How to find the right PIM system?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of the market for PIM systems. In addition to the established vendors, new solutions from different regions of the world are appearing more frequently and trying to gain a foothold in the German-speaking world. As a result, the PIM vendor market is becoming increasingly complex. When choosing the right PIM system, strategic criteria are becoming increasingly important in addition to purely functional aspects.

Only the best is good enough – right?

The tremendous growth of digital commerce in recent years has reinforced the central role of PIM in all business processes related to product communication. As a result, PIM’s strategic importance has increased significantly. PIM projects are now being driven by different departments within companies. The PIM vendor market has responded to this development by investing in a diversified customer approach and marketing activities.

As a result, vendors who are very successful in this area are regularly found on the evaluation lists of project managers. Especially in the PIM area, it is important to understand that the requirements of the line of business and all other stakeholders for a PIM system are highly individual. These requirements must be well documented, weighted, and prioritized before any evaluation project is undertaken. Not every company needs a comprehensive PIM with an unmanageable number of functions. The goal must be to find a PIM system that best meets an organization’s specific criteria.

1. Software architecture

One of the fundamental decisions when designing the system architecture is the licensing and usage model of the core software solutions. Several approaches exist, each with advantages and disadvantages, and each must be considered individually and in the context of the company’s future strategy.

For larger companies with extensive IT resources and sensitive data, on-premises installations where the software runs on their servers may still be appropriate. On the one hand, the company has maximum control over the data and the digital value chain. On the other hand, the company’s IT department is responsible for maintaining and operating servers, networks, applications, databases, and operating systems, which are resource-intensive.

Companies with little or no in-house IT resources can benefit from cloud-based software architecture models, where the provider takes over the software’s maintenance, operation, and development. Companies are then only responsible for the maintenance and quality of their data. Cloud solutions can also be an option for companies with an aggressive growth strategy, as they are considered highly scalable and grow with the company’s needs.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models are out-of-the-box, making them particularly resource-efficient and easy to use. However, this model does not give organizations much control over the application’s functionality.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offers more flexibility by providing an environment in the cloud where applications can be developed, tested, and managed. While this provides more freedom for customization, it also requires development skills.

“SaaS models can be used immediately and are therefore particularly resource-efficient and uncomplicated.”

In addition to the specific individual considerations for Product Information Management, the company’s overall architecture also plays an important role. How neighboring systems are hosted can also influence the decision to use a specific model. This is especially true for systems such as ERP or the online store, which communicate directly with the PIM in the context of the digital value chain.

There is also the choice between private cloud and public cloud environments. This depends on what data is involved, how much control a company wants to retain over its data management, and what makes economic sense. However, with the help of hybrid cloud scenarios, these decisions can be made granularly for individual processes or tasks, optimizing costs, performance, flexibility, and security requirements.

2. Industry experience

While a lightweight PIM system already covers the most important requirements as a standard for companies with less complex product data, others require extensive configurations – especially in the data model. Some industries, such as medical technology, automotive, or mechanical engineering, are typically highly complex. In addition to information on the products and all their components, information on spare parts, industry-standard classifications, and documents such as certificates or instructions for use are often required.

“Specific industry experience can be valuable from a process perspective. After all, implementing a PIM system is not just about technical integration.”

For such complex requirements, it may make sense to look for a PIM system that is already used by many companies in the industry. This can be an important indication that the system is capable of mapping such a powerful data model. It is often the case that software vendors even provide pre-configured data models that can significantly minimize the effort involved in the implementation project.

However, specific industry experience can also be valuable from a process perspective. After all, implementing a PIM system is not just about technical integration. The processes and workflows must also be set up accordingly. In industries such as medical technology, for example, this includes defined approval processes that need to be taken into account.

3. Integration capability

Seamless integration into the system landscape is extremely important for a centralized solution like PIM. It first collects data from various sources, such as Excel spreadsheets, supplier portals, or ERP systems. The product information is then linked to digital assets from the DAM and passed on to numerous other applications. These include the online store, mobile applications, the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), online marketplaces, print catalogs, retail partners, and BI applications. To achieve this, modern PIM systems take an API-first approach that focuses on this data communication, laying the foundation for smooth data processes.

4. Partner network

The digital value chain is a complex and highly dynamic construct. Its productivity and efficiency depend heavily on the interaction of its elements. This has two consequences: As described above, PIM systems must have a high level of integration capability with typical peripheral systems. In addition, this integration must be perfectly executed in reality to optimize cross-system data processes.

PIM vendors typically build two types of partner networks. Technological partners are solution providers for neighboring systems such as DAM, ERP, or e-commerce, for which the PIM provider already offers native interfaces. Therefore, integration with these systems is quick and easy within the project itself. The availability and design of interfaces to core solutions a company already uses can also be an important criterion in selecting a PIM.

“Technological partners are solution providers for neighboring systems such as DAM, ERP or e-commerce, for which the PIM provider already offers native interfaces.”

Integration partners provide trained employees with software solutions for the implementation project. Together with the customer, they form the project team to implement the PIM system. Depending on the integration partner, in addition to system architects and technical consultants, digitalization and PIM strategy consultants may also be involved. Industry knowledge, project experience, likeability, and change management expertise are important criteria when selecting an integration partner. Local proximity can also play a role if personal contact and travel costs are relevant.

PIM Selection: An individual matter

To make the right decisions during a PIM evaluation, it is necessary to understand the requirements of the various stakeholders. This includes not only current but also future requirements. Such a comprehensive requirements catalog with weighted criteria forms the basis for the pre-selection of vendors (the so-called shortlist) and for vendor workshops in which the solutions are presented based on the criteria. In this way, the systems can be examined and evaluated in detail. Since the software vendor typically appears with a selected integration partner, the evaluation team can usually assess the implementation partner directly at the vendor workshop.

The ideal PIM system must meet the functional requirements of the line of business and support management’s strategic objectives. Due to the depth and complexity of the information requirements, the support of consultants with market experience can be very beneficial during the evaluation project and ultimately help make a sustainable investment decision.



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