5 Product Data Levels to Consider

When talking about Product Master Data Management (Product MDM) Product Information Management (PIM) I like to divide the different kinds of product data into the schema below:

Five levels

Level 1, Basic Data

At the first level, we find the basic product data that typically is the minimum required for creating a product in any system of record.

Here we find the primary product identification number or code that is the internal key to all other product data structures and transactions related to the product within an organization.

Then there usually is a short product description. This description helps internal employees identifying a product and distinguishing that product from other products. Most often the product is named in the official language of the company.

If an upstream trading partner produces the product, we may find the identification of that supplier here too. If the product is part of internal production, we may have a material type telling about if it is a raw material, semi-finished product, finished good or packing material.

Level 2, Trading Data

The second level has product data related to trading the product. We may have a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that may be in the form of an International – former European – Article Number (EAN) or a Universal Product Code (UPC). Here we have commodity codes and a lot of other product data that supports buying, receiving, selling and delivering the product.

Level 3, Recognition Data

On the third level, we find the two basic pieces of product information that came to existence when we started producing product catalogues and had the first ecommerce solutions online.

The extended product description is needed because the usual short product description used internally have no meaning to an outsider as told in the post Customer Friendly Product Master Data. Some good best practices for governing the extended product description is to have a common structure of how the description is written, not to use abbreviations and to have a strict vocabulary as reported in the post Toilet Seats and Data Quality.

We often see that the extended product descriptions need to be present in the range of languages covering the locations where business is done either if the business is international or done in a country with multiple countries. The trend of increased user customization (or should I say customisation) drives this point further.

Having a product image is pivotal if you want to sell something without showing the real product face-to-face with the customer or other end user. A missing product image is a sign of a broken business process for collecting product data as pondered in the post Image Coming Soon.

Level 4, Self-service Data

At the fourth level, we have three main sorts of product information: Product attributes, basic product relations and standard digital assets. These data supports when customers makes buying decisions within eCommerce and other self-service scenarios.

Product attributes are also sometimes called product properties or product features. These are up to thousands of different data elements that describes a product. Some are very common for most products like height, length, weight and colour. Some are very specific to the product category. This challenge is the reason of being for dedicated Product Information Management (PIM) solutions as told in the post MDM Tools Revealed.

Basic product relations are the links between a product and other products like a product that have several different accessories that goes with the product or a product being a successor of another now decommissioned product. Product relations is described further in the post Related Products: The Often Overlooked Facet of PIM.

Standard digital assets are documents like installation guides, line drawings and data sheets as examined in the post Digital Assets and Product MDM.

Level 5, Competitive Data

As the fifth level we find elements like on the fourth level, but usually these are elements that you won’t necessarily apply to all products but only to your top products where you want to stand out from the crowd and distance yourself from your competitors. If you are a reseller, you typically make these data yourself, where level 4 hard facts are delivered from the manufacturer, as examined in the post Using Internal and External Product Information to Win.

Special content are descriptions of and stories about the product above the hard features. Here you tell about why the product is better than other products and in which circumstances the product can to be used. A common aim with these descriptions is also Search Engine Optimization.

X-sell (cross-sell) and up-sell product relations applies to your particular mix of products and may be made subjective as for example to look at up-sell from a profit margin point of view. X-sell and up-sell relations may be defined from upstream by you or your upstream trading partners but also dripping down on the roof from the behaviour of your downstream trading partners / customers as manifested in the classic webshop message: “Those who bought product A also bought / looked at product B”.

Advanced digital assets are broader and more lively material than the hard fact line drawings and other documents. Increasingly newer digital media types as video are used for this purpose.

Product Classification, Product Pricing and Product Lifecycle Status

All of the above-mentioned levels of product information is supported by product classification. Usually we see product classification handled as a reference data type across Product Information Management (PIM), ERP and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) where applicable.

Product pricing is usually also a subject mainly belonging to the ERP side of things.

Product Lifecycle Status again goes across Product Information Management (PIM), ERP and not at least Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) where applicable.

Master Data Management (MDM) is the discipline that connects the dots between these topics.

Take the processes to next level:

You can take your Product Information Management (PIM) and Product Master Data Management (Product MDM) to a higher level by following the processes as described in the post Using Pull or Push to Get to the Next Level in Product Information Management.

Can You Keep Track of MDM and PIM Vendors?

If you have the job to shortlist a range of MDM and/or PIM vendors to help you getting a grip on product master data (MDM) and detailed product features (PIM), or have the job to assist a client in doing so, you may have a hard time.

As mentioned in the post Disruptive Forces in MDM Land now Gartner (the analyst firm) only mentions the 11 most expensive MDM vendors. This leaves very little room for taking into account the differences in product specific offerings, geographic presence, industry focus and other parameters.

As a consequence, PIM and Product MDM Consultant Nadim Georges WARDÉ, who runs his business from Geneva in Switzerland, is keeping track of the vendors in his own comprehensive list and have kindly provided the list to be shared here on the blog:

Nadim Warde List

You can access the full spreadsheet here.

The list also has a small section on professional service vendors, vendors that have achieved substantial funding and finally a list of vendors supporting product serialization exchange within the pharma industry – a topic covered on this blog in the post Spectre vs James Bond and the Unique Product Identifier.

 

Welcome Riversand on The Disruptive MDM List

I am delighted to welcome Riversand as the next disruptive MDM / PIM / DAM solution on The Disruptive Master Data Management Solutions list.

As a European MDM and PIM (Product Information Management) practitioner I have followed Riversand’s growing presence on the European scene both through being on the customer side in solution selection activities, on conferences and on the social media community and I have watched that MDM / PIM peers as Mark Thorpe and Ben Rund have joined the company.

Riversand is in a very exciting development with a recent funding that is used to accelerate Riversand’s global expansion and for further investment in its disruptive MDM platform. See how Riversand presents themselves on The Disruptive MDM List here.

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Gall’s Law, Minimal Viable Product and Product Information Management

Back in 1975 John Gall expressed this law: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.

Since then, we have learned the term Minimal Viable Product, which has the same sentiment.

Building a product from scratch by starting small and making that work in a context new to most potential users is close to me these days. The Product Data Lake venture I am involved with is exploring some frontiers as:

Our business model also allows you as a partner or customer to start small and influence the solution while you achieve the business benefits in a more and more profitable way.

As a subscriber you can grow with us through these phases:

  • Skateboard: Start testing with a selected trading partner. As a manufacturer you can push your product information in your way and as a merchant you can pull this information in your way.
  • Bicycle: Pedal further by including more trading partners. It will be a win-win for everyone.
  • Motorbike: Fuel the business benefits by reaching out to dozens of trading partners.
  • Car: Encompass all your regular trading partners in a comfortable journey where you – and your trading partners – will sell more and reduce costs.

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Building a MDM Solution Using Best-in-Class Modules

Sometimes keeping it simple is the shortcut to getting it all wrong. While I am a believer in mastering all master data domains under the same vision and strategy, there are still best-in-class options when it comes to orchestrating processes and applying technology in the right chunks.

Customer Data Integration (CDI)

A recent post on this blog was called What Happened to CDI? This post examines the two overlapping disciplines Master Data Management (MDM) and Customer Data Integration (CDI). In a comment Jeff Jones argues that MDM vendors have forgotten about proper CDI workflows. Jeff says: “It seems the industry wants to go from Source to Match/Merge, instead of Source to Match/Identify and finally to Merge.” Please find and jump into the discussion here.

Also, this question was touched some years ago in the post The Place for Data Matching in and around MDM.

Product Information Management (PIM)

The product domain within Multi-Domain MDM also holds some risks of forgetting the proper ways of handling product information. In this domain we must also avoid being blinded by the promise of a single source of master data with surrounding processes and applied technology.

There are many end-to-ends to cover properly as exemplified in the post A Different End-to-End Solution for Product Information Management (PIM).

 

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Welcome Stibo Systems on The Disruptive MDM List

I am happy to welcome Stibo Systems and their STEP platform as the next disruptive Master Data Management Solution on the disruptive MDM list. You can learn more about, and review, Stibo Systems STEP here.

My first encounter with Stibo Systems was 7 years ago when I started an engagement there taking part in the first steps in transforming Stibo Systems from a Product Master Data Management / Product Information Management (PIM) vendor to a multi-domain MDM vendor.

Since then I worked for some of Stibo Systems clients with implementing the STEP solution.

During both engagements types I learned how a robust but still extremely flexible MDM solution STEP is and also came to know the very professional staff at Stibo Systems. You can see them below:

Stibo Systems Group photo