level structure being found to be highly deficient.  Two or three restarts may typically be required before a structure that will integrate across all modules can be arrived at


5. Getting to the detail may be time consuming.  Some technicians may have the data down to the last nut and bolt in a spreadsheet but many will have to go scratching through records in the existing ERP and even through manual records to arrive at a close to comprehensive list – it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the time required for this stage


6. Starting on taxonomies before there is a reasonably comprehensive list of items can result in considerable good work being scrapped and redone from scratch as more detail becomes available – facilitating in this area is much more time consuming than one would expect simply because the personnel one is working with are accustomed to looking at things differently and are not accustomed to organizing information


7. Getting the right people in the room is critical, a productive session can result in seemingly good work that gets radically restructured if someone misses an earlier session and then arrives for a later session and represents a view that has been overlooked


8. Once the catalogue has been developed there is a huge amount of work to be done setting attributes on individual product lines – master data management software that  works according to the hierarchies is planned for future development and will improve easy, accuracy and speed of attribute setting.  Senior personnel who really understand the data need to be in charge of setting attributes


9. Taxonomy and master data maintenance software based on the taxonomies will be essential for any significant project


Please contact us on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com for more information


Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013 -- with Robert Priebatsch MD and Major Shareholder

1.   Overview of the business – marketing and brand management

African Sales Company is a moderate sized family owned business that imports and distributes fragrances, perfumes and related products.  They also provide a brand management service to their suppliers and distribute fine fragrances and luxury cosmetic brands like Dior, Givenchy, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Paco Rabanne, Carolina Herrera, Prada, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and others to retail vendors like Edgars, Foschini, Truworths, Stuttafords, Woolworths, Dis-Chem and others.  ASCO does this with prescribed service levels aiming at 98% fill rates and three day delivery times from receipt of EDI orders to goods being available at retail points.


          

In order to understand the business it is vital to understand the close juxtaposition of brand management and distribution.


2.   The challenge – overview of the situation before the investment

The challenge that gave rise to this project was an old customized software suite that had grown with the business on a tight budget.  The accounting with regard to brand related costs was handled by more than 20,000 accounts in the General Ledger.  Other aspects of Brand Management were manual.  Tracking costs and reporting on many brands to multiple Suppliers was a major challenge.


3.   The opportunity – implementing a new ERP and Warehouse System taking a strategic view

A point was reached where a new system was required and an integrated suite of ERP and Warehouse Management System was purchased.  Initially a comprehensive workflow (process) analysis was undertaken but the project stalled.  The project was then restarted with a strong strategic and precision configuration focus with tight project management and successfully brought to completion – the process maps were left on the shelf.

During the project it was identified that areas of the business that would benefit from a new approach – particularly relating to brand management expense allocation and a custom solution was conceptualized, designed, built and implemented in order to maximize the effectiveness of brand management.


4.   The solution – highly structured Product Class, integration with Projects Module, custom software

The total strategic solution comprised:

a. The Brand Hierarchy – a highly structured Product Classification of all products linking from Suppliers down to individual Brand Lines – this created a high value logical information platform that underpins every aspect of brand and business management;

b. A selection of fundamental highly structured custom product attributes that have opened up diverse strategic intelligence and analytical opportunities;

c. Intelligent Product Master maintenance that draws on the intelligence in the Brand Hierarchy and attribute lists to ensure that default values are cascaded down the hierarchy so that new product take-on generates high quality intelligent data that impacts every aspect of system operation and management information;

d. Rule based automated creation of Marketing projects linked directly to the brand hierarchy coupled to a highly structured cost taxonomy provided a comprehensive framework for Brand Management information.  This custom functionality, based on knowledge of the codes, opens the door for convenient and powerful marketing planning, cost analysis and reporting;

e. All of these components taken together have created a holistic and integrated intelligent information platform that has resulted in the business now having a much stronger analytical focus, capability and culture.


5.   The outcome – greatly improved brand management and other capabilities supporting profitable growth and competitiveness

Taken together this capability improved expense allocation accuracy, allowed detailed ROI analyses, increased competitiveness through informed allocation of resources, facilitated growth and stimulated profitability in significant measure through the investment in strategic precision configuration and associated custom development.  This capability assisted ASCO to grow significantly, take on new accounts and reach a point where a new distribution centre became a business necessity such that a new warehouse is currently in the design phase.

Associated with this capability has been the development of a highly analytical culture which has positioned ASCO as an industry leader in the management of information and therefore Brand Management in its specialized category.

It should be noted that as a consequence of the development of these capabilities there have been further changes to practices and ways of working (processes) which have flowed organically from the original analysis and decision making capabilities.




Download ASCO Case Study -- Creating Competitive Advantage -- Priebatsch and Robertson -- Presentation in Power Point pptx format

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Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Cnf 074 A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail

The prevalence of IT project failure, the factors that cause failure, the Critical Factors for Success, the problem of IT people who lie, issues of integrity, morals and ethics, the need for a regulatory body and legislation
Sem 01 Why your Business Information System is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

A concise executive briefing directed at informing executives and senior managers with regard to the REAL issues in business information systems and the measures to take to obtain greater value from their existing investments
Std 021 Procurement: 12 Information required from Third Party Software Suppliers

In some cases bidders may need information from third party software suppliers who are providing services or information to the client, this document provides basic information for this purpose
Prd 042 The REAL Value that James Robertson brings to a Business Systems Project

An overview of the diverse areas of knowledge and experience that Dr James A Robertson PrEng brings to his work with regard to Business Information Systems and how this enables him to unlock exceptional investment value
SNw 055 Business Process – irrelevant, distracting and dangerous

Business process is the focus of most business information system implementations and is highly ineffective, this article goes so far as to suggest that business process is irrelevant, distracting and dangerous and that there are other much more effective techniques that should be applied
Std 009 Procurement: 01 Request for Proposal for Business Systems Solution

This is the heart of the tender and contains a large number of tough clauses that are directed at ensuring a realistic bid with a robust platform for realistic negotiation and a tough contract that is directed at ensuring performance

There is a more detailed version of this document at the end of this page for larger projects with a more detailed procurement process

Dr James A Robertson PrEng The Business Information Systems Doctor

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.

Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.

He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.

If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com

Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.

Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.

All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.

There HAS to be a better way!

This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control

We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website

We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues

Click here to read more about the Engineering Approach

By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT

This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.

Book -- The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success

In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.

Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:

Connect with James Robertson on LinkedIn

James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.

You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor

James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.


Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Cnf 046 Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study

Case study of a strategic planning project undertaken to develop a customer service focused IT Strategy for the Armaments Corporation of South Africa, the project used strategic marketing concepts to research business user, business requirements and concerns and convert these into a strategic action plan that was measurable and actionable thereby strengthening the position of the IT Department as a partner with the business
Std 028 Why Regular Communication between the Project Leader and the CEO is Vital

A business information systems project that extends across the full ambit of the organization is almost certainly the most difficult and most challenging project that any organization can undertake.  This MUST be driven by the CEO as custodian and supported by a highly experienced and very mature Project Leader.  These two people must communicate constantly and effectively in order to ensure that they remain aligned to give the CEO the solution that is required
SNw 056 The Alternative to Business Process – the RIGHT Approach

Having established that business process is irrelevant, distracting in dangerous in designing and configuring business information systems, what do we put in its place?  This article discusses the progression of activities that an effective business systems specification, configuratoon, testing and deployment project should follow
Std 001 Simulation Laboratory Standards

Comprehensively configure and break the configuration until it cannot be broken any more and then comprehensively prepare the system and the business for operational deployment so that an exceptionally high value outcome is achieved with comprehensively mitigated risk
SNw 044 Robust Procurement: Part 1 -- Introduction

An overview of a robust business information systems procurement method designed to ensure that a robust and enforceable contract is entered into before a project commences

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There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website

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About the Engineering Approach

James Robertson's Value Add

Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution

Recognizing Business System Failure

The Critical Human Foundation

Old Software IS Viable

From South Africa

Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng

About Professor Malcolm McDonald

Table of Contents

About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing

Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics

Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes

Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?

The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody

Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration

Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

IT Project Management

Pulse Measurement

CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement

No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes

Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™

The Pulse Measurement Workflow

The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement

Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations

What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?

Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years

Sample Pulse Measurement Reports

Strategy

Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems

Strategic Essence: Overview

Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation

Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different

Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure

Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence

Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?

Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment

Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual

A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting

Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works

Robust Business Systems Procurement

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc

Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters

Procurement Documents

Guidance and Advisory Services

The Art of Project Leadership

Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital

The Business Simulation Laboratory

Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture

Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies

The JAR&A Cubic Business Model

Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal

The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration

Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask

Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration

092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013

088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa

026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf

018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf

011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng

Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering

Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations

Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment

The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual

Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples

Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software

Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References

Example General Ledger Manual

Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

The RIGHT Approach

Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction

Standards for Custom Software Specification

What IS Software?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

Critical Factors for I.T. Success

A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail

Case Studies examining Business Information System failures

The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle

The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict

Speaking and Training

Showcase of Conference Presentations

Most Viewed Presentations

Briefings and Seminars

Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results

The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success

Other Seminars

Conferences and Public Presentations

Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present

Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009

Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005

Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996

Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994

On-Line Seminars (Webinars)

Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited