Title card stating Supply, Enterprise PIM, Sell.

How do you grow a Product Information Management (PIM)

by Murray Oles
February 6, 2021

A product information management (PIM) system provides a single point of truth about the products behind consumer brands. Much like ERP, MRM and CRM systems, the PIM has bridged the gap between enterprise systems from a product perspective. Just as it takes an enterprise to bring a product to market, it takes connected enterprise tools to maintain accurate product information. What is a PIM? What does a PIM do that ERP, CRM and MRM systems lack? Why another system? We have a DAM! Isn’t that like a PIM?

At its’ core, a PIM is an item database. Call it a list of SKUs if you like, because in all probability the SKU, UPC, or item ID is the common key that is used to join product data across enterprise systems. The DAM system evolved in order to simplify the archiving of digital assets for re-use and record keeping. CPG companies use DAM systems to support marketing production and provide managed access to marcom digital files. It is when these systems are joined together where the PIM concept emerges.

The CPG enterprise can buy, rent, build or configure a PIM by connecting information across enterprise systems and presenting that product information in a concatenated view of interrelated product data. The real cost of a PIM is not in the hardware, software and coding that makes up the technology. The real cost is gathering the data and indexing all of the one-to-many and many-to-one relationships of product supporting elements and information. These run a wide gamut from material handling guides, regulatory statutes, best practices, ingredient lists, recipes, allergen notes, shipping and handling guides, material lists and suppliers, finished goods and raw material inventories… and the list goes on depending on the nature of the product.

Configuring a PIM can be achieved by connecting legacy systems through a BPM system. Business process management systems, through the use of modern web-based APIs (Application Program Interface). The web API is a small web application that is accessed through a secure web address (https://API _url.com/parameters). The program interface authenticates the security access of the user and passes the parameters needed by the program to elicit the response needed from the external system. The external system uses it’s API to pass back the requested information

When configuring a PIM within an enterprise systems environment. The rule to abide by are: 1. Garbage in, garbage out. (some things never change) 2. Define the single source of truth for all relevant information a. CRM data is pulled from the CRM system b. ERP pulls from CRM to establish its customer data c. MRM manages production inventory and finished goods data d. DAM as-a-service, automatically stores and indexes digital assets for archival and re-use purposes e. BPM defines the workflow processes and establishes the actions that occur to manage user access to data during production, and when configured to enable the BPM system. The benefits of configuring a PIM through DAM-enabled BPM are many. These stand out as game changers. 1. Business process management enables continuous improvement by ensuring that product data is correct, and process records are kept and stored for re-use, publication, and compliance monitoring 2. Applying Tags, Properties and metadata to version controlled text assets simplifies the management of all product data from concept through versioning, retirement and deletion. DAM-enabled BPM allows users to establish hyperlinks as property values. 3. DAM-enabled users have secure tools for managing project and job assets and the data being shared across the production supply chain 4. Through a simple matching search, users are able to rapidly find, share and version control digital assets while advancing jobs through assigned tasks in workflows. 5. By routing a virtual job bag through a BPM workflow process, the completed job becomes the PIM record. All the associated asset metadata is properly associated with jobs and task-related actions. The data has been quality controlled throughout the workflow, and at any time the completed workflow can be picked up and restarted, either at a pre-defined landing spot in the original BPM model, or in a new workflow that is automatically associated with the product’s initial job with its assets and linked properties.

There are multiple ways to deploy PIM systems, and the easiest is to stroke a check and hope for the best from your selected solution provider. Stroke a bigger check and hire a consultant to find the solution for you, (RFI/RFP) and let the consultants manage the implementation of the chosen solution based on their interpretation of your needs. This method is particularly popular when you need someone to blame if things go poorly. The build it yourself option is another popular route for establishing a PIM. There are many valid reasons for taking this approach, but not all of them prove out.

The agile enterprise embraces DAM-enabled BPM and leverages the flexibility of a workflow engine to manage all of their workflows. Every user interacts with an intuitive set of DAM services that organically simplify the management of products throughout their life cycles. Yet, when you look back at the artwork that companies share in an effort to explain their approach to PIM, where’s the workflow? Lookup PIM systems and the images created to help explain it. A workflow engine is not there! Why? Perhaps they just don’t understand that a BPM workflow can automate the creation and maintenance of a PIM for a fraction of the cost