Evaluating whether an organization is ready for any technology solution is difficult, including a Product Information Management (PIM) solution. Luckily, there are several common factors that can be analyzed to determine the potential fit for a PIM. These include how the data is structured, how much of it exists, the people involved, and inherent process requirements or challenges. This blog post is meant to provide guidance in order to evaluate if any particular organization is in a position to heavily consider a PIM solution and technology.
The Number of Products and Variations That Currently Exist
The first area to understand is how many versions of the product are out there within the organization. This should include the total number of products with its different iterations and in various locations. Areas to consider include the following:
- The total number of products (skus)
- The number of languages that need to be supported
- The number of separate enterprise systems holding product data as a "system of record" (ERP, Ecommerce, Print Areas, etc.). In other words, how many locations does an employee manually have to access in order to make updates or add new products?
How Fast the Number of Products and Variations Growing or Changing
Many companies are quickly expanding their product offerings by growing the number of product options. This approach is a common way to grow revenue and gain market share. This section addresses how fast the product catalog is growing or is changing to accommodate the marketplace. Sections to consider include the following:
- The total number of new product introductions (NPI)
- The number of products removed every year from the catalog
- What percentage of the products get updated every year
The Complexity or Detail for Each Product
The complexity or the amount of detail of each product can have as much influence on the challenges of adding, editing, and distributing the product data as the total number of products. This is because a very deep product (like software applications or heavy machinery with significant complexity within each) is very difficult to add or maintain properly. Considerations for this section include the following:
- An assessment of the files that are needed in order to augment the product data and are included in the meta data. These include, but are not limited to, specification sheets, data sheets, videos, multiple images, etc.
- An assessment of the additional content information that is used to support the product and is directly associated to the product in some way. This is textual information rather than files and may include, but are not limited to, blog posts, infographics, whitepapers, case studies, etc.
- The number of variants of each product
- The number of product variants
- The total number of product variants
How Many Employees Are Available to Maintain the Data
Good employees are necessary for any healthy marketing department. The intent of this area is to understand how many employees are available to add new products (NPI), modify existing products, augment existing products, as well as if they are trained to make the product changes within the correct enterprise systems. Ideas to consider include the following:
- The total number of individuals in the marketing department
- What roles each of these individuals play within the department
- Who is qualified to make product changes and who has access to which systems in order to make the appropriate product changes
- What percentage of their time is available to make the necessary product changes
The Complexity or Detail for the Channels or Market
The market and channels that a business either needs or wants to work within has a huge impact on the complexity of how products get updated. Ideas to consider in this segment include the following:
- The number of existing channels that product data needs to be pushed. Examples include, but are not limited to, the core website, brand websites and microsites, amazon, other marketplaces, print catalog, distributors, partners, customers, extranet, etc.
- The number of geographic markets
- The number of new channels and markets that the organization would like to target for growth or competitive purposes
- Is it difficult to reformat or repurpose product data for distribution across new or existing channels or markets in order to meet individual, specific requirements?
Process Challenges or Needs
The way that the marketing department is structured within the organization and how it interacts with other departments can greatly affect the speed and difficulty of getting work done to introduce new products and modify existing product data. Thoughts to consider in this section include the following:
- Are product groups within the organization in sync with each other or do they act in silos?
- Is there a global taxonomy standard in existence so there is a common way of representing each product as closely as possible?
- Is there an established new product introductions (NPI) process and template in existence that is enforced to make sure that each NPI goes smoothly?
- How have previous new product introductions (NPI) gone in the past?
- Are external tools like Microsoft excel used to fill in gaps in product information?
- Is the format, styling, and/or structure of the product data not consistent between each product and causing operational efficiency
- Have their been issues with data not being accurate, not being complete, or obsolete product still being available?
- Is the approval process for NPI or product data changes slowing down the overall process?
Proper implementation of a PIM can help the marketing department get more done with less resources and minimize errors that cause expensive customer issues (like invoice and print catalog errors). Some of these customer issues could lead to customer churn as well if they are too often, annoying, or perceived as catastrophic. Careful evaluation of an organization can provide guidance on whether that company is ready for a product information management (PIM) solution.