Why do some Product Information Management system (PIM) implementations fail? Though the implementation rarely fails per se, the reason anyone implements a PIM in the first place is to help organisations market products faster and to better organize digital initiatives.

You know the pitch:

  • Centralize product information and media,
  • Create enrichment workflows,
  • Increase efficiency by improving the management of product information,
  • Better manage product releases across various channels,
  • Quickly and efficiently deliver consistent product information to all channels.

A PIM’s most likely point of failure would be the organization’s inability to properly exploit it, negating any return on investment, let alone operational efficiencies or competitive advantages. The trick, then, is to ensure that the implementation is properly planned and executed. Here’s how Absolunet does it:

1. Project Kick-Off

As soon as the team/group of people involved (there’s no way we’re not calling this a team) is identified, a kick-off session is booked, where we define each person’s role and responsibilities. We then review the project’s objectives, the completion criteria and identify which tasks will need to be completed in which order – defining a roadmap, basically. If this initial step seems fairly obvious, it is. Though it is often overlooked or incomplete. Get this wrong and you’re starting your project with 2 strikes – a proper kick-off is critical to the project’s success.

2. Initial Discovery Sessions

During the initial discovery sessions, we need to address all the technical requirements in regards to PIM system installation, hosting, data imports as well as the implementation of inbound and outbound connectors. We also need to define what the PIM marketing model and requirements will be. In other words, we will need to discuss attributes for the PIM marketing model, special case products, category management, image and digital asset management, product cycles and role management, etc. The ultimate goal at this stage is to come out with a clear and precise installation plan.

You’ll want to involve the marketing team early on so they can help define attributes for the PIM marketing model and present special case products like bundles or shop the look products, for example. Their input will be vital to defining category management, understanding product cycles and how the organization presents their digital assets (product images, videos, PDF files, etc.)

3. The Game-Plan: PIM Analysis & Configuration

Now that everyone is clear about the installation plan, it is time to finalize the requirements before beginning implementation. You’ll need to identify content requirements for your eCommerce platforms: which product information and attributes need to be transferred to the site, and from which system (tip: the ERP is usually where the product will be “born”, where it will be assigned a SKU and basic product information. The ERP will need to connect with your PIM to transfer that information).

What about product pricing and inventory? This info is also stored in your ERP. Since this is volatile data, it is better to connect the ERP directly to your website to transfer that information instead of transferring those information in the PIM.

At this point, we’ll define the “completeness rules”; when is the information on a product or product type considered complete enough to be pushed to our various channels? Our recommended default setting is 80% of the information, with at least one image.

4. PIM Model Implementation (PIM Prototyping + Quality Assurance, if you prefer)

Time to install the PIM. Phase 1: setting up the PIM development environment and configuring the system based on the preceding analysis and conclusions. At this point, we’ll configure the entity and attributes, the fieldsets, the field validations rules, the completeness rules, etc.

Theoretically, everything should now be properly configured (theoretically). What’s next? Testing, test again and then test some more. This is crucial to validate that the data model responds to your business’ needs; that it will do the job it was chosen for and provide you with the scalability to grow.

We’ll know that the PIM system is ready to connect when the development environment will have a working PIM installation and when we’ll have configured the PIM marketing model

5. Implement Connectors + Import Products

Since the PIM will be talking with other systems like the website, ERP, etc., we’ll need to develop the inbound connectors (for the information will be pumped into the PIM) and the outbound connectors (for the information that will be pumped out of the PIM. Some connectors are readily available, including those developed by third parties (have we mentioned that we developed the inRiver —> Magento connector?), though your specific case may also require some custom coding, depending on the systems used.

Some PIMs provide specific outbound connections. inRiver, for example, provides an InRiver —> Adobe InDesign plugin to simplify and accelerate your print requirements. Configured correctly, the PIM provides the information, the connectors tells inDesign which field goes where and how to format the information and the content is automatically populated in your inDesign project, saving you the hassle of manually manipulating the data, let alone chasing down up to date product images and descriptions.

6. PIM Deployment in 3… 2… 1… Wait!

Test, deployment and training

Everything PIM-related is set to go and ready for deployment. Before going live, it’s time to test, test and test some more again. Using real data, let’s test the connectors (inbound and outbound), the channel outputs (ERP, website, inDesign, etc.) and run a few end-to-end tests.

Once testing has proven successful, a key success factor will be training the people who will be using the PIM so that they know how it works and how to work it. You won’t believe how much time this will save over next few weeks and months. Another winning approach will be to document as much as possible.

NOW we’re ready to go live.

7. Using the PIM and Generating ROI

With all systems in place and working, use your PIM to enrich products, add new sales channels, centralize your product data and finally get rid of those spread-out, multiple, unsynchronized, migraine-inducing Excel files.

As your team’s familiarity with the PIM system’s features grows, so too will their ability to get the most out of it, including campaign planning, exploiting data aggregating services and more.

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