Data Migration

Here’s What Retailers Need to Know Before a Data Migration

Explore the complexities of data migration in fashion retail: from the challenges of legacy systems to the nuances of supply chain management.

Data migrations present retailers with a huge opportunity for modernizing the business, decommissioning outdated systems, and even streamlining the customer experience. Digital transformation efforts can make it easier to maintain an accurate, single view of customers as well as materials data, supply chain, and overall operations.

Adopting new technology to optimize and scale the business is, of course, a huge undertaking, and today’s modern retailers are also managing global supply chains, inventory, and huge volumes of consumer data while undergoing migrations. Retailers need to merge data from various sources, including point-of-sale systems and customer and supplier transaction histories in ERP systems, to make sourcing, merchandising, marketing, and inventory management decisions. All these nuances and more can make data migrations especially complex for retailers.

What are the top Data Migration challenges for Fashion Retailers?
When it comes to retail - and especially fashion - the bulk of the challenge in terms of migration is product inventory, the supply chain, and disruption to the business. Inventory spread across multiple business models, such as wholesale, O&O, concession, commissionaire, shop-in-shop, and so forth, brings a whole new challenge to managing materials during a data migration. But when planning out a multi-phase implementation, the concern isn’t just about bringing the business to a halt – it's disrupting the customer experience as well.

Migration from Legacy SAP AFS
When organizations first began implementing SAP AFS decades ago, there weren’t yet best practices or industry standards for the end user to use as guidelines. Everybody did the best that they knew to do with the system. Since previously implemented systems didn’t have a “best practice” model to follow, large fashion retailers now making the trek to S4 Fashion are finding that the initial setup may have left them with a lot of garbage data.

Large data volumes
Data volumes are a massive challenge for fashion retail. One country alone, for example, could have hundreds of thousands of materials spread across numerous DCs and hundreds of retail sites. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things connected to one another, so how do you move data from system to system without bringing business to a complete standstill for months on end?

Managing material data
Fashion retailers frequently contend with a massive volume of product data. To compound the complexity, materials are often set up nearly a year in advance before procurement or sales begin so merchants, vendors, and design teams can utilize them to support the samples process. There are often months of lag time between when a master data record is created and when the user actually transacts against it - a unique caveat to fashion retailers. If not managed correctly, these material records can hide major data quality issues that can affect downstream processes such as purchase orders and sales orders.

Migrating multiple regions while trying to bring in net new products in that timeline alone can be a challenge. Include implementation efforts needing to be aligned with the current material data management system and not affecting global use of the materials coming from that system.

Forecasting during migrations
Even during a massive implementation, fashion retailers still have to make their forecast. Go-lives have to be planned with financial or go-to-market calendars in mind to allow internal teams enough time to ramp up in the new system. Retailers have to accurately forecast the number of units to purchase and expect to be sold so as not to affect the inventory for other aspects of the business, like brick and mortars, wholesale, or overseas shipments during a migration.

Disparate, disconnected systems
Most fashion retailers only use SAP for the financial aspect of the supply chain, while any warehousing is done in WMS systems, which control outbound goods. Because there can be so many fragmented systems that don’t speak to one another, widespread practices such as “pack-and-hold", where stockrooms are filled up months in advance, can be almost impossible to do from a migration perspective.

Supply Chain Management
Many times, fashion retailers are actively optimizing or streamlining the supply chain during migration efforts. Putting efficiencies into the supply chain absolutely makes sense – but trying to realign processes and vendors to find those opportunities while trying to accommodate the everyday operations can be demanding. If not done effectively, it threatens to disrupt downstream processes, including order fulfillment, inventory management, and inbound and outbound logistics.

The Right Data Migration Approach for Retailers

Fashion retailers need to approach data migration with careful planning, collaboration, and a clear understanding of their data landscape. Engaging experienced professionals and consultants can help navigate these challenges effectively. The data migration landscape is continuously evolving, and staying updated on best practices is essential – if you can keep up. To truly de-risk a migration and avoid business disruption, an implementation partner familiar with the industry will be better suited to navigate the particular challenges fashion retailers face when it comes to data management.

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