10 December 2015

Contextual intelligence in systems integrations and data exchanges

Contextual intelligence is essential when companies want to realize the full value of systems integrations and data exchanges

Most of us would agree that stand-alone systems and isolated information domains should be integrated to help people do their jobs. But if opening data gateways is all you do, you only go part of the way. There will be savings and efficiencies involved as you eliminate redundant data lookup and entry along with the errors that tend to happen. However, your data and integrations become truly valuable when you provide users with their full context. Without contextual intelligence, they may not be able to understand what they see and may not take proper action. To-Increase is working to deliver that insight.

In bridging ERP and PLM, simple data transmission is only part of the story

Imagine an ERP and PLM integration, a common business scenario that connects the mostly transactional ERP system with the PLM solution, which focuses on design and innovation.

When the engineering team releases a new product version from the PLM solution into the ERP environment, production orders, materials planning, purchasing, and the scheduling of machinery and facilities may need to be adjusted. Warehouse managers need to think about different packaging and adjusted shipping costs. Sales has to know that a new version of the product will be available, understand what’s different in it, and sell that instead of the previous iteration. Business managers have to determine if the cost and margins of the revised product can be the same or if they need to be adjusted. Customers need to be informed, so they can understand the advantages of the product changes and consider them in their decision. If the company plans on offering the new version of the product in its eCommerce channel, descriptions and illustrations are updated.

Looking the other way, news on the ERP side needs to be considered by the engineering group. Changes in the availability and costs of materials, customer demand and feedback, customer contracts, equipment performance, or availability of resources, have consequences for the innovation and design that need to happen. Data from the internet of things (IoT) gathered from customers’ machinery may drive adjustments in maintenance planning, but can also require engineering attention and be invaluable in implementing design changes.

Need for a comprehensive, uncomplicated, and reliable approach to providing data in context

In most companies, experts in each team understand what needs to happen when an engineering release moves the company down the path of making and marketing a new version of a product. Very few people will know all the ramifications. An operational impact of a product change can easily be disregarded accidentally. Delays, miscommunications, production errors, outdated inventory, and other undesirable consequences may happen.

Companies often try to make up for a lack of context in integrations through training and cross-teaming, and by implementing workflows to ensure that all employees receive the information they need to see and are taking appropriate next steps. This approach can quickly become complicated, requires constant attention to remain current, and still provides room for misunderstandings and omissions. You really need a more systemic way to provide contextual intelligence to all the right people at the same time.

To stay with our example, To-Increase has taken a few big steps in that direction when it comes to bringing ERP and PLM environments and mind sets together. Our Product Engineering solution for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations supports workflow-driven change management and product versioning to connect engineering and innovation with logistics in a meaningful manner. Our standard integrations between Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and PTC Windchill and Siemens Teamcenter bring information from the PLM system into the many areas impacted in ERP.

Building a robust, secure vehicle for contextual intelligence

We don’t intend to stop there. We are developing a cloud-based, highly usable solution or workspace that can deliver the context of data to contributors and teams in a meaningful way, ready for review, sharing, and collaboration. ERP and PLM connections can yet become more effective that way, and there are other important integrations that will only deliver on their value promise when data as well as context become available. Eventually, our approach will extend to a full spectrum of strategic integrations, within and across organizational boundaries, and extend to IoT-driven data exchanges. We are incorporating our vertical, integration, and process expertise in the development of this workspace. Along with the mechanisms for processing, storing, and managing data, we are also creating the controls to ensure that integrated information-sharing is secure.

The contextual intelligence of systems integrations and information flows will become a competitive advantage. To meet customer needs and innovate better and faster than another company, businesses need to uncover the value of this data for collaborators within and outside of the company. New collaborative innovation practices are already requiring engineering teams to have insight into the performance of their products in real-life conditions. And, when the cloud and mobility extend ERP to any device and any user, and make it easy to perform critical functions outside of the ERP system, it is no longer enough to connect all systems to ERP and perform transactional data analysis.

We will be sharing news at it happens, so stay tuned for updates on our development. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Get in touch with me or contact To-Increase.

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Luciano Cunha
Luciano Cunha,
Luciano Cunha,
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

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