Throughout this special issue of the PIM Report, we’ve attempted to define the practical differences between a catalog management solution and an overall Product Information Management solution.

Once one has accepted the fact that there are significant differences in overall capability and impact on the corporation in terms of improving time to market, boosting productivity, reducing costs and improving customer relations, the next question you might ask is: If we wanted to adopt a PIM solution, where would we begin?

That question is being answered this week in a presentation by Jeff Marshall, Director of Business Development at Pricedex Software, Inc. to members of the National Catalog Managers Association at their annual Knowledge Exchange in Savannah, Georgia. The speech, entitled “10 Steps to Eating the Elephant – A Practical Approach to Internal Data Management”, will be presented at the Monday general session with Illumaware CEO Adrian Klingel.

Understanding Internal Data Management

The first step, says Marshall, is to understand what “Internal Data Management” is. Simply put:

“It’s a process by which a company takes inventory of its data and data sources, and centralizes the management of its own ‘internal data map’ to deploy knowledge sharing and knowledge management across its enterprise.”

In other words, it’s identifying what product information you have and in what form, determining where it is located, assembling it in a central repository that all can access, and facilitating its sharing internally with managers and externally with business partners.

This “simple” step can lead to significant time savings and productivity improvements for everyone in the organization. But it has special importance for catalog managers who depend on this type of information to keep parts sales and service support on track.

The Catalog Managers “New” Job

In fact, the demand for actionable data inside most corporations today is transforming the job of the catalog manager because “product information” is no longer simply about “what part fits which vehicle.” It’s become much more than that.

Because technology today allows customers to work in real time, part information updates need to follow suit and speed to market becomes a competitive weapon. However, traditional catalog management systems are not up to the task of providing catalog managers the tools they need to effectively handle their new assignment.

PIM: The New Paradigm

Pictured below is a graphic that describes the new paradigm in data management. As can be seen, catalog and publishing management is only a fraction of what a PIM system can deliver. There are three other critical areas: Product (and Part) Management; Pricing Management; and Data Synchronization. Three of these have been covered in-depth in previous issues of the PIM Report, and the fourth – Data Synchronization – is covered in this issue (see related article).

Taken together, an overall PIM solution allows parts suppliers to not only manage product, part and pricing informationinternally more efficiently, but it also allows companies to publish data in the form and format required by their selling and supply chain partners – including ACES, PIES and a variety of others.

What About Standards?

The critical point to realize is that your company – and the aftermarket at large – needs to get on board the train and adopt the ACES and PIES standards that will transform the market and help cut costs.

“While ACES and PIES are just names,” says Marshall, ” their real value lies in their ability to expedite the collection and communication of information that will help automate business processes, enable eCommerce, drive costs out of the system, stimulate sales, enhance brands and make it easier and less costly for partners to do business together.

Another key point: Standards are not a silver bullet; you can’t achieve success with an e-Commerce solution unless you company has the infrastructure backbone to support it. And to get that, you have to sell the real-world benefits of such a system internally to your management.

“Sell” the Benefits

Some of the customer-enhancing external benefits include:

 

  • Reduced customer complaints and returns due to errors
  • Reduced volume of credit adjustments due to errors
  • Faster speed to market
  • And the ability to supply the right part, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time

 

But there is a host of internal benefits, as well:

For the IT function:

 

  • Streamlined and scrubbed data sources
  • Reduced time to handle disparate legacy systems
  • Reduced support for report and file creation

 

For Business Managers:

 

  • Overall cost reduction for customer support
  • Reduced publishing costs with materials shipped sooner to market
  • Reduced handling of returns, credit notes and receivables
  • Better management visibility into sales and marketing performance
  • Easier regulatory compliance (SOX, etc.)
  • Ability to change pricing in response to market conditions

 

And if all that sounds like fantasy, it isn’t. Pricedex can provide specific case histories of significant improvements in corporate performance by companies that have adopted an end-to-end PIM solution.

What are the 10 Steps?

So, where do insightful catalog managers start to get their companies to sit up and take notice of the performance-enhancing potential of a good PIM system?

That brings up back to the 10 steps to eating the elephant. How do you do it? One bite at a time. Here they are – and we will cover these in more detail in future issues of the PIM Report:

  1. Understand why you want to do this.
  2. Identify the processes presently in place.
  3. Identify gaps, problems and opportunities.
  4. Amalgamate data needs for internal and external channels.
  5. Establish a project roadmap and vision.
  6. Pre-implementation – assign ownership groups for data.
  7. Design and enhance processes around the data.
  8. Implement your vision.
  9. Establish feedback mechanisms to measure data quality efforts.
  10. Establish ongoing key performance indicators.

Look for a detailed description of these steps in our next regular issue.