'IT'S NOT TOO FAR, IT JUST SEEMS LIKE IT IS'

I first experienced the above quote from the legendary baseball player Yogi Berra in an airline purchasing executive's office. The subject was a proposed modification on a cabin pressurization switch, and there was general agreement from the vendor and those from maintenance and materials. "Everyone loves this mod," I remember someone said. "But these systems are problematic to line maintenance and pilots. Replacing manual cabin pressurization with electronic results in higher reliability, more comfort for passengers."

Surprisingly, the mod could not be justified. Not because of cost, but rather because a business case could not be built with data scattered all over the place, in all different systems, with no prospect of reconciling total impact.

Opportunity missed. Critical data delays are generally not the problem; it's all the other maintenance data so painstakingly captured on paper yet not available to support business decisions because electronic systems aggregate away and lose the details.

'WHEN YOU GET TO A FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT'

There was a time when such lost opportunities were not necessarily critical. But industries mature and face new choices. One such development is growth of outsourced services in place of those once produced internally. Growing outsourcing means buying more-complex packages. Airlines that get the right mix stand to develop an edge over time.

The array of data needed to obtain great results from purchased services is much greater; the stakes are high for delivering reliability and also for knowing that the material you are buying is genuine. With the right data, your suppliers help you stay in the game and keep maintenance costs down.

Until recently, every MRO player was on its own to define how critical data such as reliability and documentation were handled electronically. ATA SPEC2000 removes this burden by defining an e-business standard for the MRO industry, simplifying processing of electronic legal documents and standardized parts teardown reports into your systems. Developed by a panel of key industry players from all segments, SPEC2000 allows you to adopt data standards that ease supplier communication, facilitate greater business intelligence and extend to new hardware technologies such as RFID.

'A GOOD BALL CLUB'

This was Berra's classic answer when someone asked him what made a good baseball manager. And it is still a good answer for anyone managing the e-business game. E-business requires conscious governance of datathinking about who provides your data, who else uses it, who augments and contributes to it. Driving value through information is a team sport.

An e-business team includes engineers charged with making selective reliability investments, purchasers who use the same data differently to interact with vendors on these and other decisions, and IT people who can deliver the data to both. All the players rely on an e-business manager. Just as the bench calls plays in baseball, those who manage e-business need to provide clear signals to the team.

As a materials manager you wouldn't want all your parts scattered in toolboxes, tool cribs or forward stores. Likewise, as an e-business manager you wouldn't want all your data dispersed across your organization. As clearly as there is a difference between a bunt and a homerun, there is a difference between a data mart and a data warehouse. As an e-business manager, you need to know when to call on each.

Data is a player like no other. Data doesn't wear out; it actually grows more valuable the more you use it. Identify which detail data has the best payback for you, adopt SPEC2000 industry definitions and look for opportunities to capture benefits together with your suppliers. Then put all your data into one data warehouse and watch how having all the details accessible from a single place raises intelligence within your company. SPEC2000 is a play you can call. Your data is closer than it seems!

Peeter Kivestu is director of Global Industry Solutions at Teradata Corp.