The Myth Of Product Data Management
(Reading time: approx. 4 minutes)
You have been duped.
For years, you have been sold this holy grail vision that if you can just get one master record of a product, then your whole world will change. It is a great vision. Like many others you chase it, knowing that if it works, it will be awesome.
But alas, it never comes. It was a fantasy. And now you are stuck with yet another system to work with and more workarounds that you need to come up with to actually do your job.
You aren’t alone. Over $20B a year is spent on Master Data Management, Digital Asset Management, Enterprise Content Management and Data Access and Integration Solutions. Almost all of those categories are seeing double digit compound annual growth rates. The scary part is that the statistics only reflect a minuscule portion of the potential market because only the top percentage of organizations can even afford solutions like this.
By 2016, over $1 trillion of commerce will be reliant on digital product information.
That is trillion with a ‘T’. Unfortunately, only 25% of that information will be correct.
What are we doing so wrong?
To me, it all comes down to two differing approaches: consolidation vs. aggregation. Think about where information currently resides within your organization. It could be the ERP system, the Enterprise Content Management System, spreadsheets, network drives, your agencies DAM, your packaging companies FTP site and more. On average, product information sits in 8 different systems. This poses a huge obstacle for retailers whose main focus is offering a seamless shopping experience.
You would think that it only makes sense to build a huge master database that sits deep in the bowels of your IT infrastructure and is the starting point for the life of your product data. You would think it but you would be wrong.
There are three issues with this approach:
Time: To properly design, configure and or develop a large enterprise solution could take years.
Cost: License fees for these solutions generally run in the millions (and that doesn’t include the implementation services).
Functionality: Rarely does the implementation meet the functionality that the organization requires. After implementing a robust system like this, it becomes difficult to just rip it out. This means that companies now have to weave yet another solution into their IT patchwork to deal with these legacy systems. Even if the implementation was on the right track -because of the length of implementation – business objectives and requirements inevitably change.
This all leads to a costly implementation that adds little value. The worst part is that most organizations believe that the only way to fix this is with another data management initiative. And so the cycle repeats.
So, what can you do?
Aggregate. An aggregation layer that sits over your existing infrastructure is a light, simple way to pull together all of the pieces of product information you require without massive, costly and lengthy implementations. It gives everyone in the organization a single hub to work from, share information and, more importantly, it makes it easy to share that information with retailers, eCommerce websites and distributors.
Start sharing. Our industry is paralyzed by the overwhelming terror that wrong information will be distributed. This leads to frozen pipelines of information between brands and retailers. Retailers are content starved. When they don’t get the product data they need, they will do their best to find it elsewhere. Most of the time, it will not be correct.
If you simply start to get the information flowing and create open channels for communication, the information will naturally get better and better. Don’t wait until everything is 100%. It never will be perfect. Even if it the information is 80% correct, it is magnitudes better than it is today.
Get the right tool for the job. Heavy backend systems just don’t cut it anymore. Your user base has moved away from using this as a transactional system through IT or supply chain to a digitally native, engaged marketing resource. They don’t need another storage tool, they need a light and easy sharing tool.
Make no mistake, there is a lot at stake here. Content is the fuel that powers commerce. But don’t be fooled by the fear, uncertainty and doubt the incumbents try to drive into you. The best thing you can do is to get things moving and the easiest way to do that is to start sharing.
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