The Problem with English

– and many other languages

This blog is in English. However, as a citizen in a country where English is not the first language, I have a problem with English. Which flavour or flavor of English should I use? US English? British English? Or any of the many other kinds of English?

It is, in that context, more a theoretical question than a practical one. Despite what Grammar Nazis might think, I guess everyone understands the meaning in my blend of English variants and occasional other spelling mistakes.

The variants of English, spiced up with other cultural and administrative differences, does however create real data quality issues as told in the post Cultured Freshwater Pearls of Wisdom.

EnglishWhen working with Product Data Lake, a service for sharing product information between trading partners, we also need to embrace languages. In doing that we cannot just pick English. We must make it possible to pick any combination of English and country where English is (one of) the official language(s). The same goes for Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Russian and many other languages in the extend that products can be named and described with different spelling (in a given alphabet or script type).

You always must choose between standardization or standardisation.

Three Game Changers within Product Information Management

Product Information Management (PIM) is a fast-growing discipline enabled by PIM platforms. While the current market for PIM platforms is much about supporting a consistent in-house management of the information related to product models we make, buy and sell, there are new opportunities arising. Three of them on my radar are:

globalInternet of Things (IoT)

With the rise of IoT and the related theme Industry 4.0 we will in the future not just have to deal with the product model but also each physical instance of that product. As an example of how many product groups that might embrace, read about that IKEA is thinking about embedding its furniture with artificial intelligence.

Value webs

The recent buzzword in the chain starting with “supply chain” and going over “value chain” is “value web”. Learn about the arrival of continuously evolving business ecosystems and value webs in this article from Deloitte University Press. Product information management encompassing business ecosystems will be imperative in value webs.

Product Data Lake

This is in all humbleness my venture by having launched a PIM-2-PIM platform that deals with the current main pain in product information management, being exchanging product information between trading partners. We do that in an agile and automated way by supporting partnerships in value webs and are soon adding things to Product Data Lake.

Get into the game by registering for a trial account on Product Data Lake.

Data Quality for the Product Domain vs the Party Domain

Same Same But Different

The difference between solving data quality issues for party (customer, supplier and other business partner) master data and product master data was discussed 7 years ago on this blog in the post Same Same But Different.

Data Quality Dimensions
Some data quality dimensions

Since then I have worked intensively with both party master data and product master data and the data quality challenges organizations have within these domains.

Building on the findings from 7 years ago and recent experiences, I think there are two areas it is worth emphasizing on:

  • Data Quality Dimensions: All dimensions are important and they support each other in solving the issues. But there are some differences as explained in the post Multi-Domain MDM and Data Quality Dimensions. In my mind, uniqueness is the worst pain for party master data and completeness is the worst pain for product master data.
  • External Data Sources: The use of data sources was examined in the post 1st Party, 2nd Party and 3rd Party Master Data. In my mind, extensive utilization of third party data is paramount for party master data quality and effective exchange of second party data is paramount for product master data quality.

A Sharing Concept

For solving both party master data and product master data quality issues you need Multi-Domain MDM for business ecosystems as proposed in the Master Data Share concept.

Aloha Facebook, Where am I Today?

Facebook is set to fight fake news by using artificial intelligence. A good way to practice may be by playing a bit more around with their geolocation intelligence.

Today I, as far as I know, are on the Canary Islands. This is a part of Spain, though a little bit away from the motherland down the Atlantic Ocean off the North African coast. A main town on the islands is called Las Palmas.

However, according to Facebook I seem to be in a place called Las Palmas Subdivision on Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the globe with Hawaii being a bit away from where it were last time I looked on a map.

Facebook Geolocation Hickup

 

The Real Reason Why Your Business Needs a PIM Tool

Today’s guest blog post is the second one from Dan O’Connor, a United States based product data taxonomy guru. Here are Dan’s thoughts on why you should have a Product Information Management (PIM) tool:

Over the past year I have moved from a position of watching a Product Information Management tool, or PIM, being installed, to working for a PIM vendor, to working through the process of installing a PIM tool from the client side. In the same way that I justified buying a sports car to my wife based on the utilitarian value of having 350 horsepower at my disposal, I’ve seen many different justifications for installing a PIM tool. From “Micro Moments” to “collaborative data collection” and “syndication”, terms are tossed around that attempt to add to the value of a PIM installation.

The simple truth is there is only one reason you need a PIM tool. Every justification is solving a symptom of a data problem in a business, not the core problem. Every good management executive knowns that solving symptoms is a rabbit hole that can cost time and money at an incredible rate, so understanding what the core problem that requires a PIM in your business is vital to your business growth.

PIM messageControlling your Messaging

That core problem your business needs to solve is product messaging. Simply put, without a central hub for your data your business has a lack of control over how your product messaging is spread both internally and externally.  If you are still working in spread sheets or collecting data multiple times for a single product for different channels you have lost most of your product messaging structure.

PIM is a tool that solves that problem, and the symptomology that comes with it. Does your business spend too much time assembling data to meet downstream partner needs? You have a product messaging problem. Is your business’ ability to ingest data limited by spread sheets transferred over network folders or email? You have a product messaging problem.

All the benefits of PIM can be summed up into a simple statement: If you want to be in control of your product brand and your product data quality your business needs a PIM tool. Do you want to reduce product data setup costs? You need a central location for all your product messaging to do so. Does your business have product data quality issues that occur due to poor adherence to best practices? Poor data quality affects your product messaging, and can be solved by a PIM tool. Is your business spending too much time chasing down emails with product specs and spread sheets full of setup data? These bad workflow practices affect your ability to provide a consistent message downstream to your business partners, whether your business is B2B or B2C. They are a symptom of your poor product messaging control.

The True PIM ROI Story

The central premise of a PIM tool is to standardize and normalize your product data collection and setup workflows and processes. If your business looks at a PIM tool only for this metric your vision for PIM is limited. Syndication, the distribution of data to consuming internal and external systems, is another huge benefit to PIM. However, if the product messaging your PIM system is sending or receiving is not well controlled within your PIM your vision is incomplete. There is not a single benefit to PIM that you cannot add the terms “with a consistent approach to your product messaging” to the end of.

Why is product messaging so important? In previous blogs I have demonstrated how failures in product messaging lead to odd product experiences, especially when you look at the messaging across platforms. If your web store shows a length for a product and your channel partner shows a different length you have a product messaging problem. If that product data came from a central source that issue would not exist. It might be as simple as the downstream partner swapped length for depth and there isn’t a true data issue, but to your customers there is an inconsistent product data message.

Extrapolating this out to something as simple as web descriptions actually validates this business case. If you provide a basic web description for a product based on an individual manually typing in marketing copy into a web portal you have lost control of your product messaging. That same person may be responsible for typing that web description in 4 different places, and without a central repository for that data the chances that those 4 messages will complement each other is slim. Add to that the fact that many major retailers edit web descriptions to conform to their standards after your business has completed product setup and you are less in control of your product messaging than you imagined.

Having a PIM tool solves this. You have a single source for web descriptions that you know will be represented in a singular repeatable fashion downstream. You can map your dimension attributes to your downstream channel partner dimensions, ensuring that the appropriate data appears in each field. You can customize web descriptions in a controlled and normalized environment so that you have more control over how those descriptions are customized by your channel partners.

The Importance of Product Messaging

Product messaging is your voice to your customers. As B2B ecommerce follows the path blazed by B2C it has become more important to have a consistent and controlled message for your products to all your customers. Spread sheets are not capable of that task, and email is not a mechanism for maintaining product data quality. Automated systems with proper workflows and data quality checks are paramount to ensuring the voice you expect your customers to hear is your business’ voice.

Reducing catalog printing costs, syndication of product data to channel partners, and reducing product setup headcount are valid reasons to install a PIM tool. However, they all should be part of a greater goal to control your voice to your customers. Those benefits are symptoms of a need in your business to have a unifying voice, and not including product messaging control as the overriding goal of your PIM installation is a strategic error.

In having performed many PIM installations here is the impact of not seeing product messaging control as the overarching goal. A company I worked with went through the process of installing a PIM tool, and we reached the point of remediating their existing product data to fit the new model. This company, who had invested heavily in this project, decided they did not want to perform any data remediation. They simply added back into their PIM tool every attribute that had existed in their old system. There was vision to improve the data they were displaying to their customers: They simply wanted to speed up product setup.

That business has spent the last 6 months undoing the benefits on controlled product messaging. It was less costly to them in the short term to simply replicate their existing data issues in a new system. Their old product data was unwieldly, hyper-specific to channel, and involved writing product titles and web descriptions manually for each channel. There is no common theme to the product messaging they are creating, and their ability to reduce product setup costs has been hampered by these decisions.

In Summary: Product Data is Your Product Messaging

Micro moments and product experience management is just fancy terminology for what is simply an understanding of the importance of your product data. If your vision is to control your product messaging, you have to start with your product data. A PIM tool is the only functional approach that meets that goal, but has to be looked at as a foundational piece of that product messaging. Attempting to reduce product setup costs or speed product data transfer is a valid business goal and a justification for a PIM project, but the true visionary approach has to include an overall product messaging approach. Otherwise, your business is limiting the return on investment it will achieve from any attempt to solve your product data setup and distribution problems.

Dan O’Connor is a Product Taxonomy, Product Information Management (PIM), and Product Data Consultant and an avid blogger on taxonomy topics. He has developed taxonomies for major retails as well as manufacturers and distributors, and assists with the development of product data models for large and small companies. See his LinkedIn bio for more information.

I am afraid that Gartner does not help

“The average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year.” This is a quote from Gartner, the analyst firm, used by them to promote their services in building a business case for data quality.

AverageWhile this quote rightfully emphasizes on that a lot of money is at stake, the quote itself holds a full load of data and information quality issues.

On the pedantic side, the use of the $ sign in international communication is problematic. The $ sign represents a lot of different currencies as CAD, AUD, HKD and of course also USD.

Then it is unclear on what basis this average is measured. Is it among the +200 million organizations in the Dun & Bradstreet Worldbase? Is it among organizations on a certain fortune list? In what year?

Even if you knew that this is an average in a given year for the likes of your organization, such an average would not help you justify allocation of resources for a data quality improvement quest in your organization.

I know the methodology provided by Gartner actually is designed to help you with specific return on investment for your organization. I also know from being involved in several business cases for data quality (as well as Master Data Management and data governance) that accurately stating how any one element of your data may affect your business is fiendishly difficult.

I am afraid that there is no magic around as told in the post Miracle Food for Thought.

The Rise of Business Ecosystems in Data Management

There are many signs showing that we are entering the age of business ecosystems. A recent example is an article from Digital McKinsey. This read worthy article is called Adopting an ecosystem view of business technology.

In here, the authors emphasizes on the need to adapt traditional IT functions to the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies that embraces business ecosystems. I fully support that sentiment.

In my eyes, some of the emerging technologies we see are in large misunderstood as something meant for being behind the corporate walls. My favorite example is the data lake concept. I do not think a data lake will be an often seen success solely within a single company as explained in the post Data Lakes in Business Ecosystems.

The raise of technology for business ecosystems will also affect the data management roles we know today. For example, a data steward will be a lot more focused towards external data than before as elaborated in the post The Future of Data Stewardship.

Encompassing business ecosystems in data management is of course a huge challenge we have to face while most enterprises still have not reached an acceptable maturity when it comes internal data and information governance. However, letting the outside in will also help in getting data and information right as told in the post Data Sharing Is The Answer To A Single Version Of The Truth.

biz-eco