20 best practices for successful PIM implementation

Best Practices for PIM implementation

PIM implementation projects are often underestimated. Many providers are not aware of what to expect during the project and directly afterward, because a PIM (Product Information Management System) is usually only introduced into a company once.

In this article, I will give you some essential tips to help you to overcome all the possible problems that you might encounter with the introduction of PIM and to make your life easier. We also have more tips on successful PIM selection and implementation on our blog.

1. Invest your time in the conceptualization of the project

Don’t rush into installing the software too quickly. Take the time to conceptualize it and make sure you’ve accounted for every business requirement that the system should satisfy. If you skip the concept phase, you may face delays when you realize some necessary adjustments have not been taken care of.

The goal here is to ensure that both you and the contractor understand each other correctly. For some issues or features, it is worth creating mockups to be sure that all parties to the deal are on the same page. It will save your time and money, since the changes can be made before you launch the system. During the discussions about the new system, you will discover that a lot of questions appear about the things you may not have accounted for.

2. Pay attention to what matters

People often tend to focus on issues that are closer and easier for them to understand rather than on the more complicated questions. For example, they may discuss minor details of the interface of their future PIM system for days instead of deciding on the important aspects of the business logic of the solution. To be even more specific, they define the exact position of the product description fields on the screen but forget to categorize the attributes of the products as mandatory and optional.

Avoid the same mistake, discuss the most important PIM requirements, even if they are really complicated and take a lot of time.

3. Make sure that you’ve picked the right contractor

The contractor's job is to help you avoid any issues and implement the system from the first try. If your PIM consultant is not particularly active and effective right from the start of the project, are they really the right provider for you? Choose a different provider before it's too late.

When a lot of work and time has been invested in the wrong direction, it might seem impossible to change the provider and start over. But if you feel that the current consultant doesn't satisfy your needs and you don't do anything about it, you could find yourself losing much more time trying to remedy the situation afterwards. The change must actually happen as early as possible.

Here are some red flags that point to the wrong provider:

  • The communication is not satisfactory
  • The first intermediate results are bad
  • The budget estimate is wrong and is constantly adapted
  • The provider is inert, passive, and uncooperative.

4. Clearly define what data each system is responsible for

Each system can only manage certain data and processes. PIM software is intended as a primary source of marketing and sales-related product information. When it’s integrated with the other systems, this priority should be maintained.

If any attributes intersect between different systems, make sure that the priorities between data, systems, and users are clearly defined. For example, the employee responsible for entering and updating product information should do so in a PIM system before it is distributed to other systems.

The best way to prevent unwanted changes is to ensure that users can modify data only in the right system. Alternatively, if technically possible, enable two-way data synchronization.

5. Prepare to overcome your employees' conservative thinking

The two major reasons for implementing a PIM system are to:

  • increase the quality of product information
  • make the work on product data simpler and more efficient

Choosing a good tool that can do this effortlessly is just half the hassle. You will also need to find a way to introduce the new system to your co-workers where they don't resist the change.

Be prepared to invest in training, including your personal time, so that the introduction runs as smoothly as possible. Show how they can benefit from welcoming the technology, rather than just showing them the technical side of using the software like which button does what.

Keep in mind: a complicated PIM solution or process will lead to longer implementation time and higher training costs.

6. Be agile during and after the implementation

Each project creates new insights, new requirements are defined, so it’s natural to f encounter new challenges or adjustments while the project is still running. Say, the marketing department realizes that you should grant a translation agency access to your PIM for localizing product descriptions. This feature may be difficult to implement at the current stage of the project, but if it will definitely benefit your company once you start using the software, don't reject it just to finish sooner.

Organize the project so that such changes are possible and ensure that user feedback is considered when implementing the PIM system. Such changes will significantly increase the efficiency of the solution and improve employee satisfaction with the system.

7. Don’t try to map the current processes 1:1

The introduction of a PIM system should serve, above all, to increase the efficiency of processes and the quality of product information. Reconsider all your current processes and adapt them to the new technology.

Avoid creating something very special and including all the exceptions in the system, because in 90% of cases a standard solution will suffice.

Too many adaptations and too many special features will lead to more problems and greater effort in updating the system in the long term. Is it definitely worth it for you?

8. Remove Excel/Word/paper records from information management in favor of the new software

A PIM system has all the tables, formulas, databases, and documents you need for keeping electronic records. Thanks to PIM software, you have the opportunity not only to reorganize and optimize your product data but also the related processes. So it should completely replace Excel and other software that isn’t part of the business automation.

Excel has arguably been the most popular tool for keeping data. Now that we have software that synchronizes the data changes across all distribution channels, among other benefits, it’s safe to say that Excel sheets have served their purpose and we can move onto new technology.

9. Sometimes programming a feature is more useful than simply configuring the software

There’s no point in hunting down the perfect PIM solution that will satisfy every single one of your requirements — that is only possible if you are looking into developing your own system.

Most providers can configure or customize the systems to suit your needs or you can buy additional modules that cater to specific requirements. There’s also a third option and that is to request the provider to program the necessary changes, essentially giving you a custom-tailored solution.

It might take more time and resources but, as a result, you get an intuitive piece of software, that all the users can understand.

10. Organize the discussion between the concerned departments and find out their needs

Marketing, sales, e-commerce, procurement, product management, IT, print catalogs preparation, and other departments can all benefit from using a PIM system. It facilitates more efficient performance and cooperation between these departments.

Organize a meeting of representatives from the relevant departments to discuss their processes and problems early on, before you even start looking for a PIM system, and then again while implementing the technology. Understanding their requirements will help you find the most suitable PIM solution and involving them in the implementation process will grant you timely feedback. This will also help you to achieve higher and faster acceptance of the new software.

A PIM system is there to help your employees to work more efficiently, and while they are responsible for the quality, the system should help to solve their problems. So if you implement a system that helps them do their job instead of creating new issues, they will aim at quality, and not just do what they were told.

11. Build a solution that is good enough, not a perfect one

When implementing PIM software, focus on solving the problems you know about from practical experience, not virtual issues which don’t present a real risk. Taking into account all the "possible eventualities" can complicate the system and cause delays in data processing, making it difficult for your hardware to process without glitches. On the same note, don’t make the data model too complicated or specific.

Often, you can acquire knowledge only in practice and it may deviate from the theoretical idea. For example, the maintenance of an additional category tree may seem helpful but, in practice, you'll find that another pragmatic solution could achieve the same goal better and faster.

12. Build a flexible and future-oriented solution

Although implementing a perfect solution that accounts for every future, probable need that might, on the off chance, arise in your company is simply unnecessary, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to build the most useful version of the software. What we see, when helping companies implement PIM software, is that many of them alter requirements in the process of development and implementation. Additional requirements also appear as a business grows and the circumstances change.

Leave some flexibility in your system, in case you need to make changes in the future. You might want to introduce certain standards for data export or other functions, for example. Think of these things early on because these decisions should be taken into account in the architecture of your PIM solution. But again, instead of trying to forecast all your needs and fulfill them during the first iteration, make it possible to change things when the time comes.

13. Start as early as possible with the data migration

Identify all sources of master data at an early stage and start preparing it for its import. It’s hard to predict exactly how much time and what resources you might need so an early start will benefit the project’s timeline.

Keep in mind that the data you import should be evaluated and might require quality improvement. The import can also lead to adjustments in the data model to fit the new processes of data preparation and distribution onto the necessary channels.

14. Don’t alter your data until it’s in the new PIM system

Transfer the data into your PIM tool unchanged. You can decide later what information is missing, what needs improvement or complete removal. But if you make those decisions while importing data, you risk losing some details that you may battle may to recover later.

Of course, if your system has an automatic data transfer feature, you don’t have to worry about this. If this is the case you won’t have to input product information manually, you’ll simply copy everything across.

15. Ensure proper integration of new PIM software with your other technology

A PIM system should connect with your existing systems automatically. If an integration feature is limited or not available, consider selecting other PIM software.

Manual synchronization of several thousand entries will always lead to inconsistencies (which are difficult to identify). And the elimination of these issues may take a lot of time, possibly even more than would be saved by PIM implementation, while that should be done automatically.

16. Create documentation and establish a working routine

A PIM system is only a tool. Its success depends not so much on what tool you choose but on how it is used. Keep in mind that even after the introduction of a PIM system, users must receive proper training and support during day-to-day work with the PIM solution.

Written documentation of the processes and practice-oriented user manuals can simplify the use of a PIM system making it more efficient. So it's better to start creating practice-oriented documentation for employees during the implementation process. It doesn’t have to describe all the functions, as you will receive software documentation from the provider, just highlight the most relevant information about features and peculiarities when using it.

17. Don't underestimate the project budget

In many cases, the project budget is underestimated, mostly because the client has little experience in such projects. This can lead to subsequent changes and additional expenses that could have been avoided. Be prepared to invest more from the beginning, so a budget increase doesn’t come as a surprise later.

18. Be sure to get the best quality for a fixed price

If you don’t establish a fixed price, you will probably be tempted to introduce new requirements as you explore more opportunities and ideas. This can make your project endless and unbelievably expensive.

Projects with a calculated number of hours specified within the limits of a fixed price tend to reflect the contractor's vision of the project and not your idea of how the project should look. So be sure to discuss the most pressing requirements in detail at an early stage so that no nasty surprises happen later.

19. Don't forget about the user access levels and data validation

Permissions must be set so that all employees involved in the PIM process can perform their functions undisturbed, but not much more, because in most cases the employees will make mistakes.

The system should perform automatic data validation to ensure the best possible quality of data. Even if the validation rules cannot be configured, they can still be programmed.

20. Get the most benefit out of your PIM solution

The more diverse the software used in the toolset of a company, the more difficult and slow it is to solve the existing problems. For each company, the balance is different. However, this can be well set with the right PIM System. Modern, modular software such as AtroPIM allows us to build a solution tailored to the specific requirements of the user that will, among other things:

  • function as middleware (perform data processing, third-party systems integration, price calculations, order analysis, etc.)
  • balance the weak points of ERP/DAM/CRM/CMS software
  • organize cooperation with suppliers, wholesalers or retailers.

On the other hand, you should be aware that not every PIM solution can take over the tasks outside its area of responsibility. You should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the system you choose to resolve the existing problems of the organization before you sign on the bottom line.

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