The omnipresence of data in all areas of corporate strategy nowadays has to be acknowledged, and with it the need to install Master Data Management (MDM) or Product Information Management (PIM) systems to take full advantage. The adage about providing “the right information to the right person at the right time” has never been so relevant.
In a world where control over data is becoming essential to actively contribute to development strategies while decision-making circuits continue to shorten, IT and business departments have to work together increasingly closely to deliver reliable, secure data management solutions.
Regardless of your sector of economic activity, your customers, partners and employees are now hyper-connected and will increasingly need to exchange data in real time. It would be as well to get organised right away, to leverage value from your data and create master data repositories for business uses, such as pushing personalised promotions to customers based on an analysis of their past purchases, or optimising logistics routes using an analysis of all trips using IoT sensors. The applications are almost endless and they all further business performance.
To this end, IT departments must first unify all their data within shared master data repositories, as this will facilitate the manipulation and secure distribution of data within any internal or external ecosystem. MDM (Master Data Management) and PIM (Product Information Management) solutions appear to meet the requirements, but how similar are they and where do they differ? Why implement one of these systems?
The urgent need to call a halt to anarchy in data governance!
Not a day goes by without “big data” or “data-driven marketing” being mentioned, so it would be easy to believe that data governance is already part and parcel of every IT department’s master plan, in complete synergy with the needs of business departments. Nevertheless, we also see every day that reality is a long way from this nirvana, and that there is an urgent need for businesses to adopt strong data governance strategies.
Especially as businesses regularly see divergence in IT and functional departments’ points of view. IT departments see data in terms of storage, availability management and security, whereas every business department sees data individually in terms of the specific use it makes of data, and its help in decision-making. Two parallel approaches that now need to converge rapidly:
There are twin objectives: firstly protect the company’s data assets, and secondly constantly increase their value in terms of business uses
This convergence is therefore at once an organisational project and a technical one, because the value of customer data or product data can only be considered within the constraints of IT and in furtherance of each business department’s objectives. A project of this kind should consequently be implemented by enforcing more stringent centralisation of data plus synchronisation across all software and support systems in place in the business. MDM (Master Data Management) and PIM (Product Information Management) systems both offer solutions to these issues, so let’s take a look at their practical differences…
Master data management to handle master data records
Implementing MDM is a comprehensive data quality improvement process that spans the entire business. An MDM project does in fact focus on creating a single repository for all strategic company data, including customers, suppliers, products, bills of materials, manufacturing processes, HR and so on. It is not intended to meet any specific needs, but to lay the foundations for a standardised master data management system, to ensure that every employee in the business will see the same data at any given time, but free of any issues surrounding reconciliation and regardless of the number of different applications used in the information system as a whole.
Technically, the MDM system centralises and unifies data in a single master data repository, then manages the asynchronous propagation of that data to all the application in the information system using an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus). As the data governance rules are well defined, any change in a customer’s address, for example (e.g. on their own initiative on an e-commerce website), will be reflected in near-real time in all other applications – ERP, CRM, etc. MDM thus provides a great deal of control over data and ensures that users will always be using reliable data. MDM is therefore a response to the need for a complete data unification strategy, whereas PIM is more directed at unifying product data only, as we are about to see…
PIM (Product Information Management), popular in retail
A PIM solution is used to centralise all product-related data within a single master data repository (technical properties, descriptions, references, bills of materials, photos, media content, etc.), this data usually being stored in a variety of applications in an information system. Also populated using an ESB, it simplifies data interchanges and makes them more reliable when more than one distribution channel is being used simultaneously, as in the retail sector.
Based on the same data acquisition and centralisation principles as an MDM system, PIM can justifiably be viewed as a subset of MDM. The main benefit is to make the product marketing process secure. As soon as a product is listed, the use of related data by marketing, sales and logistics, and its presence on sales representatives’ price lists, on e-commerce sites and/or partner marketplaces, all happens very quickly.
A product information management system is therefore particularly well-suited to retailers, where effective omnichannel strategies demand the ability for consumers, vendors and partners to quickly and easily access the right information about products. PIM could consequently be considered as a first step, for products only, towards a full MDM system, serving to contextualise master data in various communication and sales channels and thus ensure that marketing strategies are followed properly. But very soon, the omnichannel strategy will also require the ability to deliver a unique and totally successful customer experience, to ensure customer satisfaction and therefore brand loyalty. To achieve this, keeping to product data alone will not suffice, and all the data relating to the customer experience will also have to be unified in an MDM system!