Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications

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1 White Paper Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications PIM Complements PLM, ERP, and Other Applications in Your Organization An Executive Overview

2 Introduction There are many applications that involve the management of data and information relating to products. Our company, Enterworks, specializes in product information management (PIM), which is the discipline of centrally managing product-related data and digital assets, and leveraging them for shared use throughout the enterprise. We are often asked why a company would need a PIM application when they already have an application for product lifecycle management (PLM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), or others. Similarly, we are often asked if a PIM solution will somehow conflict with these existing applications. Each of these applications has a valuable role to play in an enterprise information management strategy. This brief overview summarizes what PIM is and does, and explains how PIM complements and even enhances their capabilities on behalf of the organization. What is Product Information Management? Product information management is a series of processes and technologies that work together to ensure that your product data is current, accurate, and accessible to all who need it. This involves creating a central repository of product data so that all users have access to the same version of product truth. This central repository of cleansed, accurate information can then be leveraged for multiple purposes, including catalog publishing, web content, trading pools, customer support, and internal operations. When you think of the many places that your product information resides, it s easy to understand why this is such a major undertaking. Think of all the enterprise applications, graphic design programs, and other resources that contain, generate, or modify your product information. With product data constantly changing and moving, it s essential that there be a central way to manage it. The PIM Dilemma: Your product data is created and manipulated in ERP systems, graphics programs, and similar applications (left). But it s leveraged in paper catalogs, e-commerce websites, and other customerfacing requirements (right). The purpose of PIM is to track and manage product data from original sources so that it s complete, accurate, and up-to-date when presented to customers and partners. 2 Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications Copyright 2015 Enterworks Acquisition, Inc. All rights reserved.

3 Thanks to the capabilities of product information management, it isn t necessary to literally move all product information from all sources into a single physical database. A PIM solution creates a virtual database with links and pointers to actual data sources, so that data owners can continue working with the data they need, while at the same time users in sales, marketing, manufacturing, and other departments can view the same information when they need it. This enables your company to access, manage, and leverage your product data in ways that meet the requirements of your customers and partners. PIM lets an enterprise aggregate and manage its master data so that it s complete, accurate, and up-to-date when used by business users and presented to customers and partners. 3 Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications Copyright 2015 Enterworks Acquisition, Inc. All rights reserved.

4 A Look at Product Information Management This sequence of diagrams illustrates the process and flow of product information management. In the first diagram, product data is accessed from multiple sources such as ERPs, spreadsheets, and others, and referenced in a central virtual repository to create a single version of product truth. Finally, product information is leveraged in customer support applications, catalog production and management, sales portals, and e-commerce websites. In the second diagram, workflow makes the connection between people and systems to automate key business processes that depend on or use product information. 4 Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications Copyright 2015 Enterworks Acquisition, Inc. All rights reserved.

5 PIM Complements and Enhances Existing Applications A PIM solution doesn t replace PLM or other existing product-related systems, nor are those existing systems adequate to implement full product information management. PIM plays a complementary role with these systems and also enables you to derive greater value from them in improving your multichannel marketing efforts and solidifying customer loyalty and satisfaction. Product Lifecycle Management Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and PIM were developed to address different business requirements. PLM helps manage core data about product design and engineering to improve product quality throughout the product s lifecycle (hence the name). It focuses on product design and development rather than on marketing and merchandizing. Further, the data used in a PLM application is typically entered directly into the system. In contrast, PIM arose from the need to supply distribution channels with the most current product information. It focuses on integrating and managing product data from multiple data sources. Furthermore, it provides capabilities for adding rich, search-friendly marketing attributes to the data and publishing the complete information to catalog systems, websites, data pools, and other channels and users. PIM solutions provide a complementary set of tools to extend the value of PLM into the marketing and merchandizing products. Companies use PIM solutions to manage data throughout the enterprise from all systems and sources, including PLM systems. While PLM systems store item data, they aren t intended to aggregate product information from numerous internal and external systems and feed it to other applications, trading channels, and partners. PLM systems typically don t have a PIM system s ability to manage and output information for publication as catalogs and web content. Thus, the product data in a PLM system needs to be integrated into a PIM application in order to ensure that consumers of product information and assets have access to all the information they need. Customer Relationship Management Some companies rely on customer relationship management (CRM) applications to track the status of their customers, including a record of contacts, buying history, and other dynamics, as well as to support their sales force with information about products to help move the customer through the sales cycle. Such systems focus on serving information rather than on integrating and managing information. Typically, product information originates in other systems managed by other people and departments rather than sales. A CRM system does not have the inherent capabilities to manage all product data, images, and other information from all sources. It is not an effective substitute for the capabilities of a PIM platform. Conversely, a PIM solution can enhance the effectiveness of a CRM system. If a customer asks whether a product comes in a different color or is available by a certain date, the sales representative will be able to provide good answers with the CRM system accessing a reliable source of record in the PIM repository. Thus a PIM platform is needed to ensure that CRM systems and other consumers of product data get the most up-to-date information from all sources. Enterprise Resource Planning Similarly, a company s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system isn t a substitute for PIM. It provides glimpses of product identification data based on daily operations, but doesn t include a comprehensive view of all product-related data, and isn t designed (continued on pg. 7) 5 Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications Copyright 2015 Enterworks Acquisition, Inc. All rights reserved.

6 This table compares the focus and capabilities of PLM and PIM and explains how PIM enhances PLM: Perspective PLM PIM Key Benefits PIM adds to PLM Product Lifecycle Primarily R&D Front end Innovation cycle Primarily commercial/ transactional state of lifecycle Provides a seamless information flow from design and manufacturing through the ultimate selling and servicing of products Data Primarily focused on item vs. product data Product structures Specifications Technical information Repository for all product information. Reaches out to entire enterprise and its various silos of product information and descriptions Provides a trusted source of accurate product information to the internal organization and trading partners Data Lifecycle Repository for all design iterations Historical information Released, current information, with version management and time stamping Provides a single location to track and audit historical product information Communication PLM releases finished product to ERP Captures information from disparate sources, including in-house data stores Recognizes the reality of today s data mess across information silos Provides the ability to package product information to its audience in the desired, relevant format to meet exacting business requirements Departmental Primarily R&D Manufacturing Procurement Limited marketing Focus on marketing and sales Gathering information from other departments A singular enterprise solution that leverages existing information silos and data stores Supply Chain Primarily internal Supplier collaboration Some customer collaboration Works with customers, exchanges/data pools, and trading partners to provide relevant product information packaged the way the customer desires Provides ability to provide trading partners and internal customers with information in a manner they desire, continuously Industry Discrete, some CPG, some process, some distribution, some retail CPG, retail, service, healthcare/life sciences, MRO, distribution A flexible PIM meets the needs of virtually any industry Tools Data Management Collaboration Cleansing Synchronization Data management Consistent, clean, and complete commercial product information Collaboration Key benefits PIM adds to PLM (from Jim Brown, The Complementary Roles of PIM and PLM ( Tech-Clarity) 6 Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications Copyright 2015 Enterworks Acquisition, Inc. All rights reserved.

7 to centrally manage the data or serve it back to those same applications. Worse, many companies have several different ERP systems in operation (up to several dozen in larger enterprises), which compounds issues with getting a single view of product truth. Also, ERP systems are limited in the number of fields a product can have. Considering the wide diversity of attributes each product potentially has, this hampers a company s ability to fully record all the information about the products it offers. Today s search algorithms depend on content having attributes and metadata associated with it in order to maximize findability in an internal search of company systems or an external search of an e-commerce website. Some Final Words The value of PIM lies in aggregating, standardizing, and validating the product data generated by or contained in data sources such as these, and providing a central virtual repository that all users can access with confidence. And with that comes the ability to serve customers better and to support more effective internal business processes with complete, timely, and accurate product information. About Enterworks Inc. Founded in 1996, Enterworks develops software that acquires, manages and transforms a company s product information into persuasive content that drives higher sales and new competitive strengths. By leveraging a company s products, associated images and videos, brands, and other marketing assets, Enterworks Enable delivers powerful selling content accurately and consistently through e-commerce web, mobile, and print channels. Enterworks Toll-free: Headquarters Loudoun Tech Center Center Oak Plaza, Suite 115 Sterling, VA Enterworks customers include some of the world s most innovative manufacturers, distributors, and e-tailers in business products, electronics, medical supplies, HVAC/R products, hospitality and food service, hard lines, digital products, and other industries. These customers use Enterworks software to import product information faster; enrich the content with collaborative workflow; and deliver compelling, customized content to multiple sales channels simultaneously. Enterworks software and services have become the proven product information management (PIM) solution for multichannel marketing and sales. 7 Product Information Management and Enterprise Applications Copyright 2015 Enterworks Acquisition, Inc. All rights reserved.

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