Introducing MCHS Trading
MCHS trading is a fictitious trading company used in this book to illustrate different approaches to information management. MCHS Trading sells goods through four channels: on the Internet, via mail order, via a call center, and through physical shops. Due to differences in requirements, orders are taken by three different applications: E-shop for the Internet orders, Mail-shop for mail order and the call center, and the Stores application to support the needs of the physical stores. These applications were introduced incrementally as MCHS Trading opened the new channels to its customers.
Orders are fulfilled and money is collected through the Shipping and Invoicing applications, respectively. The E-shop, Mail-shop, and Stores applications send the order details to the Shipping application, which in turn forwards them on to the Invoicing applications as soon as an order is dispatched. This is illustrated in Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1. MCHS Trading’s order-processing systems.
From a functional point of view, this is a rational separation of concerns. Each application has a clearly delineated set of responsibilities and the process works—customers get the goods they ordered and the correct money is collected in exchange for the goods.
However, when the information stores are added to the picture (see Figure 1.2), you can see that the details about customers, products, and orders are replicated across the systems. Why? Because this information is core to MCHS Trading’s business and so every application needs it in some form or another.
Figure 1.2. Information stores supporting order processing.
Failing to synchronize this information effectively leads to inflexibility and inefficiencies in the organization that can have an impact both internally and externally.
Consider an individual customer, Alistair Steiff. He has registered for a loyalty card, which is handled by the Stores application, and he also uses the E-shop and the mail order channel from time to time. The E-shop keeps a record of Alistair in the form of a customer account. This is different from the loyalty card account. The Mail-shop application takes Alistair’s details with each order. It has no capability to maintain his details for the next time he orders something through that channel, which Alistair finds a little annoying.
Alistair experienced another issue when he moved to a new address. Although he updated his address in his E-shop account, MCHS Trading kept sending his loyalty card statements to his old address. He tried phoning MCHS Trading’s call center but they could not help because they were only set up to take new orders. He had to write a letter to MCHS Trading to get the loyalty card address updated.
Within MCHS Trading, there is also frustration with the current systems. It is difficult to understand the buying patterns of its customers:
- To understand which new products would be of interest to an individual
- To understand how an individual interacts across each of MCHS Trading’s sales channels
There are two issues here. First, the applications only store information that is relevant to their operation—so it is hard to see the complete picture when the details are spread among the applications. Second, applications are designed to reflect the current operational state of their work. They may keep historical data, but not in the form that is conducive to analysis of trends and anomalies.
This lack of insight is inhibiting MCHS Trading’s ability to grow and there is a need to introduce new management reporting capability to understand how the business is really performing.