There are many famous quotes that tell you to “Just Do It” (Nike Slogan), “Start before you’re ready. Don’t prepare, begin.” (Mel Robbins*) or “The Key to success is to start before you are ready” (Marie Forleo). While I agree with these people for self-help/motivation purposes, their advice doesn’t directly apply to an enterprise level PIM project.
The quotes in my opinion that directly apply to an enterprise level PIM project are a little more conservative. According to Alexander Graham Bell “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” And my favorite, which has a mysterious origin, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."
Some PIM vendors have what they call a PIM Readiness Assessment (see an example here). While this is a good start, these readiness assessments are meant to qualify whether or not you’re a good candidate for PIM. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that you need a PIM. This article is here to help you determine if your company is ready to implement a PIM.
There are eight readiness factors to consider before you implement a PIM.
1. Your Roadmap
You need to build a roadmap, a diagram that details what the to be future will look like and how to get there. Many times, a PIM project is an essential a building block for other projects, typically e-Commerce, print catalogs or sending data to downstream channels. The roadmap should diagram what systems and technologies will be in play and the timeline for when you will get there.
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The purpose of the roadmap is to make sure you have a plan that will be needed for the journey. For instance, if the ultimate goal is to have an B2B ecommerce website with customizable products and complex pricing, the high-level components of your architecture will need to change. You would possibly need a pricing engine (for promotional / qty based /contract pricing). You could also need a CPQ (Configure, Price and Quote) engine for help with the customizable products. You could also need a logistics/warehouse application to help with delivery. These are things that a PIM doesn’t do, but could be needed in order to do the e-Commerce initiatives.
All projects have requirements, but they need to be defined early in the process. They need to be defined before you do your PIM vendor selection. Requirements are key for proper PIM software selection and for determining the Gap Analysis.
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3. Gap Analysis
Gap analysis is done at multiple stages in the project, one is needed for the high-level roadmap to make sure the high-level requirements are met. The roadmap shows all the systems which are in play. The gap analysis is used to make sure the high-level requirements are met by the roadmap. An additional gap analysis is done specifically for the PIM requirements during PIM Vendor Selection.
4. Data Flows & Integrations
When implementing a PIM, it is important to know which systems will need to be integrated and how (i.e. flat file, XML, or API). Here, we are trying to determine the system of record for each data piece, which system(s) the users will be updating data in, and ultimately how the data flows to/from each system.
Do you know all the datapoints and processes for a new product creation? How about retiring a product? These are all things that need to be thought about early (they do not need to be implemented early, but at least thought about). Not all PIM systems are created equal in terms of workflows and processes. Plan out your process flows and requirements before you dive in, make sure the PIM system is strong in these areas if that is important to your project.
6. Data Model / Taxonomy / Schema
While Taxonomy can be implemented anytime within most PIM systems, do not underestimate the time and effort that is required to design the taxonomy. For those of you who don’t know, taxonomy in this context is a hierarchy or categorization of products for the purposes of attribution, aka schema. This means when you classify a product into the “Pen” category it would inherit several attributes (or specifications) for instance “Ink Color”.
Additionally, you will need to start thinking about the data model or the global attributes that your products will share. For example, all SKUs (items) belong to a family (product) and we need the marketing information to belong to the family and the weights and dimensions to belong to the SKU. Again, not all PIMs are equal and handle this differently. Know your needs before you select your PIM.
Read more about the importance of taxonomy and attributes
Possibly just as important as the PIM software selection, is choosing a PIM implementation partner, sometimes referred to as a Systems Integrator or SI. There are plenty of SIs out there, again not all are equal.
I can’t tell you how many “Rescue Operations” that my team has overseen in the past. These typically don’t have anything to do with the software that was selected. It has to do with the implementation partner. Experience is key. Just because your implementation partner is good at one thing, doesn’t necessarily make them good at implementing PIM. Additionally, just because they are good at one PIM doesn’t make them good at another PIM. While there are definitely some “common” best practices when implementing PIM, there are also software specific best practices and gotchas. Make sure your implementation partner has proper training and the team that will actually be on the project also has the training. Get the teams' Resumes/CVs.
To me everything starts with preparation and not jumping into the deep end before you know how to swim. One thing is always true, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” That being said, start learning to swim now.
You don’t start to build your house before you have a blueprint (you need to know local ordinance, building codes, the right materials for the location). Same could be said for PIM. You need to do a PIM Readiness assessment. So when I read “The Key to success is to start before you are ready”, what I hear in my head is “... start the process of PIM Readiness Assessment before you are ready to do the readiness assessment”, however that doesn’t quite flow off the tongue.
Our team of product information experts are ready to help get ready for PIM. Give us a shout to see how we can get you started.
* Robbins, Mel. The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. Post Hill Press, 2017