July 26, 2021
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Making the switch from homegrown systems to PIM

Now more than ever, manufacturing organizations are looking to gain efficiency, saving time and money. As you audit your staffing, your operations, and your tech stack, be sure to also look at your product data. If you don’t have a centralized, reliable source of truth that everyone in your company accesses for product data, then product information management (PIM) is a great place to start.

What is a “homegrown” product data system?

Most manufacturing organizations have some kind of database or data warehouse that holds lots and lots of company information. It may or may not have a user interface. Everyone could be working in it at the SQL interface level. It may be automated to a certain degree, or it could be populated by an Excel spreadsheet report. Also, it literally could just be a thousand spreadsheets on people’s personal machines, spread throughout your company.

Wherever your data is stored between your enterprise resource planning (ERP) and your website or your distributors’ websites, let’s call this your “homegrown” solution. If this sounds like you, and you haven’t intentionally setup a PIM or other data management system, this article is for you.

The problems with homegrown PIM

You have smart people on staff who are capable of figuring out complex technical solutions. In fact, in addition to their day jobs, they often over-function to create systems, tools, and workflows to improve their own job efficiency.

But if you’re being honest, the solutions they’ve created aren’t as efficient as they could be. It’s likely pulling data from your ERP, multiple spreadsheets, multiple data warehouses, and more. Your user interface is clunky; some people in the company who need to use it don’t really know how—and others don’t have access. Simple tasks require multiple steps by multiple people, which is extremely inefficient and could be standardized.

 

components of a homegrown PIM

To be clear, homegrown PIMs aren’t necessarily bad. We’ve created one or two ourselves over the years. They can be super customized to each business and enable everyone from logistics to marketing to get their jobs done.

What we’ve learned, though, is that homegrown PIMs are inherently reactive, whereas a PIM platform is typically much more proactive. This is because PIM software companies are constantly learning from their many deployments. And they take what they learn and use it to continually grow their product.

Homegrown solutions require constant reaction to unexpected problems, such as inaccuracy in product data. On the other hand, the proactive nature of a PIM platform means that incorrect data is caught and corrected earlier and more efficiently.

Other landmines of homegrown PIM include:

  • Inconsistencies in the naming of fields, spelling, and capitalization
  • Ambiguous, inaccurate, or confusing field names
  • Inconsistent details, such as the color of a product (color value vs. specific value)
  • Missing data due to reliance upon manual input
  • Multiple systems, i.e., multiple logins and unnecessary complications

But we get it. When you created your homegrown solution, you were looking to save time and money upfront by doing it yourself. And who knows your business better than you, right? You have the inside knowledge and staff who know how to make your homegrown PIM function.

However, we also know that you now have a unique set of issues related to your homegrown PIM because of decisions that were made—and how it was constructed.

The problem is that usually the team members involved in creating a homegrown PIM solution are from various parts of the company, such as marketing and IT, with different motivations and different levels of data access. And while they excel in other areas, your internal team members are not PIM experts. They don’t have the experience needed to create an effective, centralized product data solution that provides value to your business and follows industry standards and best practices. There’s also the possibility that your digital ecosystem has security concerns. 

A brighter future with a PIM platform

Ecommerce skyrocketed during the pandemic, creating new customers out of people who had never bought or sold online. That is true across the board, in B2C, B2B, and B2B2C.

If you, like so many others, are looking to improve your speed to market and increase your product data accuracy, you should modernize your digital infrastructure with a PIM platform first.

The good news: all that time and money you’ve invested on your homegrown PIM is not for nothing. It can remain part of your digital ecosystem. But to gain efficiencies and scale your ecommerce business, you need one, centralized source of truth for your product data. And it needs to be built on a platform that specializes in product data, supported by a SaaS company that specializes in product data.

Some specific reasons you should consider a PIM platform:

  • You’re not reliably, efficiently going to market in the way you need to
  • You have product data errors in your listings on downstream channels
  • It takes you too long to get a product from inception to market
  • You want customers to be able to buy directly from you but it takes too long to get your products on the digital shelf

The customizability of PIM

A common misconception is that your homegrown solution allows for more customizability than a PIM platform. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The right PIM partner (and the right solutions architect) can work with your business to understand its goals and determine what out-of-the-box features meet your needs and what should be customized. The right development team can customize your PIM to fit your unique business needs, desires, and requirements.

Inriver: our PIM platform of choice

As an inriver platinum partner, we frequently deploy inriver PIM. We chose inriver because it is flexible, scalable, and built on .NET which allows us to integrate it perfectly into our clients’ digital ecosystems.

Inriver helps streamline the enrichment of your product data. It allows you to organize, maintain, and select which data is sent to each channel. And then, it allows you to send that data in the format required by each channel.

Through one interface, all users within your organization can have specified levels of access to the product data they need. You can easily import and export data, reducing errors caused by manual work. You can also create custom workflows, ensuring the right stakeholders lay eyes on the right product information and approve it before it gets pushed downstream.

Most manufacturers and distributors use spreadsheets for data transfers, and that can be a lengthy process. With solutions like inriver Syndicate, you can pull from your master data source and generate datasets that individual downstream channels need with the click of a button. Then, once your data is out in the wild, you can use tools like inriver Evaluate to crawl the internet to ensure your products are being represented accurately and consistently.

Saving time and money over the lifetime of the PIM

When you choose a PIM platform like inriver, you get a product that has been crafted over many years and deployments to solve an array of problems. You also get a team of experts on the platform side who understand the product.

Alternatively, homegrown systems require continuous R&D that your company can’t anticipate and likely didn’t budget for. And if the subject matter expert for your homegrown system leaves the company, so does all your IP.

With an established PIM platform, you’re benefitting from all previous implementations, all global PIM clients, and all the problems and solutions that have arisen over the life of that product.

PIM companies continually invest in R&D and their products. They continually learn and grow and push updates to their software. That means you can focus on what you need to do—getting products to market faster and earning more money through ecommerce.

Hire a PIM implementation partner

We may be biased, but a PIM implementation partner is critical to a successful implementation. Again, you’re experts in your company and your products. You can’t be expected to know every question to ask or every angle to analyze in the development of your own product data solution.

Hire someone to guide you through product process analysis, product data modeling, establishing taxonomies, and enriching your data. The right partner can help you analyze your current ecosystem and prioritize a plan of action to generate the most return for your business.

A PIM partner can help you understand who to include in your PIM team and which workflows will save your organization time (without getting in the way of a product launch). These decisions are as important as finding the right platform—and an implementation partner can help you avoid costly mistakes.

 

Curious about what PIM can do for your organization? Set up a call with one of our consultants today.

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