5 common questions (and answers!) when implementing a PIM system

With digital transformation come new business models and publishing channels. Companies are redesigning their IT landscape to develop e-commerce, create supplier self-service and improve warehouse management.

One key element in all of this, is product data management. When B2B organizations realize they‘ll need a Product Information Management (PIM) system, they’ll come across numerous new challenges. In this blog, we’ll address the five foremost questions often asked by companies implementing PIM.

As companies embrace everything digital, business processes become more digitized or are even completely overhauled for digital optimization. Connectivity with data pools, compliance with local, global and industry legislation and regulations are increasingly more important for efficient business operations. This brings all kind of challenges, but one sticks out: to manage product data and to provide optimized information for distribution to all desired channels.

From our practice of implementing PIM for a variety of customers, we’ve listed the top five questions and give appropriate answers:

1. I have my product data in an ERP. How should I use this data in conjunction with a new PIM system?

Traditionally, every business has its product or service information stored in an ERP system of some kind. To use this information optimally in conjunction with a PIM system, it’s important to know how the ERP data is used currently and how the PIM data will be used in the future. Not only the product data, but also the data processes surrounding the use, the maintenance and governance of the data are crucial to this review. To select the right approach for your product data, the process of creating an initial product record is key. There are two main approaches for this: one in which ERP is leading, and the second in which PIM is leading.

2. I use a lot of information from other companies. What is the best way to get this rich data from partners and other sources? 

Any required information for your PIM system comes from external or internal sources. Your suppliers normally own the best and most current product data that they typically share through data pools. Today, more and more industries adapt to enriched product data and product classifications that are offered in standardized formats. One of the most common ones is GS1 (from 1WorldSync) that serves industries like retail (including supermarkets and pharmacies), food, medical and DIY (including garden). Internal sources can be your ERP, PLM or WMS systems. Via APIs or an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) you can access other sources and collect the correct product data for your new PIM system.

3. What kind of data quality tooling will I need? What does it need to do and check? 

Placing your all your product data in one spot is only the beginning. You’ll need data quality tooling to be able to answer management questions such as:

  • Why do we have such limited product information on our e-commerce site?
  • Where do we stand with our desired level of quality of our product data?
  • How do we enrich data efficiently? How do we monitor its quality on crucial points such as details, material codes or ingredients in food?

You’ll require tooling that can analyze, validate and improve data via your business processes. These processes can help to organize, set targets, suggest data improvements, monitor data quality overall or specific sections or attributes, filter out exceptions, match data to legislation and validate before releasing the data.

4. How do I migrate my current product data to the new system? 

Usually, data migration includes more than just the transfer of source data to the new PIM system. Most data migration projects also require complex routines for data validation, cleansing and transformation. This means that the project team needs to have significant expertise in source and target systems and an in-depth knowledge of the associated data. The right steps for data migration as we see them are:

  1. Confirm business requirements and choose the right migration strategy
  2. Perform data quality checks and cleanse data
  3. Define the system setup
  4. Create a data migration plan
  5. Execute the data migration plan
  6. Do after migration checks

5. How do I give access to my suppliers? 

In many B2B environments, suppliers provide their product data in a variety of formats. By e-mail, fax (yes, they are still being used in 2018), text files, Excel files or XML. All these formats need to be manually uploaded into the system holding your (supplier) product data: ERP or PIM. Depending on the number of products, people can have a full day job on uploading product information.

Next to uploading, manual validation is done on each record to see if it complies with the company’s minimum quality rules. Simple checks can be: is a product picture attached, is a short description provided, are there any legal restriction on this product? If you have only a couple of suppliers, than it is not a big deal. But if you are a supermarket or wholesaler and you have thousands of suppliers? Then you’ll be looking for an easier way to process all that data: via a supplier portal. Here, your supplier upload their data themselves manually or automatically. After processing, a report is automatically sent to the supplier and receiver.

In this blog, we’ve only skimmed the surface on these elementary questions surrounding PIM. If you’ll want to go deeper, please contact us and we'll be happy to talk more. 

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