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Since PIM is not a new topic, but has been developing for almost two decades, there is a wide range of software providers with different focuses and degrees of maturity. As part of a software selection, the central question is which of the numerous solutions is most suitable for my individual requirements. And how do you get an overview of the software market at all? Large analyst firms such as Gartner or Forrester look at the market regularly, but from a global perspective. On the one hand, providers who currently play no role for us in the DACH market are rated, on the other hand, providers who have a long history and a very high relevance in the DACH market are not considered.

The market is currently dominated by software providers such as Akeneo, Contentserv, Informatica, Riversand and Stibo. But the DACH market is characterized by a large number of other different solutions; We currently have around 50 providers. These each have different target groups, functional strengths and unique technological features. Are you on the safe side by simply betting on one of the “Big Five”? Or is it worth looking at smaller providers on the market who could just as easily cover their own requirements, possibly even for smaller budgets?

Choosing The Right PIM Solution

Two things are absolutely relevant for a well-founded system decision:

  • A deeper insight into the provider market
  • An intensive examination of your own requirements

When looking at the provider market, it is important first of all not to evaluate the software solutions alone, but always the overall package that goes with them. In addition to the actual software, this also consists of a cosmos around the issues of implementation and operation. The software providers each have their own DNA, which, in addition to the solution architecture and the functional characteristics of the software, is reflected in aspects such as target groups, industry solutions and personal interaction. The implementation is carried out by the software providers themselves or by implementation partners who specialize in this. For a smooth implementation and operating phase, concepts, implementation quality and partner networks for further development, support and maintenance are essential on the part of the manufacturer.

So how do you narrow down the large number of providers to a few potentially suitable ones (shortlist)? First of all, the following applies: Without testing against individual requirements, the individual systems per se are not better or worse than others, but initially only different. Therefore, only a differentiated comparison of the various solutions with regard to various criteria provides information. This is ideally done on the basis of a clustered requirement profile. This can then be compared against the profiles of the providers.

So that such a comparison can be carried out, it is necessary to apply uniform criteria when analyzing the solutions. In addition to the initially obvious functional aspects, this also includes so-called non-functional aspects. With regard to the functional aspects, the PIM market is now characterized by the fact that most solutions offer a high standard coverage – the first providers are now even attesting to “feature completeness” themselves. It should be noted here that a superficial feature comparison does not reveal the existence of a feature about the usability, maturity level and performance of this feature.

A holistic View

At the beginning of a selection process, potential providers and their solutions should initially play no or only a subordinate role. Rather, it makes sense to first develop a holistic PIM strategy. Essential things are considered. For example, which market a company operates in or which channels and touchpoints play an important role in the areas of marketing and sales – today and in the years to come. In addition, where the data sources are located. Does data mainly arise in-house (manufacturer) or am I, as a dealer or association, confronted with a large number of suppliers from whom I have to collect and standardize data in a structured manner in order to be able to serve my own channels?

Resilient target processes can only be developed when the data processes, which often run through different company departments and technical domains, have been thoroughly examined.

In order to get a holistic picture, one also considers the organizational structure and the embedding in the existing IT architecture.

System Replacement

If the company does not yet have a PIM system, the existing article data processes must be analyzed particularly carefully. Owing to the lack of or limited central article data storage, many loops, parallel processes and redundant data silos have usually arisen over the years. The pure 1: 1 mapping of this state would waste a lot of potential.

Even if a PIM system is already in use and a system change is planned, it is advisable to concentrate primarily on the processes and to think separately from specific software products. It is always worth questioning the current state, since the company situation has mostly developed further in the years since the system was last introduced and has diluted the original ideal state (new channels, larger organization). It is often difficult for PIM users and stakeholders to mentally detach themselves from specific states. Do you think you know exactly what functions you are missing in the current PIM system – a new system should fix it. But a procedural analysis with subsequent re-modeling can also come to the result

Software Selection

Once the processes have been revised and the requirements formulated and prioritized in a structured manner, the selection of a software provider is much easier. A detailed requirement specification maps the new ideal world and serves as a basis for a provider to empathize with the company situation and the requirements. A catalog of requirements with software and feature-independent criteria (e.g. in the form of user stories), structured according to the above-mentioned clusters, helps to evaluate and compare responses from software providers and, in the end, to significantly reduce the probability of a wrong decision. It is also easier for the software provider to show how powerful their software is if the customer has already worked out their goals and processes.

An accompaniment of the selection process by independent external experts has proven itself. Admittedly, this creates additional costs, but ultimately it “pays off”.

External consulting supports the selection of the right software solution (including implementation partner, if applicable) with market knowledge and experience and thus reduces the risk of wrong decisions.

One of their main tasks is to constantly question (why is a certain process running like this, where are the trip hazards?). In addition, new impulses can be set from the experience of similar projects.

In addition, consultants help to reduce inefficient in-house rounds or to avoid completely bringing together a project team with heterogeneous ideas and thus ultimately reaching the goal faster.

The developed requirements already form the structural and technical basis for implementation, creation of test cases, introduction and acceptance of software.

Change processes go hand in hand with every PIM project. As a neutral moderator, an external consultant can convey and accompany this change so that all process and organizational changes are implemented in line with the strategy.

PIM systems are Essential

In order to develop the power of product data, PIM systems are essential. Choosing the right system is not easy due to the complexity of the market and the requirements to be considered. With the choice of a structured approach and, if necessary, with the support of independent external consultants, you are well prepared and can create the basis for digital success.