The Product Information Management (PIM) market is nearly 20 years old. But for some there is still an unfocused picture about PIM and its value, and namely how it’s separate while complementary with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). Let’s take a look at making PIM clearer in relation to ERP.
In same companies you find that product managers who try to use their ERP system for product information management as well. These people think If you already have an ERP system, why should you set up a completely separate system to process product information?
Riversand formed in 2001, and we’ve seen a number of tectonic shifts in platforms and the underlying technology that helps power them. ERP might have been able to manage (simply) product information 20 years ago, but the information landscape, volume, and demand has grown exponentially, and beyond what core ERP can and should do.
As you organize your technology stack for digital transformation, think about the role the ERP system plays in product management.
The most important benefit of ERP is that it gives you many product management capabilities on a single platform: inventory/order management, order/supplier management, warehouse and logistics, accounting, CRM, and even product marketing functions are combined in one powerful solution. What more could you wish for?
Complications arise with ERP when it comes to the omnichannel publication of product information. While an isolated ERP system can provide a cross-channel view, it cannot send product information such as descriptions, images, documents, and video links to other parts of the technology stack, such as your e-commerce system.
PIM, on the other hand, natively handles large and deep amounts of product data, giving you easier control and consistency when working with multiple distribution channels. ERP systems did the job when sales were limited to catalogs and websites.
To keep up with the growing market demand of digital transformation, comprehensive product information must be made available over all the channels your consumers demand – starting with e-commerce, social, catalogs, price lists, product sheets, marketplaces, and POS materials to name a few.
You need a specialized solution for this. PIM is ideal for this purpose, and PIM ideally works in tandem with ERP. The right combination of PIM and ERP can increase the efficiency of your technology stack and help you achieve a more consistent customer experience.
Let’s talk about what you do not get with PIM: You do not get inventory management, nor do you get CRM. You will not get a product data manager. However, what PIM lacks in all-round functionality is made up for by its ability to complement ERP.
Like having too many cooks in the kitchen, in many cases, adding more systems to your technology stack can be the safest way to make things too complicated without actually solving the actual need. In terms of product information, however, there are three specific example scenarios where combining ERP with PIM will simplify your workflows and provide a solution to add value and prove its investment as worthwhile.
Conventional ERP systems require a considerable amount of effort when creating new product entries. In the simplest case you can import data in Excel files. But every change to existing products in your ERP requires additional manual entries. Manually updating ERP fields to support new product entries is time consuming and inefficient. If PIM is connected, new products can be entered and prepared outside the ERP before being integrated into the larger system. This saves you time and ultimately reduces costs.
If you don’t have a specialized PIM system, you can make mistakes when trying to ensure consistency of product data. The problem is that ERP systems cannot update product data universally. Instead, you have the time-consuming pleasure of changing all fields manually, even if you want to make the same change to all products in a product series. Specialized PIM systems update product information seamlessly and universally. This helps you avoid errors that can easily creep in when you only work with an ERP system.
While your ERP can contain a wealth of product information, it is not designed to search for detailed product information. If you need to search for specific product information, you cannot afford to waste your time searching your ERP data. And if you can’t find certain information, there may be a risk that data will be entered into the ERP system multiple times, further complicating the problem. With PIM, you can save time because all of your production information is immediately at hand, searchable, and most importantly, findable.
The three scenarios above show how PIM can save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent with ERP systems, freeing up more time to support new business initiatives.
ERP can be a tremendous tool in your company’s technology arsenal. But even ERP’s scope of power is limited with the depth of what PIM naturally solves. Trying to force an ERP system to meet all your product information management needs quickly leads to cumbersome and time-consuming processes.
As your markets demand product information dexterity, and this demand will only get greater as channels continue to grow, you should use the tool that was truly designed for this need. A PIM system will prove its worth to you in reduction of costs, errors, and manual work.
Ben Rund is Riversand’s General Manager in the DACH region and Vice President Business Development, Europe.