A couple of weeks ago Microsoft, Adobe and SAP announced their Open Data Initiative. While this, as far as we know, is only a statement for now, it of course has attracted some interest based on that it is three giants in the IT industry who have agreed on something – mostly interpreted as agreed to oppose Salesforce.com.
Forming a business ecosystem among players in the market is not new. However, what we usually see is that a group of companies agrees on a standard and then each one of them puts a product or service, that adheres to that standard, on the market. The standard then caters for the interoperability between the products and services.
In this case its seems to be something different. The product or service is operated by Microsoft based on their Azure platform. There will be some form of a common data model. But it is a data lake, meaning that we should expect that data can be provided in any structure and format and that data can be consumed into any structure and format.
In all humbleness, this concept is the same as the one that is behind Product Data Lake.
The Open Data Initiative from Microsoft, Adobe and SAP focuses at customer data and seems to be about enterprise wide customer data. While it technically also could support ecosystem wide customer data, privacy concerns and compliance issues will restrict that scope in many cases.
At Product Data Lake, we do the same for product data. Only here, the scope is business ecosystem wide as the big pain with product data is the flow between trading partners as examined here.
20 years ago, when I started working as a contractor and entrepreneur in the data management space, data was not on the top agenda at many enterprises. Fortunately, that has changed.
An example is displayed by Schneider Electric CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire in his recent blog post on how digitization and data can enable companies to be more sustainable. You can read it on the Schneider Electric Blog in the post 3 Myths About Sustainability and Business.
Manufacturers in the building material sector naturally emphasizes on sustainability. In his post Jean-Pascal Tricoire says: “The digital revolution helps answering several of the major sustainability challenges, dispelling some of the lingering myths regarding sustainability and business growth”.
One of three myths dispelled is: Sustainability data is still too costly and time-consuming to manage.
From my work with Master Data Management (MDM) and Product Information Management (PIM) at manufacturers and merchants in the building material sector I know that managing the basic product data, trading data and customer self-service ready product data is hard enough. Taking on sustainability data will only make that harder. So, we need to be smarter in our product data management. Smart and sustainable homes and smart sustainable cities need smart product data management.
In his post Jean-Pascal Tricoire mentions that Schneider Electric has worked with other enterprises in their ecosystem in order to be smarter about product data related to sustainability. In my eyes the business ecosystem theme is key in the product data smartness quest as pondered in the post about How Manufacturers of Building Materials Can Improve Product Information Efficiency.
Enterprises are increasingly going to be part of business ecosystems where collaboration between legal entities not belonging to the same company family tree will be the norm.
This trend is driven by digital transformation as no enterprise possibly can master all the disciplines needed in applying a digital platform to traditional ways of doing business.
Enterprises are basically selfish. This is also true when it comes to Master Data Management (MDM). Most master data initiatives today revolve around aligning internal silos of master data and surrounding processes to fit he business objectives within an enterprise as a whole. And that is hard enough.
However, in the future that is not enough. You must also be able share master data in the business ecosystems where your enterprise will belong. The enterprises that, in a broad sense, gets this first will survive. Those who will be laggards are in danger of being left out of business.
This is the reason of being for Master Data Share.
There is a tendency when deploying Product Information Management (PIM) solutions, that you may want to add a portal for your trading partners:
- If you are a manufacturer, you could have a customer portal where your downstream re-sellers can fetch the nicely arranged product information that is the result of your PIM implementation.
- If you are a merchant, you could have a supplier portal where your upstream suppliers can deliver their information nicely arranged according to your product information standards in your PIM implementation.
This is a death trap for both manufacturers and merchants, because:
- As a trading manufacturer and merchant, you probably follow different standards, so one must obey to the other. The result is that one side will have a lot of manual and costly work to do to obey the strongest trading partner. Only a few will be the strongest all time.
- If all manufacturers have a customer portal and all merchants have a supplier portal everyone will be waiting for the other and no product information will flow in the supply chains.
This topic was discussed in the post PIM Supplier Portals: Are They Good or Bad?
Frank Diana has over the years written a lot of splendid articles on the business ecosystem theme. The latest post is called Monetization Strategies in Emerging Ecosystems.
In here Frank has this question: Do ecosystems represent an opportunity to establish non-traditional revenue streams (e.g. monetizing data)?
I think so. One example very close to me is how merchants, shippers and manufacturers can work closely together in not only moving the goods between them in an efficient way, but also moving the product information between them in the most efficient way.
This opportunity for traditional ecosystems (or value chains if you like) was recently examined in the post called Wrapping Data Around Tangible Products.
There are three kinds of data monetization: Selling data, wrapping data around products and utilizing advanced analytics leading to fast operational decision making. These options were examined in the post Three Flavors of Data Monetization.
If we look at the middle option, wrapping data around products, and narrow it down to wrapping data around tangible products, there are some ways to execute that for supply change delegates, not at least if the participating business entities embraces the business ecosystem where goods are moved through:
- Manufacturers need to streamline the handling of product information internally. This includes disciplines as PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and PIM (Product Information Management). On top of that, manufacturers need to be effective in the way the product information is forwarded to direct customers and distributors/wholesalers and merchants as exemplified in the post How Manufacturers of Building Materials Can Improve Product Information Efficiency.
- Merchants need to utilize the best way of getting data into inhouse PIM (Product Information Management) solutions or other kind of solutions where data flows in from trading partners. Many merchants have a huge variety in product information needs as told in the post Work Clothes versus Fashion: A Product Information Perspective. On top of that a merchant will have supplying manufacturers and distributors with varying formats and capabilities to offer product information as discussed in the post PIM Supplier Portals: Are They Good or Bad?.
- Shippers may extend their offerings from moving the goods between manufacturers and merchants (or directly to end users) to also moving the information about the goods as suggested in the post New Routes for Products. New Routes for Product Information.
The end goal is that the buyer personas in self-service scenarios will be able to make a fact based and full informed decision as pondered in the post Where to Buy a Magic Wand?
Work clothes and clothes for private (and white collar) use are as products quite similar. You have the same product groups as shoes, trousers, belts, shirts, jackets, hats and so on.
However, the sales channels have different structures and the product information needed in sales, not at least self-service sales as in ecommerce, are as Venus and Mars.
Online fashion sales are driven by nice images – nice clothes on nice models. The information communicated is often fluffy with only sparse hard facts on data like fabrics, composition, certificates, origin. Many sales channel nodes only deal with fashion.
Selling work clothes, including doing it on the emerging online channels, does include images. But they should be strict to presenting the product as is. There is a huge demand for complete and stringent product information.
Work clothes are often sold in conjunction with very different products as for example building materials, where the requirements for product information attributes are not the same. Work clothes comes, as fashion, in variants in sizes and colors. This is not so often used, or used quite differently, when selling for example building materials.
At Product Data Lake we offer a product information sharing environments for manufacturers of work clothes and their merchants who may have a lot of other products in range with different product information requirements. We call it Product Data Syndication Freedom.
Building materials is a very diverse product group. Even within a manufacturing enterprise there may be considerable variances in what kind of product information you need for different product groups. If production is taking place on plants around the world, then local demands and cultural differences is another source of diversity in how product information is handled.
In many cases building materials are not sold directly to end users, but are forwarded in the supply chain to re-sellers being distributors/wholesalers, merchants and marketplaces. These trading partners each have their range of products and specific requirements for product information which makes it very hard for the manufacturer to prepare product information that fits all.
The IT enabled discipline aimed at solving such challenges is called product data syndication. There are namely these three kinds of product data syndication relevant to manufacturers:
- Enterprise wide product data syndication aiming at linking, transforming and consolidating product information created by various business units and production sites around the world. The goal is to have consistent, accurate and timely information ending up in one place, often being an in-house Product Information Management (PIM) or Master Data Management (MDM) solution.
- Ecosystem wide product data syndication push aiming at providing product information to re-sellers in a uniform way. On the other hand, it should be possible for the diverse crowd of re-sellers to pull that information adhering to each one’s requirements for format, completeness and conformity at a certain time.
- Ecosystem wide product data syndication pull also in many cases applies to a manufacturer. It is not unusual that a manufacturer complements the own produced product range with special products supplied from other manufacturers, where product information must be provided by those. In addition to that manufacturers buys raw materials, spare parts for machinery and other products where product information is needed when the surrounding processes should be automated.
At Product Data Lake, we offer a solution to these challenges. We emphasize on these capabilities:
- Product Data Quality aiming at improvements of completeness of product data, as well as the accuracy, timeliness, consistency and conformity of the product information shared with trading partners and end users.
- Product Data Syndication Freedom, as the solution is suited for consolidating enterprise wide diversities and pushing information to trading partners in a uniform way while making it possible for trading partners to pull the product information in their many ways.
Learn more about the solution and the benefits for manufacturers of building materials on the Product Data Push site.
One of the news this week was that Maersk for the first time is taking a large container ship from East Asia to Europe using a Northern Route through the Arctic waters as told in this Financial Times article.
The purpose of this trip is to explore the possibility of avoiding the longer Southern Route including shoehorning the sea traffic through the narrow Suez Canal. A similar opportunity exists around North America as an alternative to going through The Panama Canal.
Similar to moving products and finding new routes for that we may also explore new routes when it comes to moving information about products. Until now the possibilities, besides cumbersome exchange of spreadsheets, have been to shoehorn product information from the manufacturer into a consensus-based data portal or data pool from where the merchant can fetch the information in accurate the same shape as his competitors does.
At Product Data Lake we have explored shorter, more agile and diverse new routes for that. We call it Product Data Syndication Freedom.
When working with product data syndication in supply chains the big pain is that data standards in use and the preferred exchange methods differ between supply chain participants.
As a manufacturer you will have hundreds of re-sellers who probably have data standards different from you and most likely wants to exchange data in a different way than you do.
As a merchant you will have hundreds of suppliers who probably have data standards different from you and most likely wants to exchange data in a different way than you do.
The aim of Product Data Lake is to take that pain away from both the manufacturer side and the merchant side. We offer product data syndication freedom by letting you as manufacturer push product information using your data standards and your preferred exchange method and letting you as a merchant pull product information using your data standards and your preferred exchange method.
If you want to know more. Get in contact here: