Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the 8 founding fathers of the USA.

The technology solution which clients choose for their PIM is important. However, what is more important is the strategy behind the overall goals of this change, and how to measure the progress towards their achievement.  

 The practices used pre-PIM will almost certainly no longer be effective as your business grows. That could mean overhauling, adapting, altering or even eliminating processes and workflows in order to reduce costs, increase efficiency and speed, and add the value the business requires. If an organisation is to expand and thrive in an incredibly challenging operating environment, preparing for this major change in the way it manages its product information is absolutely essential.

As a business case, the value added by a PIM solution is only determined by what you need and expect it to do. Those factors are complex and need to be discovered well before deciding what technology to use or how exactly to implement the tools. This means validating, consensualising and implementing strategic KPIs for the project. In fact, it isn’t lack of management ability which diminishes the success of the majority of PIM project, but a failure to engender a data-driven attitude among key internal stakeholders, who exercise influence over decision-making, budgets and the entire planning process.

What to consider before undergoing a PIM project

Successful PIM implementation always contains an in-depth discovery phase. Communicating extensively with all internal and external partners allows you to clarify and concretise the main imperatives underlying the requirement for a PIM – its specific and measurable objectives and the value it adds to your business ecosystem and for all stakeholders. A PIM is not a purely IT-driven sticking plaster solution to the inadequacies of a legacy product information management. It is a strategic solution whose technological configuration will be aligned with the business’s longer-term aims. 

What exactly do you need from your PIM?

Many organisations put the cart before the horse, desperate to keep up with the ongoing digital transformation in retailing, distribution, and manufacturing – they implement a PIM solution without having done the necessary discovery work required to ensure it does exactly what you need it to do based on your business requirements.

Whether the aims are to reduce costs, enhance efficiency, reduce time to market, optimise business partnerships with suppliers and platforms or scale up to new markets, the business strategy and data-driven mindset muct be in place to enable that to happen.

Only after the discovery establishes these fundamentals can the business address the practical issues: how it will leverage the power, adaptability, and range of functionalities of its chosen PIM solution, or how it will use the tool to achieve specific, measurable longer-term goals: Otherwise, these goals might as well be labelled as ‘vague aspirations’.

Organisational health assessment

If your organisation has a problem with product data management, it is much wiser to have an expert in this area come and assess the issues. They are not caused by technology alone. The causes always run much deeper, so when preparing your case, it is key to determine the current state of the following three factors before even thinking about the technology solution: Just a few examples of external data sources are suppliers, subcontractors, industry-specific portals, copy writers & photographers and translators. 

Much of this incoming information is not raw data but also rich data (photos etc) and metadata (reviews, related descriptions and so on). Given the trend towards proliferation of data, a PIM software solution can save a lot of time and increase efficiencies by offering automated onboarding processes for many of these tasks. Bear these PIM features in mind when considering your overall digitisation strategy.

A route and a roadmap to success

At Start with Data we offer a suite of services, from PIM project inception to delivery. However, what is common to all our clients is a detailed ‘as-is’ assessment of their situation to align their business objectives and KPIs with a customised PIM solution to enhance product data processes, governance, and business outcomes. We identify pain points and opportunities to improve product data management. The resulting roadmap not only supports the client in planning and budgeting, but in gaining internal buy-in and sponsorship.

The chosen technology platform is a tool for enabling these solutions. It is not the solution in itself. As U.S. steel magnate Eugene Grace drily commented many years ago:

“Thousands of engineers can design bridges, calculate strains and stresses, and draw up specifications for machines, but the great engineer is the [person] who can tell whether the bridge or the machine should be built at all, where it should be built, and when.”