By: Brandon Johnson
For more than 50 years, Management Science Associates, Inc. (MSA) has been in the business of aggregating massive amounts of raw sales and marketing data on behalf of their clients, processing and analyzing it, and returning actionable intelligence to them make better business decisions. Clients use the information to better understand their markets, increase sales and revenue, and stay ahead of the competition. I look at it as a production line that takes in raw materials (data files), processes them, and produces valuable information that we distribute to our customers.
The Information Management Solutions (IMS) division, where I work, focuses on clients in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. Our client list includes well-known names in CPG industries such as Candy, Tobacco, and Beverage companies.
We’ve built a world-class IT infrastructure and developed software and other systems to support MSA’s production line. For three years now, we have been using Control-M in that infrastructure to automate and manage the collection, processing, analysis, and delivery of CPG data and information.
Our Business Challenge: Scalability
A little more than three years ago, it became clear that we had outgrown our workload scheduling tool. We were already running approximately 150,000 jobs on our busiest days, but couldn’t scale the tool to meet our growing needs.
The weekly process for producing client deliverables started on Wednesday and, by Sunday evening, deliverables would be ready for distribution to clients—if everything went well. Because our clients depend on these deliverables to make important decisions regarding manufacturing, distribution, promotions, and other vital functions, meeting delivery timelines and accuracy requirements was critical. Staff often had to work over the weekend to ensure that jobs were running to completion and intervene when issues arose.
The Solution: Digital Business Automation
The time had come to phase out our current workload scheduling tool. We did a thorough evaluation of available solutions and, after conducting a rigorous proof of concept, Control-M emerged as the obvious choice.
During the conversion to Control-M, we took advantage of its functionality, automation, and efficiency to reengineer workflows in our critical-path processing. The results were even better than expected. We slashed the job count by half—from 150,000 to about 75,000. That reduction cut 12 to 18 hours from critical-path processing times. Deliverables are now ready by Friday at 5:00 p.m., so we’re meeting delivery requirements with ease and staff no longer has to work weekends. We’ve also reduced our job failure rate from 20% to less than 0.5%.
Managing the Data Factory and Producing Deliverables
Our Data@Factory™ system receives thousands of distributor-warehouse files every week. As soon as a file arrives, Control-M Managed File Transfer picks it up and transfers it to our data factory for processing. The factory process involves error checking, data correction, and immediate notification to the file supplier if a file contains errors and needs to be resent. The process comprises approximately 25 jobs managed dynamically by Control-M.
Each Wednesday, we start the weekly production of deliverables, which takes the data collected by the data factory for that week and processes it to prepare unique output for each client. Control-M manages every aspect of the production process. Major steps include:
- Breaking out the work by client and building client data warehouses
- Distributing deliverables to the data warehouses
- Making deliverables available through our system, which provides both ad-hoc query capabilities and preformatted reports
In just three years, Control-M has become an essential player in the day-to-day operations of MSA. Even more importantly, it aligns with our vision for the future. We’re beginning to move portions of our POS offerings to cloud services and cloud data warehouse service, and Control-M’s multi-cloud capabilities are a perfect fit. We are already putting Control-M agents into cloud-based systems for some of our business units.
The successes we’ve had with Control-M have attracted the attention of other MSA divisions. As a result, two other divisions have already implemented Control-M: Life Sciences, which delivers secure, anonymous databases for research and analytics and helps transplant centers manage solid organ and blood and marrow (BMT) transplant processes; and Media, which helps corporations, ad agencies, and advertisers understand viewer behavior, automate internal ad sales operations, and manage and audit their contracts with customers. Ultimately, we will deploy Control-M in the remaining three divisions of the company.
After three years, we see many opportunities for expanding our use of Control-M. We truly believe it’s our enterprise solution that’s going to keep our production line moving for many years to come.
By: Brandon Johnson