How does a neutral PIM consulting fit together with the implementation of a PIM-Systems? Which challenges, for example, must be met in order to introduce Product Information Management? Questions answered by Marco Kahler, CEO of the project integrator and consulting firm Adscape.
Adscape is a consulting and project integration company. How and where exactly do you support the client?
Correct, Adscape has two business units. On the one hand, neutral PIM consulting and on the other hand project integration. We strictly separate these two areas. This means, for example, that if we conduct a PIM tender for a customer, we are generally not available as a project integrator. This is to maintain our neutrality on behalf of the customer and its requirement profile. In the area of neutral consulting, we are available to our customers for all aspects of PIM and PIM-related systems as well as the associated processes and our many years of know-how. Together with the customer, we develop the requirements and framework conditions tailored to its needs. We then launch the corresponding solution evaluation and find the right partner for the PIM project. The situation is different in the second business unit, where the decision for a PIM solution has usually already been made and we implement the PIM system fully at the customer’s site. From workshops to intensive support, we are and remain a global contact partner for all aspects of PIM.
What challenges are you usually confronted with?
Of course, the challenges are different in the two units. With neutral consulting, we sometimes find a completely “green field”, not only in terms of the software, but also with regard to the specific knowledge context. There, we initially carry out extensive educational work and the transfer of knowledge is often the focus. What we have noticed in recent years, however, is that the topic of PIM or product data management has become much more prevalent. Most companies understand the advantages of introducing a PIM system. Of course, there are also companies that are still at the very beginning, where it is important to create awareness. Questions such as “which touch points do I already serve, which do I perhaps want to serve additionally in the future, or why is my ERP not able to take over the PIM tasks? In the area of project integration, we have to deal with various situations. There are customers who introduce a PIM system and would like to have their manual tasks and processes handled sustainably and much more automatically. There, the customer must be ready for change management, because the requirements often consist of data modeling and process analysis as well as process implementation. In addition, we have more and more replacements of existing PIM solutions. The challenge here is the transfer of data and processes. And the advantage is that the expectations of the project itself are much clearer.
In your opinion, what does the PIM of the future look like? Are classic clients out? For example, will the cloud also have a lasting impact on the PIM industry – after all, SaaS does not just describe a software and IT infrastructure – cloud security, in terms of data protection and reliability, is now much higher than with a locally operated system.
The future moves faster and faster and does not halt at the topic of PIM or product data management. This must also be taken into account in our consulting services. In other words, cloud or SaaS solutions are increasingly in demand. If you look across the Atlantic, you can see that cloud computing is already much more present than here in Europe. But I think that in Europe, especially in Germany, we simply think a bit differently. Nevertheless, we cannot defend ourselves against the “cloud wave”, especially since a cloud-based solution has many advantages. I expect a change in the next few years, especially in the area of PIM, because the content in marketing is, of course, less sensitive than within an ERP or PLM. In my opinion, it is and remains a generational question. Today’s medium-sized, owner-managed companies often still rely on classic on-premise models, whereas larger, global companies are already switching to cloud solutions.
What do you think are the biggest hurdles repeatedly misjudged by PIM enthusiasts and existing customers? Which adjustments have to be made in order to implement a PIM introduction smoothly? What preparations should the customer make?
In our estimation, the main topics data model and data maintenance are often the biggest challenges – usually accompanied by schedules that are planned too optimistically. The product data is often not available in the quality that is required for a high-quality export to the various channels. There is often a lack of intelligent and well-thought-out product structures and corresponding data models, which in turn form the elementary basis for automated processes. Furthermore, the maintenance of product data is often underestimated. There, of course, the customer’s specialist knowledge is required. Delays in the respective project are usually caused by a lack of or insufficiently qualified personnel for this task. From our point of view, it is important that these topics in particular are not calculated too defensively in project planning and that appropriate time blocks and buffers are provided. Furthermore, the importance of the PIM topic should be accordingly high up in the company so that the necessary resources are made available. Unfortunately, we still experience product data maintenance being done out by trainees and interns – even though product data today (more than ever) should be regarded as an important raw material. In this context, companies are faced with the question as to which vocational training, what courses of studies or internal qualifications best meet the requirements necessary to cope with the new challenges. In the past, internal surveys within the relevant company organizations have shown that IT-related employees often have little or no marketing and sales knowledge, while marketing-oriented employees often lack detailed knowledge of data and information management.