The challenge of managing product data
Central security vs local flexibility
Many global brands are undergoing some major changes to better equip themselves for the future. Whereas their corporate strategies were, so far, rather product-driven, they are now increasingly focused on product marketing activities. In the realm of Product Information Management, organisations have to face new, demanding challenges.
Every company knows that flexibility is essential to maintaining a competitive edge. No wonder, therefore, that users develop their own market-specific processes and procedures in order to shape and optimise cooperation with other departments. This local “fine-tuning”, however, usually occurs at the expense of good data quality and process transparency. Data can easily become fragmented, duplicated and often out of date – quite the opposite to a solution based on a central and structured repository for all your product information. Such disparate, isolated systems pose a major challenge. How can a PIM system help?
Defining clear responsibilities
Where data that crosses organisational departments or divisions is not consolidated into one single solution, (local) changes to the content can lead to inconsistent product information. Designed to serve as a central hub to collaboratively manage all your product information, a PIM solution can help define clear responsibilities for high-level processes and thus for any modifications that may be required. This also includes alerting and notification functionalities. Who corrects wrong entries in the system and where? Can you be sure that they are not only altered manually in the target system, but also in the source system? Is there a push-back or update afterwards? Clear responsibilities in the PIM system can help to ensure that the answers to these questions are always consistent and in line with your processes.
Implementing data governance
Who edits which content? Who is responsible for the results? A data governance programme (a data management concept to help ensure data quality) focused on both processes and organisational aspects is a key prerequisite for a seamlessly integrated PIM system. It increases transparency and ensures that all process steps are performed in the right order and are fully supported by the system. Furthermore, a centrally managed PIM system ensures higher data security and legal compliance.
A central repository for product data
One of the major mistakes when it comes to Product Information Maintenance is that only part of the data is updated centrally and that, for example, marketing or market-specific information is modified separately, at a later stage. In such cases, a considerable part of market-specific communication and interaction does not take place in the central system. Moreover, images and product information may also be stored in different systems. As there is no single access to all related product information, some data in the PIM system may not be consistent with content in the source systems. To prevent this problem, you need a comprehensive view of all workflows – including their technical aspects. Only then will you be able to streamline all your processes and, subsequently, your data.
Streamlining complex work processes
We are all familiar with the problem of unnecessarily complex work processes. There are, for instance, an overwhelming number of meetings, e-mails and telephone calls – yet, quite often, not every person involved in the process is properly informed. A PIM system can help simplify work processes. Process and workflow dashboards can help identify optimisation processes faster and easier.
In a nutshell: Central security vs local flexibility
Centralised processes will always have to compete against the flexibility of local work processes. Likewise, centrally managed and accurate product data will have to struggle to prevail over market-driven and manually customised content. Central, seamlessly integrated application landscapes will often be faced with local “Microsoft Office”-based solution approaches. These are just a few of the difficulties that companies experience when it comes to streamlining maintenance of their product information and the processes behind it.
A PIM system can only address these issues if data is maintained centrally and the appropriate infrastructure is in place. PIM applications need to be continuously improved and adapted, but work processes along the entire process chain from data acquisition and product information management to automated distribution must also be optimised. You should not forget to define clear strategic responsibilities, because, at the end of the day, everybody wants higher data quality and more transparency – without compromising their freedom.
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