The primary reason that B2B organizations make the decision to invest in a Product Information Management (PIM) solution, is because they recognize that they need to have quality product data that can be leveraged for supporting multiple needs across the broader organization. With a PIM solution as part of your technology stack, your business can drive improved product experiences across a multitude of channels. Think about having a centralized and user-friendly solution that enables key product data contributors to add relevant data to your product information. Enabling a product writer to create rich product short and long descriptions that are designed for digital experiences can be a game changer for B2B organizations vs leveraging the data that is currently residing in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. Having a PIM enables organizations to define process and workflow governance to assist the organization in structuring the information in the best possible way and keeping the data consistent.
Most B2B organizations implement a PIM solution focusing on the technical solution itself and fail to recognize the fact that without changing the current way people create, manage, and share existing product data, the technology alone will not make implementing a PIM successful. The challenge is that if B2B businesses begin without clearly defining the business challenges they are trying to solve for, business users will not trust the solution and most likely will return to their previous methods of managing product information external to the PIM. This situation could have a very negative impact to your company and reputation and impact the relationships you have with your customers. Many organizations have found themselves in a situation where they believe that importing product data into the PIM and then spending the time to clean it up will make them successful. The reality is that depending on the number of SKU’s an organization has, this process can and will become a recipe for disaster. So, what is the right way to begin the process of implementing the PIM and getting the most bang for your investment?
- PIM is more than a technology and will require your organization to think strategically,
- Understand the internal users’ needs of product data and how having a PIM will impact the internal organization, including what the flow of data will be and what access different users’ might require.
- Define the different customer segments and what product data is relevant to their needs and how having the right data will make them more satisfied with the business.
Successful PIM Implementations Start with Strategy
It is so common for B2B organizations to underestimate the importance of strategy during their digital transformation journey because they believe it will slow them down. While taking time to plan can appear to make your journey slower, it will make you ultimately move faster in the end because you will get it right the first time. Take the time you need to understand what business problems you are trying to solve with a PIM.
The best approach to plan for a PIM implementation is to start with the end in mind. What is the reason your organization invested in a PIM in the first place? In most cases, the organization has recognized that they are not delivering on the needs of the customers. It is important to define all your customers and understand what their needs are before doing anything else.
If you start by identifying all your go-to-market approaches and the channels that are leveraged to engage with customers. For example, as a manufacturer your go to market could include a mix of B2B, B2B2C and B2C market approaches.
In the case of B2B, you might supply data to retailers, distributors, or dealers. While you need to share data with these channel partners to help them sell your products, it is probable that they will use the product data you share with their customers as well. The more mature your channel partners are, the more demanding they will be regarding the data you share with them.
As an example, let’s say that you have retailers as your channel partners. You may have a few large “big box” stores as well as a variety of hardware stores of various sizes. The chances are significant that the “big box” retailers are mature and have very strict requirements for both product data and digital assets. Currently, you are not meeting their defined requirements and each time you share product information with them, your business is penalized for not meeting the established standards.
While this is a single example of a use case, the point-of-view remains that by starting your PIM strategy by understanding all of the current business use cases, the organization can leverage the information to plan for the PIM implementation including which use cases are the priority for the business to solve for, what teams and resources will be needed to satisfy the use case, what does the PIM data model need to include, what data inputs are necessary and what are the data outputs that will be needed to satisfy each use case.
Getting started includes understanding what the desired future state is and where you are currently on your journey. Defining all the current use cases for both internal and external needs will help organizations get started on the right foot. This includes all cross-functional areas of your business that are using data and what their needs are. By including the broader range of functions, it will be much easier to drive adoption and acceptance to the use of PIM.
PIM Needs to Have Quality Product Data
When organizations begin their PIM journey, they are often surprised by the amount of product data that currently exist, how good or bad the quality the data is in and how it is currently being managed and shared. It is important for B2B organizations to conduct a product data analysis to understand what data currently exists, what data is currently missing and where the data currently resides. It is not uncommon for businesses to find product data in spreadsheets, enterprise databases or even in private databases residing on a user’s computer. The biggest challenge is to understand why users within the organization use those processes currently so the team can begin the process of defining the best approach to prioritize the work and efforts. This includes all cross-functional areas of your business that are using or need to use product data and what their needs are. By starting with the use cases prior to identifying the data, organizations can align the needs, approach, governance, ownership, and the roles of all the teams and individuals that need to have access to the PIM, including how the data is being leveraged and shared with external sources.
As with all technology solutions, PIM will require a level of change management to drive acceptance and adoptions to the new solution. It is important that everyone in the organization has a clear and defined understanding of the solution, and what is expected by everyone in the organization that will be interacting or consuming the product data and how it will improve the quality of their job. Having executive leadership and support is important.
Like most technical solutions that are added to your organization, PIM will not succeed without leadership backing and elements of change management to drive acceptance and adoption. It is very important that everyone in the organization has a deep understanding of the purpose of the solution, what is expected of everyone around leveraging the tool and how it is intended to make their job better in the long run. When people are included and informed, they are more likely to adapt to the changes in process and the better your chances are to drive successful business outcomes and achieve the desired results.
Moving into a Successful Implementation
When organizations leverage strategy and align the needs of the business to the technology solution, B2B organizations see better overall results. Starting with the end in mind enables B2B organizations to take a crawl, walk, run phased approach to see faster time to value and a gain in organizational efficiencies. With the improved data quality, accuracy, and relevancy, you will also see happier customers and reduced overall friction.