After reading Forrester Research’s latest evaluation of Product Information Management (PIM) solutions in “The Forrester Wave: Product Information Solutions, Q4 2016“, it is clear to me that Forrester has done their homework very well. In my 20+ years of experience working at the intersection of technology and digital commerce, I have had the opportunity to participate in PIM implementation projects with 5 of the 10 PIM solutions referenced in the publication.
While I found the previous evaluation in Q2 2014 to be weak in their assessment of some features, this latest evaluation is spot on – most likely enhanced by a more robust methodology and greater number of valuation touch points. Furthermore, Forrester’s discussion on why PIM is now indispensable in digital commerce included all of the key arguments that my clients’ stakeholders reference as drivers in their selection and use of PIM technology.
So, can you now comfortably rely on this latest publication to help your organization adopt PIM technology in support of a digital approach to commerce? Yes and no. Yes – because its evaluation of the current features, strategy, and market metrics of each included vendor’s solution is largely accurate. No – because this evaluation does not dive into the broader set of factors required to be successful in digital commerce.
Selecting the Right Product Information Management
How does Codifyd recommend that your organization proceed with the evaluation and selection of a PIM solution?
- After identifying a set of criteria and associated weights for selecting a PIM, use the Forrester Wave publication as the starting point in selecting candidate solutions.
- Define step-by-step use cases for all critical processes associated with product data. These use cases can serve as the basis for the agenda topics for each vendor’s on-site demonstration. An on-site demonstration by each candidate vendor is essential. Do not allow the vendor to set the agenda, as this would result in a demonstration that highlights all of the PIM’s strengths and none of its weaknesses. Insist on agenda topics that focus mainly on the defined use cases and key selection criteria. If each vendor demonstrates their solution by following your agenda topics exactly as specified, then you will have a strong apples-to-apples basis for comparing the solutions.
- To facilitate gathering feedback from the stakeholders that participate in each demonstration, draft scorecards that reference each agenda topic – allowing the participants to (1) numerically rate how well the vendor’s product addresses the topic and (2) add relevant comments.
- Compile the scorecards. Your organization will then be in a strong position to whittle the candidate list down to one or two vendors. Depending on the results of this round of demonstrations, a second-round may be necessary to get to the final selection.
Other Factors in Building a Successful Digital Commerce Solution
The selection and implementation of the right PIM technology are only one of many factors required to build a strong digital commerce solution. So, what else is needed to ensure success?
- Understand the quality and maturity of your organization’s product data and associated processes. Identify gaps and build a roadmap to address those gaps – see SCP below. A PIM solution delivers many benefits. However, it will not enhance or clean up poor quality data and weak processes without explicit actions.
- Study the approach to digital commerce followed by the leaders in your industry. Assess whether their approach is right for your organization. Are they driven by analytics? Do they continuously gather feedback from their customers on their digital commerce practices? Do they have clear owners of product data? Do they follow a digital-first mentality?
- Establish a Strategic Content Program (SCP). PIM technology may be the cornerstone of product data. However, a short-lived PIM implementation project will not sustain long-term strategic results. An SCP should be driven by vision and mission statements, principles, and associated goals. These, in turn, can support the definition of scope for a comprehensive program.
- A fully scoped SCP commonly includes a Data Governance Workstream, a Content Workstream, a Process and Change Management Workstream, and of course, a PIM Implementation Workstream.
- The Data Governance Workstream creates accountabilities around product content and the means by which an organization ensures the content in the PIM remains a living business asset. Components include charter, organization roles and responsibilities, policies, guidelines, processes, business rules, and metrics.
- The Content Workstream contains the activities around creating a PIM-based data model (product category hierarchies and attributes) and the content that lives in the model. The right product content is essential to ensure that PIM technology can fuel business goals.
- The Process and Change Management Workstream focuses on the organization’s ability to fully integrate new product information technology and other workstream changes into existing business units and operations. Importantly, the key participants in this workstream are also the managers of communication out to the rest of the business.
In summary, the right PIM solution will only fully address your business goals for digital commerce if you see the problem as one that requires a well-architected mix of people, processes, content, and technology. So, start with the Forrester Wave report, select the right PIM solution using a use-case-driven methodology, and follow through with a comprehensive SCP.