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Commercial PIM Systems: 4 Best Practices To Conduct Before a PIM Evaluation

As your business and product data complexity grows, so too may your need for an enhanced Product Information Management (PIM) system that accounts for numerous operating units, separate companies, global operations, and more.

You may already be in the thick of PIM evaluations and vendor demos, or grappling with inconsistencies in product data, taxonomies, user errors, scalability or more. Or, you may already see these issues coming, and are ready to tackle them proactively.

Whatever the case, the transition from a homegrown to a commercial PIM system is typically a highly complex one. Taking into account your data, taxonomies, processes, workflows, system topologies, and users, and packing it all into one system that governs how, when, and where data is served up as a single source of truth is an enormous undertaking, and should be approached methodically, and informed with a series of best practices to guide your way.

In fact, your process doesn’t start with evaluations of PIM vendors – rather, it should start with getting your data, taxonomies, and processes in order.

Step 1: Get to know the daily life of your data

To fully understand the sources of the data, the processes through which it flows, and most importantly, how your users modify and handle the data, we recommend shadowing each of your data stakeholders in their daily tasks. After all, your PIM system is going to touch multiple stakeholders – from your CEO to your customer service reps, marketing, imaging, information technology teams, and more – and even small errors can compound into larger business challenges downstream.

This step will also uncover those users who might be hesitant to utilize the new PIM system as it’s intended, those users who may need additional training, as well as those who you think would be heavily invested in the success of the implementation.

Step 2: Start with a discovery engagement

After you build a topology of the life of your data, we recommend building a system landscape to uncover where and how your product data flows. Your goal will be an agreement from all stakeholders on what your data processes and workflows currently are, and how you intend them to be used once a PIM is deployed.  

In a discovery engagement, it is also critical to identify the high-level requirements needed from your prospective PIM system, including digital asset management (DAM), taxonomy, mapping of complex product relationships, systems integrations, and more. These requirements should drive a scorecard methodology, which will help you level the playing field when evaluating your metrics across multiple PIM systems.

Step 3: Centralize your taxonomy

If you’re working directly off of spreadsheets and don’t already have a PIM system in place, it’s critical to identify one place where your taxonomy will live. Typically, we recommend a taxonomy management solution, which will help you both visually analyze and edit your taxonomy before it is imported into a PIM.

Building a centralized taxonomy is also the perfect juncture to involve a taxonomy czar, or a gatekeeper. This individual can help to ensure the ongoing health and efficacy of your newly refreshed taxonomy and PIM rollout. While the czar is sometimes considered a ‘wet blanket’ by end users, their efforts in ensuring strong data governance at all times will be critical for the success of your PIM implementation as your business and product catalog matures over time.

Step 4: Build the business case and find your champion

When it comes to building the supporting business case for your PIM project, quantify and qualify as much as possible. Among retailers and distributers, for example, a redesigned website navigation tends to be a strong starting point to financially justify the need for a PIM. In this scenario, the business case may center on an increase in topline revenue for products through benefits like better findability and more accurate product adjacencies. These examples of quantitative benefits are starting points to this process and will, however, vary by industry and the market positioning of your individual segment.

We also recommend identifying and enlisting a dedicated project champion– they could be from your IT or business teams, or even an external eCommerce subject matter expert. Ideally, this is a person whose voice resonates well with your leadership team and is considered an expert on the subject of product data and its business implications.

Tip! A great way to quantify your business case is to evaluate your website navigation, especially your product groupings. Recruit internal and external users to navigate through your site to find specific products and quantify the steps they had to take to get there.  After your new PIM is implemented and your site is redesigned, reconduct your web navigation study to quantify the success of your initiative.

Bringing it all together

While transitioning to a commercial PIM system can be a long and often complex process, there are simple steps you can take up front to ensure that the system you select and the processes through which your data flows, are the most beneficial for your business.

For a deeper dive into this subject, check out this recorded webcast: “From Homegrown to Commercial PIM: Transition Strategies for Success.”


Chantal Schweizer
Chantal Schweizer
Chantal Schweizer is a taxonomy professional with over 10 years of experience in Product Information and Taxonomy. Prior to joining Earley Information Science, Chantal worked on the Product Information team at Grainger for 9 years, Schneider Electric’s PIM team for 2 years and had some previous work in PIM consulting.

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