Implementing a Product Information Management system in your organization is tough. You’ve done your research on the subject or you’re doing it right now and you’ve learned the importance of correct product data.
And when you’ve done the research and come to the conclusion you’ll need a PIM for your business, the idea of getting started on the implementation seems to be quite overwhelming. To help you comprehend the scope of a PIM-project and get you on your way, we have summarized the 8 steps to successfully implementing PIM.
1. Focus on the outcome
Before you start worrying about what data goes where: let’s get down to the basis of the project. Let’s define the goals of your PIM strategy. What’s the target you are trying to achieve by implementing PIM? Are your employees struggling to find a ‘single source of truth’ for all the product information in your organization? Do you want to improve data quality by validating your information against current GS1 data standards? Or are your customers simply demanding you publish your information to a data pool?
Either way, always focus on the desired outcome after the implementation and the target you’ve set for yourselves before we do anything else. It makes it easier to scope the project, keeping the first phase of delivery smaller, preventing business misalignment, or a project that runs out of budget fast without a live PIM system. SRC likes to work towards a clear goal and fast success in the early phase of a project showing it works. It makes everyone happy and ready for the next phase with new goals and scope.
2. Aligning the business
Often, we see the entire organization struggle to collect all the data necessary. The marketeer can’t find their product outings and the data manager has trouble collecting every product detail from every inhouse system. Most of the time, all data would end up in a spreadsheet, and then when errors are found, suppliers are notified and they would send corrections by email. As you can imagine, this leads to a lengthy process of back-and-forths. Frustration and irritation abound.
That’s why both business and management should be on board. The entire process, from the way of working to the recording of responsibilities, should all be taken into consideration before going to the next step.
So let’s not only ask ourselves the question “What product information will you need to reach that end goal”, but also: who do I need to involve to get there? Whose teams will work with the PIM software and what will be everyone’s responsibilities for the optimal functioning of your PIM project, it’s key all necessary teams are aligned.
3. Next step: set up the system
When you’ve decided on who to involve and which data you will need, you’ll now need to think about how to get started on the setup. Make an inventory of your processes and set up requirements for your PIM. Ultimately, you’d probably want your PIM to make it easy for the business to collect and maintain product information and relate master data, in a way that is faster than you already do now, containing fewer errors and ultimately resulting in better data.
When defining requirements, we divide the businesses’ requirements into three buckets: the must-have, the should-have, and the could-have. In order to do this, it’s good to hold interviews throughout the company with each department or product unit involved in the process. This will result in a list of wishes and demands. After that, start dividing the wishes into buckets, as the implementation of your PIM will be executed in phases from must-have all the way to the ‘could-haves.
Then, it will be time to define the data model you will need. In SRC-PIM, a custom data model can be made for every SRC customer. The question of how to determine what data model is right for your organization is one that can be solved in a workshop with one of our PIM experts. After defining the data model, the workflow of data processing will be on the table. Which unit will do the initial processing of the product data, and whose teams will be involved to enrich the data? You will need to make sure every piece of the data has its owner. The accountability of data quality leads to better data. In SRC-PIM, we have the Workflow function specially designed for this.
So now that we’ve set our mind to requirements and thus the data model we will need to be successful, it’s time we start thinking on how to get all of the organization’s information into our PIM system.
4. Import your product information
So let’s get down to business and transfer all existing product information to the PIM system. At the start, you will have an ‘empty’ PIM system, which you can fill with data available from all different sources in your organization. You can do this either manually or automatically. SRC-PIM enables integrations with various ERP systems such as SAP, Oracle, MS NAV/Dynamics, and JD Edwards. Importing your data through XML, API, and Excel is possible too. Read our blog on the pros and cons of processing data automatically.
However, dumping all of your data from all different sources into one system will not make your product information complete. The data will need to be standardized, deduplicated, and validated against the requirements you have set up for your system. When that’s done, we can go and test the PIM system.
Just one more step to go before we can go live: testing! During the testing phase you will find that even though everything was planned for and well thought, there is always something that can go wrong. No need to worry, that’s exactly what the test phase is for. By testing, we will check if data synchronizations are working and we will prepare instructions for the users of the system within your organization. That way, everything will be 100% fine when we go live and publish our data to suppliers or data pools.
The testing phase consists of two components: the FAT and the UAT, respectively the functional acceptance test and the user acceptance test.
In the FAT stage, our consultants will run practical scenarios to test the technical side of the PIM system. In this stage we’re still talking about the test environment, there’s nothing installed at the customers’ end yet, so there’s still room for errors. Are all the clients’ requirements built in the software? Do all the validations, criteria, types, and attributes work out like they’re supposed to? Every detail is tested as if the PIM environment would be live and in use by the client. This way, we make sure the delivered PIM is exactly as the client wanted it.
After this, it’s time for the customer to get their hands on the system. During the user acceptance test, the designated users at the clients’ side will start testing their PIM system, guided by our SRC consultants. Training is given so that the clients’ users get that first feeling of how to work with a PIM system.
During this stage, it’s often so that clients would suggest minor changes to the PIM environment, but other than that, they should be good to go after this testing stage. The FAT already made sure there were no nasty surprises whatsoever during the UAT.
6. Go live
Time to hit that big red button and cut some ribbons! Or wait, not so fast. In the time between the UAT and going live, there’s often this timeframe where buy-in within the organization sometimes yo-yo’s. The designated users within the company may have tested the PIM system and not all of them understood it all right away. That’s when the internal enthusiasm could drop, which is potentially dangerous for the outcome of the project.
That’s why it’s important, especially in large-scale projects, that the organization listens very carefully to the feedback of the test users and channels that feedback to the SRC consultants. This way, SRC can adapt the feedback into the PIM system to ensure a successful go-live.
When it’s time to cut those ribbons and go live, the PIM system will be moved from the test environment to the production system by our consultants. This is the exciting ‘go-live support’ phase, so our consultants are always stand-by when there would be feedback or questions from the organization. After that, the sign-off is done, and your PIM implementation is completed, congratulations! But then the real challenge lies ahead…
After the initial phase of going live, you will need to guarantee the continuity and usage of the PIM system.
That’s why you will need that one team or person that will take responsibility for the PIM system. Make sure that this team has knowledge of your products and associated data. SRC-PIM allows you to enable workflows and make specific people responsible for processing just that piece of product information you need from them. Of course, you will always be able to count on our experts whenever an issue or a question would occur.
And there will always be people who will try to find a work-around and not use the PIM system for product management. That’s the moment to be strict and ask for their discipline. If the information’s not correct, go back to the source and let the applicant correct it. Correct data starts at the source!
Regardless of how smoothly the PIM system runs in your organization, it’s good to know there is always a way of getting support when you need it. In SRC’s case, both your dedicated account manager and the helpdesk are there along the way to solve your issues.
In the case of an On-Premise solution, regular updates to your PIM will be inevitable to keep up-to-date with the software, latest market standards, and the continuously changing validations and requirements. Read more on the differences between a SaaS vs. On-Premise installation here.
Got curious about reading an example from day-to-day practice? Read our customer case in which we helped Nedac Sorbo go from spreadsheet to fully-fledged PIM system in just 18 months.