7 capabilities for a successful product information management solution

Chief Product Architect & Offering Manager, Persistent, an IBM Business Partner

In my last blog post, I explained why businesses need product information management (PIM). I will now dive deeper into the key factors an organization must take into consideration when evaluating a PIM solution. Note that I am not going to cover anything about catalog, hierarchy, category management, role-based access control (RBAC) or auditing.

While people, process, and technology are the three pillars of success for any implementation, I see seven key capabilities that build the foundation for a solid PIM strategy. I highly recommend that businesses evaluate these factors carefully before selecting a solution.

  1. Adaptive user interface (UI) with a flexible data model.

A solid PIM solution must have an adaptive UI backed by a flexible data model. Adaptability refers to the ability of the UI to adjust automatically according to the underlying data model, without needing additional coding or implementation efforts. Flexibility refers to the ease of providing data model extensions, adding or updating attributes, and provisioning multiple hierarchies or categories.

Adding a new attribute to a product category is a common action required by business users. Given its frequency, you need a solution which can adapt to changes quickly.

  1. Integrated and flexible workflows.

Considering the increasing complexities of nearly every business, it is important that a PIM solution has flexible workflows that can mimic practically any business process, while maintaining data governance at all times. Case in point: when your business has 30+ steps as part of a new product introduction process, with a need for 15+ users to work across 100+ attributes simultaneously, you do not want workflows taking weeks or even months to implement.

  1. Data quality rules.

A PIM solution is expected to maintain a “golden record” of product data, meaning it needs to be accurate and up-to-date. The integrity and trustworthiness of data or any other master entity is enforced via data quality rules. These rules can define simple attributes such as colors or models. Similarly, there may be complex rules which are based on values of multiple attributes and conditions, including the geographical location of where a product is sold.  

  1. Digital Asset Management (DAM).

As more people do their shopping online, the availability of product images, videos, and content in digital form is critical. This type of data typically moves through the organization as unstructured data. Having DAM capability not only ensures that the accurate associations are made with the product and the data, but also guarantees that the correct data is syndicated to downstream channels such as eCommerce, POS, and mobile channels.

  1. Strong integration capabilities with out-of-the-box (OOTB) connectors.

A typical business will have a number of systems: ERPs, PLMs, CRMs, eCommerce, home grown systems and more. This could be due to varying business priorities, mergers and acquisitions or even “shadow IT” systems. Your product information is likely spread across multiple systems. A PIM solution will need to be able to connect to all of those systems to exchange data easily. In addition, a successful PIM solution will need to natively support multiple data OOTB connectors, formats and protocols.

  1. Vendor Portal.

A global enterprise business could have thousands of suppliers who interchange product information. Without a PIM solution with a vendor portal, this information is typically exchanged by email or FTP. These methods are not only error-prone but also do not support best-practice data quality, data governance nor audit requirements.

The advantage of having an integrated vendor portal is that it addresses all of these concerns. In addition, you can use vendor scoring to measure performance and plan for corrective actions accordingly.

  1. Localization support.

Most businesses have a presence in multiple countries or geographies. Having a solution available in various languages – instead of only one language support – makes the adoption of the solution more likely.

Ready to learn more how PIM can help your business? Read this report to understand how PIM and IBM master data management come together to help you master your product data. Or visit the IBM master data management product page to learn how to get started.