New requirements for PIM: the disappearing frontier

The borderline between professional and personal consumption is blurring. At the same time products designed for professionals and corporate clients are increasingly being used by individuals because of lowering prices and imprved ease of use, and more and more often high-quality consumer goods are utilized for professional goals.

We observe the trend that more and more products are produced for both business and private users. For example, the growing popularity of home medicine encourages production of medical devices that can be used both by patients and by physicians.

This poses a challenge for Product Information Management (PIM) disciplines. In fact, products now need to be sliced and diced to serve different types of consumers. This means that a product sold via B2B channels has attributes relevant for that channel. The same product sold to end-user may have different attributes and incorporate additional information from customer reviews, comments, etc.

Why manufacturers do not reveal all the details about their products?

Sometimes we are confronted with the fact that manufacturers don’t open  all the details about their product to the clients, don’t provide any product specifications that reflect products properties and characteristics at open access.

Typically, the reasons for such secrecy is:

  • manufacturer beleives that customers don’t need product information (before they buy something);
  • menufacturer or distributor is deliberatly hiding the information to get an opportunity to meet with the client (to influence the client);
  • understanding that the product has worse characteristics in comparison with the competitors;
  • the parameters cannot be set and vary according to the customer (this may be true for the weapons supplied to various parties, or complex equipment, supplied in different countries);
  • ordinary laziness and unwillingness to invest into data quality.

Fortunately, most manufacturers want to provide quality information about their products and willling make the necessary efforts  and willing to invest into data quality.

At the same time customers stimulate suppliers to provide quality information setting product information quality as the one of the selection criteria.

Actualog: Powered by Windows Azure – опыт использования платформы

О компании

ACTUALOG – это универсальная B2B платформа для обмена информацией о продуктах и продуктовых каталогах между производителями, поставщиками и потребителями. Система предоставляет возможность организовать всю имеющуюся информацию с помощью универсального классификатора, который создается общими усилиями с привлечением сообщества экспертов.

Для удобного доступа различных групп компаний к большим объемам информации предусмотрена фильтрация по отраслевым сообществам. Это позволяет пользователям видеть только интересующие их разделы классификатора и до минимума сокращает необходимость сложной навигации по всеобъемлющему классификатору. Инновационный пользовательский интерфейс позволяет эффективно взаимодействовать потребителям, поставщикам и сообществу экспертов используя, в том числе, и такой современный способ коллективной работы как социальные сети.

Одной из важнейших функций системы является поддержка многоязычности, которая позволяет не только локализовать интерфейс пользователей из разных стран, но и хранить информацию о компаниях, продуктах и категориях на различных языках, предоставляет возможность создавать мультиязычные каталоги продукции.

С помощью относительно небольшого начального объема инвестиций   команде разработчиков удалось создать продукт с высокой степенью готовности к промышленной эксплуатации.
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Why manufacturers are not the best product category experts?

We have just discovered that the manufacturer is not always the best expert for the category.

It might seem obvious that a producer knows everything about his product. Who can define product attributes better than an expert from the company producing the product?

But there is a trap for the producer. Producer can define all attibutes for his product, he knows the particula sub-category, for example can describe: “infrared gas sensors”, but not “gas sensor”, or “oil power transformers”, but not “transformers”, and “android robot” but no “robot”.

We need super-experts with a broader vision to define general categories and create good taxonomy with the inheritance of atributes.

Fear and Loathing in the Cloud

Once I had a discussion with the representative of the global Oil and Gas company, a company with their own marine oil platforms, airplanes, even space shuttles 🙂

He said, “We will never ever use a Cloud Solution! We have our own IT infrastructure and data security is a priority for us”. I asked, “Do you use Salesforce?” He answered, “Yes, of course, we use Salesforce in all our offices”.

Sometimes branding brings a Cloud Service far beyond the Cloud in users’ minds.

7 principles of Social PIM

Principles behind Social Product Information Management:

  1. Product categories and attributes created by experts, anyone who has knowledge and expertise can contribute.
  2. Social network is behind every action and information about an author of the information is open and available.
  3. Everyone can create a product using the product category attributes. Uniqueness and completeness of product record should be guaranteed.
  4. Product producer / manufacturer has a priority to define product characteristics and has ownership over product record.
  5. Decisions about the structure of the classifier are taken as a result of collective discussion. Everyone can start a discussion about a category, an attribute or a product and invite experts to participate.
  6. Library of shared information resources, for exaple measures, units, attributes, etc. is available for expert community
  7. Product record is associated with additional information, which is created by experts, producers, consumers and other stakeholders.

Actualog Social PIM introduction

Technology advances in connectivity and devices have changed the way we access and consume information. Companies are faced with a unique challenge of aggregating content from thousands of suppliers using disparate formats and processes into one user-friendly catalogue. Then the challenge of providing customers with rich product information that is current is next.

Since each customer uses the content to drive their own procurement initiatives, accuracy is mission-critical. A breakdown in reliable data can have a negative or positive ripple effect on profit margins as it flows across multiple enterprises.
To be effective in marketing, selling, manufacturing, distributing, and sourcing products requires more consistent and higher quality product information
80% of companies are not satisfied with the quality of information available about the products they purchase.

The development of new and sophisticated technical products significantly increases the amount and complexity of product-related data and content. Increasingly, organizations offer a large variety of products and variants.
To illustrate:

  • procurement professionals need up-to-date and accurate information about products;
  • engineers and designers are looking for information about new products and technologies;
  • sales and marketing specialists need to provide information about the products to their clients;
  • companies around the world need to share information about their products with unified multilingual material descriptions and conform to national technical standards.

In summary, companies are faced with the following problems:

  • Data Incompleteness;
  • Duplicates of product records;
  • Wrong, unreliable or outdated data;
  • Inconsistent formats for product characteristics;
  • Missing information about analogies, alternatives, and comparable products;
  • Missing text and media product information such as instructions and manuals;
  • Incomplete and erroneous product translations from foreign suppliers.

The market lacks a solution designed for this purpose, which could satisfy a broad range of companies and industries. Existing solutions are quite sophisticated and require enormous implementation efforts that makes them suitable only for big corporations, or have limited functionality and serve a narrow market segment. Moreover, product information management is a time-consuming process that requires a great deal of industry professionals’ time and effort
We believe that companies should invest more to ensure high data quality to remove the risk of having incomplete, duplicated, inconsistent and therefore unreliable information.

Attributes Sorting by Drag and Drop

Everyone knows time consuming it is to create group of attributes and define attribute sort order for better product information view. The best solution that allows to make this job just fun is to use drag and drop.

We have great news! This long-awaited feature to sort attributes in the category by drag and drop is currently available in Actualog.

Now our experts can organize attributes and define the right order in a few seconds.

Sorting

Why data quality is important to reduce costs? Learn how Actualog supports cost saving in procurement.

Today many businesses are launching cost reduction initiatives.

Procurement optimizations has a significant cost-saving potential. Procurement consolidation, contract management, category management and other initiatives need special tools. It is required to ensure purchased products data quality too conduct spend analysts and support the consolidation.

Actualog  supports cost-saving initiatives in global companies. On the buy-side, product sources from suppliers is often inaccurate and incomplete. The imperative here is to ensure a single version of the truth regarding product to be used in all information systems. Large corporations procuring hundreds of thousands items and using multiple information systems are constantly faced with this product information management challenge. PIM initiatives drive procurement savings and reduce working capital by refining, consolidating, and centrally managing product information.

Learn more from our presentation.