Data Issues and the Failure of Target Canada

The Target Canada story

Target Canada

As a Commport professional, I have always maintained that EDI is not really an IT function, rather it is a business function.  Doing B2B EDI and/or Global Data Synch effectively, means leveraging technology and international standards to efficiently reflect an organization’s business processes and intellectual property related to organizational data.

Throughout my life I have been exposed to many business and economic trends and opportunities as well as the ensuing successes and failures.  I have to admit that almost nothing makes me more excited than ramping up for that next big, business opportunity… That is unless it fails… and then the failure becomes even more interesting.  When flawed processes meet business failures, I am captivated.

As a consumer, I lamented the shuttering of my local Zellers store.  I waited and watched for months as the excitement of Target coming to Canada built and as I desperately tried to sneak peeks through the paper covered doors as they renovated.  I had shopped at Target stores in the U.S. so, like many Canadians, I eagerly awaited the hyped up new Canadian retail option.

And then I went to work. 

In my professional life the Target Canada experience was something else.  At the beginning Target Canada so thoroughly committed to the use of EDI with its vendors that it would only source product from vendors that already had EDI capabilities and experience.  Vendors were led through a process to prove their capabilities and incurred configuration costs to do so.  They weighed the fees against the promised opportunity of the anticipated success of Target Canada and took the plunge.  In the end, a number of the vendors I worked with entered into this process and incurred the costs, only to receive confirmation part way through that they wouldn’t be selected as a supplier to Target.

Those that were selected were identified and began receiving orders.  After all the systems set up and testing were performed and even after the first set of orders, suppliers to Target Canada were subjected to seemingly constant uncommunicated system changes that would only be discovered after transactions were exchanged.  By then it was too late to update the system at Target Canada, so the supplier was locked into working in “as-is” conditions with the data on hand.

Without getting too deep into the technical details, a retailer’s business system is the life blood of the organization.  It supports the business processes and supports the operations.  If the data contained within the systems is wrong, for any reason, the results can be disastrous, especially when the users have been trained to rely on the system.  Based on my experience, this explains a lot of what went wrong at Target Canada.

In May 2014 Reuters published the article Exclusive: Target Canada’s supply chain gridlock: how Barbie SUVs snarled traffic in which the authors talk about mismatches between expected quantities and actual received quantities and about problems with barcodes not matching what was in the computer system.  They mention a source who reports “As goods arrived at the warehouses, workers found errors, 12 shirts per box when the computer system expected 24”.

In those early Target Canada days I remember working with suppliers who received orders where the quantities being requested by Target didn’t match the physical reality of the product configurations.  The vendors I worked with would contact Target and warn of the issues only to be told that what was in the system is what they intended to order, so the vendor must be incorrect.  Or worse, when push came to shove after repeated attempts to submit EDI shipping notifications, some suppliers were told to fudge their data so that it matched what was in the Target systems and then ship the product and that it would be dealt with at the warehouse.  Invalid quantities combined with unresolvable barcodes are a recipe for a disaster in any warehouse that is intended to utilize mostly automated receiving, with far reaching implications for the rest of the supply chain. The bottom line is that inventory that doesn’t move through the warehouse efficiently, isn’t available to the store to be stocked, causing customers to be met with empty shelves and ultimately a disappointing shopping experience.

To me, these two contributing factors speak loudly to a significant mismanagement of the product catalogue data within the Target Canada systems.  There are a number of root causes and potential approaches to fix these issues and I expect that the root causes will continue to be examined for years to come.

As for fixing the problems, well it seems, that just won’t be necessary.

Commport Communications International inc. Breaks Into the PROFIT500 List

Profit Guide

AURORA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 18, 2014): Commport Communications International inc., has been ranked for the first time by PROFIT Magazine for their 26th annual PROFIT 500 list, a definitive ranking of Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies. Published in the summer issue of PROFIT Magazine and online at, the PROFIT 500 ranks Canadian businesses by their revenue growth over five years. This list recognizes Canadian entrepreneurs as some of the most innovative, inspiring, and successful business leaders in the world.

Commport, privately owned and operated, is a global provider of a wide range of innovative and comprehensive supply chain management solutions for Electronic Commerce (EC). Tenacious growth objectives have positioned Commport to make the PROFIT 500 list with a five-year revenue growth rate of 94%. Ranking 104th overall in the IT industry which accounts for 25% of the companies included in this prestigious list.

"We are honored to be included in the PROFIT 500 list for the first time." said Dave Ralph, CEO-Founder of Commport. "This award not only acknowledges the dedication and commitment our company makes to achieve our growth objectives, and deliver superior ecommerce solutions, but it affirms the amazing collaborative, and customer-centric efforts of our most important asset: The Commport Team."

It is a collaborative and team-oriented philosophy that drives Commport to deliver eCommerce solutions that are fast, flawless, and flexible every day. With a healthy and happy customer base, they are well positioned to continue to exceed aggressive growth targets. "The members of the PROFIT 500 are the elite of the country's entrepreneurial community," says James Cowan, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Business and PROFIT. "Their stories are lessons in business strategy, innovation, management excellence and sheer tenacity." Commport would like to extend a congratulatory note to the company's included in this list that have also been recognized for their growth achievements.

About Commport Communications International inc. Privately owned and operated in Aurora (ON), is a global provider of a wide range of innovative and comprehensive supply chain management solutions for Electronic Commerce (EC). With over 25 years of service, Commport is the only single source provider in North America offering Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Value Added Network (VAN) and Global Data Synchronization (GDSN) Certified Data Pool service solutions to their customers.

About PROFIT and PROFIT: Your Guide to Business Success is Canada's preeminent media brand dedicated to the management issues and opportunities facing small and mid-sized businesses. For 32 years, Canadian entrepreneurs across a vast array of economic sectors have remained loyal to PROFIT because it's a timely and reliable source of actionable information that helps them achieve business success and get the recognition they deserve for generating positive economic and social change. Visit PROFIT online at

About Canadian Business Founded in 1928, Canadian Business is the longest-serving, best-selling and most-trusted business publication in the country. With a readership of more than 800,000, it is the country's premier media brand for executives and senior business leaders. It fuels the success of Canada's business elite with a focus on the things that matter most: leadership, innovation, and business strategy and management tactics. We provide concrete examples of business achievement, thought-provoking analysis and compelling storytelling, all in an elegant package with bold graphics and great photography. Canadian Business-what leadership looks like!

To view the offical press release please click here

Commport Enters Strategic Partnership With TELUS to Expand EDI and Healthcare IT Services in Canada

AURORA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 7, 2013) - Commport Communications International, Inc., a leader in B2B document and data management services within the Canadian marketplace, today announced a strategic partnership with TELUS, a leading national telecommunications company in Canada. Together, TELUS and Commport will market and promote the Assure Data Exchange (ADX) document management services as well as Global Data Synchronization (GDSN) in the Canadian healthcare industry through Commport's CommCARE Health Solutions.

Under this arrangement, Commport will host, manage and support the TELUS ADX community including those members who participate in the CareNET set of EDI standards. ADX is a perfect fit for Commport Communications' existing suite of electronic business document exchange services enabling service provider specialization while increasing the availability of standardized document exchange and data management services for the Canadian enterprise and healthcare sectors.

Commport's strong Canadian presence in both Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and GS1 certified data synchronization were important factors in the formation of the partnership. "The transactional data that is managed by Commport is secure within Canadian facilities which are of particular importance when managing the document exchange within the Canadian healthcare and financial communities." said Dave Ralph, CEO of Commport.

"Partnering with Commport is a natural fit for TELUS," said Paul Lepage, President TELUS Health and Payment Solutions. "By providing innovative technologies and applications such as Commport's EDI solution to move information securely and connect all stakeholders, TELUS Health empowers customers to manage and share more meaningful information, which ultimately, drives better health outcomes."

A particularly exciting expansion opportunity is realized through this partnership by combining ADX, the technology backbone that supports the CareNET document exchange platform, and Commport's CGS Datapool Services, a GS1 GDSN certified data pool supporting the international GS1 standards for product data management. CGS Datapool Services is strongly positioned to provide a single and secure validation touch point to both the ADX and CareNET communities by leveraging GS1 GDSN's Global Standards. Through this new alliance, TELUS and Commport will work together to support the many GS1 Global Healthcare initiatives in an effort to decrease supply chain management costs through the adoption, exchange and use of accurate and standardized product information moving freely from global suppliers through the GDSN.

About Commport Communications International, inc.

Since 1985, Commport Communications International, inc. has been a leading provider in innovative technologies that leverages integration, collaboration and automation to deliver true value in business to business supply chains. Commport is a privately owned corporation and is the only provider in the world positioned to offer full service Value Added Network, EDI, translation and GDSN data synchronization services to both the demand side and the supply side of the trading partnership. To find out more about Commport Communications, please visit

About GS1 and GS1 Healthcare

GS1 is a neutral, not-for-profit, international organization that develops global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply chains across industries. It engages a global community of trading partners, industry organizations and technology providers to understand their business needs and develops global standards in response to those needs. GS1 is driven by close to two million user companies, which execute more than six billion transactions.

The mission of GS1 Healthcare is to lead the Healthcare sector to the successful development and implementation of global standards by bringing together experts in Healthcare to enhance patient safety and supply chain efficiencies. GS1 Healthcare members include over 60 leading Healthcare organizations worldwide.

For more information on the GS1 Global Data Synchronisation Network

For more information about and to view the report, please visit GS1 Healthcare