Seven Roadblocks to Global Data Synchronization

Study reveals pitfalls and problems most likely to slow down GDS projects


Viewing GDS as a connectivity problem: GDS enables product information to flow between manufacturers and retailers. As a result, it can be viewed simply as a connectivity challenge. However, this ignores the volume of messages that will be exchanged between the parties and overlooks the value of those messages. For instance, if a retailer rejects a new product that is being introduced, the manufacturer must not only recognize that rejection but also find the causes behind it. If the message choreography is wrong and the right people aren't alerted, this valuable feedback cannot be used. Workflow is an integral part of operational GDS, bringing manufacturers and retailers closer together. But unless the messages are correctly managed, manufacturers and retailers will each be broadcasting feedback that won't be actioned.

Stopping short of full synchronization: Given the potential scope of a GDS project, some manufacturers and retailers only become 'partially synchronized'. For instance, a manufacturer only uploads part of its product catalog or only a subset of the available information, such as physical dimensions but not price information. Alternatively, the manufacturer only allows synchronization through a single channel but does not build connectivity to other data pools or proprietary routes. This can restrict the number of partners with which the manufacturer can communicate.

On the demand side, a retailer might only synchronize with a handful of key suppliers, ignoring the smaller vendors. This results in a dual system, which yields some of the benefits of GDS but maintains the chronic problems inherent in having inaccurate product information and different interaction approaches with each supplier.

The pitfall of adopting 'partial synchronization' is that, by restricting the project parameters to encompass only a few products or suppliers, the resulting solution is not scalable or comprehensive once the project rolls out further. Unless the broad parameters are built in from the start, the investment in GDS will be misplaced, laying problems for the future if the solution has to be re-engineered.

GDS mandates alone disenchant adoption: GDS benefits both retailers and manufacturers. Many retailers have introduced mandates and deadlines for key suppliers to trade via GDS in order to incentivize adoption. However, smaller manufacturers do not have the resources to implement a GDS project immediately, despite being willing to do so. Retailers should also consider offering incentives to smaller suppliers to join the GDS initiative. Many of these suppliers provide high quality, niche products, which give the retailer depth of offering and high margin stock, so they need to be carried along with the GDS wave. It will be detrimental to the entire industry if the smaller vendors are ignored or overly penalized.

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