G&R Felpausch Co. also has found effectively sharing information often means sharing people. Key personnel from several departments at the Hastings, Mich.-based chain have found stints in the MIS department are helping them use data more effectively.
"The lines are getting so blurred that we don't know where people should sit anymore," said Mike Hubert, director of MIS at Felpausch. "MIS is really no longer a department; it's the hub the departments run on."
Hubert said Felpausch relies heavily on store personnel to help develop MIS applications. "We bring in store personnel and give them the technical expertise to make these projects work," he said. "But first people have to understand what's going on in the grocery store."
The tactic worked well for Felpausch in its recent move to computerize direct store delivery. A store manager was shifted to the MIS department to make sure the planning of the system reflected real concerns at the store level.
"When a new project comes up, we like to kick it off in MIS, then we hand the baby back to its mother," Hubert said.
The MIS personnel also bring their technical expertise to new positions in other departments.
"One of my MIS guys is now handling merchandising and advertising planning for grocery, frozens and dairy," Hubert said. "With his MIS background, he's handling all that on line rather than with a pencil and paper."
Hubert said that eliminated the need for MIS personnel to enter that data into the system.
"It will flow through the system without data entry," he said.
By involving personnel from other departments in MIS projects from the start, Felpausch's MIS department has ensured that they will be less dependent on MIS personnel for support once the programs go live. The chain's new card-based frequent shopper program is an example.
"We consider the frequent shopper program a marketing department program," Hubert said. "The technology is all in place. They know how to use it and don't need MIS to hold their hand."
Hubert, however, added that requests for prepared reports from Felpausch's MIS department are common. Hubert is trying to gauge the needs of various departments within Felpausch to make sure finite resources are used to track, refine and disseminate the most useful information to the greatest number of people.
"We have to get to a point where we control the information so we won't be putting together reports on request for anyone who asks," he said.
Ideally, Hubert said he would like to install software that is simple enough that users will be able to access usable information on desktop personal computers without going through MIS for refined reports.
"We have to make the data flexible enough so that the users can define and access the information they need," he said.