Building something new in a relaxed environment

Our leading software architect Tuomas started at Canter in 2011. Tuomas is an electrical installer and IT engineer who takes care of the development of our new product version (and many other things) together with our CTO Janne Costiander.

Canter is a small company with a relaxed atmosphere. Every once in a while I used to explore work options elsewhere, but kept returning here. The best thing about being here is being able to impact upon your own job and the way that things get done.

Before coming to Canter, Tuomas worked as a self-employed web developer. Work and hobbies slotted together nicely for the dad of twins under the age of one.

My hobbies are self-employment, programming and disc golf. Before having children, I had more exercise-based hobbies but I have had to cut them down during the last year.

Learning new things, pro-activity and the desire to develop are some of the most important things for Canter. Tuomas also has his own action plan.

I want to keep developing as a manager and team leader. I also want to develop my language skills, and thankfully I can practice my communication skills daily. I am interested in new programming techniques, too.

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Among the employees, general job satisfaction in the workplace is highly valued. Tuomas describes his co-workers:

We have a great time together at work, and everyone is really friendly and willing to help wherever necessary. The atmosphere is relaxed and filled with humour.

Requirements tightening for packaging labels – a solution from Canter to bakeries and confectionaries

The Finnish Bakery Federation and Canter have signed a contract that allows for Canter and their partner Taito United to provide a recipe service RESPA for bakeries and confectionaries to use. This cloud-based service automatically produces the required information for food packaging labels, such as ingredients lists, allergens and nutritional values. This project was created due to the tightening requirements for packaging labels from 13.12.2016 onwards (European Union’s food information regulation).

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Project RESPA is not only useful for bakeries, but also for commodity producers as the service allows them to deliver up-to-date information into the hands of client businesses at once. The information can be integrated into the service automatically. The service will include both the commodities and all the products mentioned in Fineli information bank, along with their relevant information.

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Canter oy

More information:
Project Manager
Mervi Halme
mervi.halme@canter.fi
+358 400 409 700

Flexibility, versatility, and learning experiences

Our own Front End Developer, Lotta, has worked with Canter for three years. The media technology engineer came to work with us through a classic recruiting process, after having worked earlier as a web developer and freelancer.

 

My typical workday consists of client projects. My duties are versatile: a work week may include e.g. design and implementation of the client’s product information intranet interface, InDesign layout automation, image processing, and client training. I am additionally somewhat involved with font product development.

lotta_canter

At Canter product development and the new product version under development permit learning new things.

 The best things in my job are versatility of tasks and the possibility to do a wide range of different things. On the other hand it’s challenging, but also rewarding on the other, when you are regularly allowed to step outside of your comfort zone. I have learned new techniques and working methods, and I have a good flow completing projects even on a tight schedule. Through product development you are able to learn new techniques constantly.

Work life and flexibility are important things to the mother of an almost two year old daughter.

 In my case it is important that Canter enables flexible working hours and opportunities. Combining family life and work is a breeze.

Lotta encourages job seekers to apply at Canter.

Working here, attitude is of utmost importance. Many things were unfamiliar also to myself at the beginning, but here you also have an opportunity to learn things with the help of experienced colleagues.

We are looking for colleagues to Lotta and us others. Find our other open positions here.

 

Google

Search engines – and especially the most glorious of them all, Google – are gatekeepers to all online content. Your website is virtually nonexistent if search engines cannot find it. Also, the competition for a spot on the first page of search results is fierce – very few have the patience to browse through all the pages, and a ranking on the second page reaps few rewards.

It is thus advisable to take some time to consider Google when setting up a website, online store or a product catalogue. The inner workings of the search algorithm are a well-guarded secret, but certain fundamentals are pretty easy to take care of on product information pages.

Product descriptions

  • Google penalizes you right away if product description is missing. Compose descriptive content that describes the product to the customer – and the search engine – as comprehensively as possible. However, avoid excess wordiness.
  • Always strive for unique content. Google lowers your ranking instantly if the same text is being recycled on several websites. It is worth your while to fine-tune e.g. the manufacturer’s descriptions a little, even though it might be easier to publish it as is. Here too setting yourself apart from the others is commendable.

Extensive, diverse content

  • Diverse content is rewarded: in addition to comprehensive written content, use images, videos, links, attachments…
  • If the page has no images ranking goes down. Pay extra attention to image alt texts, so that your page will appear in the image search results as well.
  • Offer plain language web addresses (URL addresses). In addition to Google, users too like links that convey directly what the page is about – it’s best to forget automatically created nonsense string addresses.

Offer many routes to your content

  • The ranking goes up if the website is referenced from several other websites, because this makes Google perceive your site as more trustworthy.
  • Importers, for instance, may boost the online store of the local wholesaler or retailer by linking to these sites directly from their own site. Take into account, though, that the websites need to be trustworthy (see Section ‘Don’t cheat’).

Invest in usability

  • Google – like the rest of us – loves pages that load quickly. Fast websites get a considerably higher ranking in the search results.
  • There will be a penalty if the mobile users have been neglected and the page does not scale to smaller screens.
  • Search engines also try to rate the quality of your site by monitoring how often users return straight back to the search result page after visiting your website. If Google notices that your website responds poorly to the needs of customers, your ranking will decline.

Don’t cheat

If you get caught cheating, the consequences might be severe: in the worst case you will end up on Google’s black list and your website will not be dropped from the search results entirely. You can earn Google’s disregard by, for instance, doing some of the following:

  • Buying external links referring to your website that typically come from notorious spam sites or social media accounts. If you get busted doing this, your site may be completely removed from the search results. Not a recommendable maneuver.
  • Flooding your website keywords with countless keywords and excessive repetition. Your ranking will likely end up at the bottom end of the results, even though everything else were AOK.
  • Dispersing broken web links that tell Google that your site is not up to date. This most likely will not drop you completely off the search results, but weakens your ranking in comparison to a web page that has working links.

You’ll receive more information about Product Information Management and its possibilities by leaving your contact information and we will get in touch.

Vision of a CIO: Kill ’em all!

I recently had an interesting conversation with an information management officer from a medium-sized Finnish company. He had joined the company around a year earlier, and it seemed like the strategic work on enterprise architecture had been completed and the roadmap for systems architecture was beginning to be clear. Moderate-scale modernisation, renovation, and systems updates expected within the next three years. Or four years –

these plans always overrun a little bit.

The guy’s vision for 2020 was music to a well-marinated PIM consultant’s ears. Paraphrasing liberally, the goal is an updated, modern architecture where master data and its related processes have been put in order, information flows according to API thinking, and communication with customers, at the highest possible level, is allowed using information resources and automation.

From our nice and straightforward chat, one quip stuck in my mind.

So my aim here is to kill around 16 systems, leaving only 5 or 6 systems instead. In the spirit of Metallica: Kill ’em All!

Excitement in the air and brains in overdrive – great vibes! Extra points for getting the favourite band from our youth mixed into the same pot with business applications, interfaces and data. I also got the feeling that it might be fun to work with them in the future.

After the meeting, however, I got to thinking about today’s challenges in leadership in information management. Though if any topic has been written about at length and from different perspectives, it is this one. And in Finland we have some really solid know-how, recognized at an international level too (take IT Standard for Business as a single example).

But right now I couldn’t stop contemplating the Metallica approach.

The remaining 5-6 systems specified by the CIO are, of course, main systems critical to business activities. They own the basic information associated with each system. In this case, they also include a platform for e-commerce that, among other things, will be used to run future online trading of different business units.

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This is the basis on which business and core processes operate. Master data is managed and cared for using best practice, and modern interfaces deliver it to the right place at the right time. Using BI and analytics tools, valuable information is produced to support decision-making so that operations can be developed in the right direction and that leadership can be based on knowledge, not guesswork.

Then there is the layer that is full of the pulp of tools and applications, and the boundaries of which are irritatingly mushy.

Business wants to develop customer experience and communication, online commerce and sales toolbox – let alone marketing digi-gizmos. All this as agilely as possible, please. At the same time costs need to be kept under control and activities need to become more efficient.

In turn, people, regardless of unit and role description, wish to use tools that are quick to learn and easy and efficient to use. Perfectly natural. If this is not realized, problems tend to get piled on the desks of data governors and information management.

How should this ever-growing and shape-shifting tangle of applications, utility programs, and cloud services be managed? Who is responsilbe for what? Who even knows what apps we have in use, and for what purposes? Which is the right model for us: the ’Master of Apps’ or ’…And Apps for All’? What information is used where? Is some place producing information that is valuable from a business point of view and which should be linked to a process or analytics? And so on…

By the way, I am not jealous of today’s CIOs.

I am also not surprised that there is a worldwide race to invent new titles and roles to manage these areas, as one man/woman shows have not been sufficient in a long time.

It would be interesting to hear real-life examples of what practices you have in place for depicting applications and information flows. Are there, or have you come across, any good ready-made models, or have you developed or drawn ones for your own needs? Leave a comment or send a private message. I would gladly exchange views on this.

Next time I was planning to open up and explain how I have tended to structure, from a product information management and digital development perspective, an information architecture framework that addresses the requirements of today. I suggest that nobody holds their breath waiting for that though, as a suggestion entitled ’Mushroom gathering trip to the forests of Nuuksio’ hit my inbox while I was writing this. Have a nice fall!

A versatile job function motivates and educates

Our Customer Relations Manager Katri has enjoyed working for Canter for over five years now. The Engineer with a post graduate degree in Communications Technology, had been working as a project manager and done some coding before joining Canter. She was drawn to Canter because of the development opportunities and to be able to take on new challenges.

We have a really small organization. Usually there is a possibility to affect things, if you choose to do so. In a small organization, the advantage is also to be able to do many different things. The versatile job function is what I enjoy most in my work.

katri_canter_blogi

Working for Canter educates and develops every day.

Dealing with different customers, my understanding of their business functions has increased a lot. Our product interfaces with many areas of business, so by these projects, I have been able to understand comprehensively the customers’ organizations. It is a continuous learning from the smaller customers to the larger customers. Also to be familiarized to different corporate cultures is interesting.

When asking about future goals and visions, thoughts are targeted towards product development.

I am eagerly waiting for our new product release to be used by our current and new customers. I believe that it will enable even more comprehensive customer work and bring many new and interesting projects.

Katri has a clear message for a potential job seeker:

By doing you learn a lot and it is not worth hesitating to apply. You can go a long way by using your common sense and with an active and independent work attitude, combined with your previous know-how is the best way to develop. When adding lots of sense of humour to this, no doubt that you will feel at home with us.

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What are the best things in your work?

We have wonderful and fun customers and the best colleagues, with whom it is great to work with, year after year. We have a good time at work. Our new office is comfortable and enables you to work in different environments. And as our official quiz-director, I have to mention the excellent quizzes and competitions that we have regularly with our staff.

We are looking for new reinforcements, so have a look here to see our open positions.

Virtual Shopping Is (Almost) Here!

In collaboration with the Myer’s store chain, eBay has published the world’s first 3D virtual online store. This pretty simple concept consists of a cardboard “Shopticals” box, into which a smartphone is attached. An app is loaded into the smartphone which is then viewed through the cardboard box mount.

In a virtual store there is no need to click the mouse. All the choices and navigation are accomplished by aligning the gaze. If you look at a certain item or a product for a while, more detailed information will be listed. The store has 3D images of the most popular products in each product category. Right now the virtual store is available only in Australia, but surely we will soon have something similar.

Virtual shopping and the 3D world present new challenges for listing product information and sharing this information via different channels. 3D product images are clearly the first milestone, and maybe in a few years there will be product content for the other senses as well – like scents, virtual touch and feel and sound.

When product information and its foundation management are done right, it is easier to share information and refine this information toward new technologies and distribution channels. If you feel like your company’s Product Information Management needs to be improved, do contact us!

More information:
Manager, Customer Relations
Katri Koskentalo
040 167 8971
katri.koskentalo@canter.fi

Read also “Product information and buying”!

Helvar polishes product information management processes with Adeona PIM

Specialised in energy-efficient solutions for the global market, Helvar will centralise its product information management with the Adeona PIM solution.

The lighting technology company publishes product information on its website, in printed product catalogues and in brochures, price lists and Excel spreadsheets targeting various resellers and market segments.

In the past, the company’s product information was scattered across different systems: on the website, in printed catalogues and in local area network shares. The major challenge has been managing the different language versions, which, with the eight languages to maintain, is not a surprise. Although the majority of the content is the same regardless of the language, it still needs to be updated separately for online publishing and for the printed catalogue. In addition, images and other documents had to be copied to the website and also to a separate media bank service.

The new media bank was published in April. Now the images and documents are automatically updated by Adeona PIM and the changes are reflected both on the website and in the media bank. In addition, automation can make industrious steps easier, such as updating product information in price lists and product catalogues with finished layout.

Are you interested? For more information about our PIM solutions, please contact:

Manager, Customer relations
Katri Koskentalo
katri.koskentalo@canter.fi
+358 40 167 8971

 

Helvar is an international lighting technology company specialising in energy efficient components and solutions for lighting and lighting control systems. We aim to bring continuously more intelligent, easy-to-use, reliable lighting solutions for the different needs in the marketplace. Strong growth in LED and lighting controls will continue with a growing emphasis on the opportunities digitalisation will provide, the internet of things (IoT), human centric lighting and energy efficiency being key elements in the future of lighting.

Canter provides their clients with Adeona product data management solutions. With Adeona, it is possible to save all the information centrally in order to update and share them faster. Getting your product to the market becomes faster, and the results can be seen in the increase of customer satisfaction.

Product Information and Buying

This summer, our company will move to a new location. The renovation has just started, and I hope we’ll be in a shining new office that has been designed according to our needs. I’ll certainly write more about the new premises in our blog at a later time.

I have participated in the design of the new office, dealing with everything from the layout plan to cabling. During this process, I have learned about dozens of products and services that were new to me. As examples, I could mention glass walls, acoustic solutions, teamwork products, wall drawing boards, furniture, and AV technology, which all have become more familiar to me. Not everything has been a walk in the park.

In particular, companies that do B2B trading, product information availability varies greatly. Be it an online store, a website, or a product catalog, many businesses seem to assume that the customer will ask or know what they are looking for. With many products, even the basic data isn’t shown properly. This is my list of information I want to see when I’m looking for products:

  • Price: If the price or service is customizable, information on the effect on price
  • Availability or delivery time
  • Product properties: Technical specifications, dimensions, etc.
  • Product description: Where and what type of use the product is suitable for, e.g., consumer vs. office product
  • Images: If the product is related to interior decoration, illustrations in different environments
  • Services: What services are related to or available for the product: g., design, installation, transport, etc.
  • Where to ask, who to contact for details: For many products, I would have been a sure customer if the product page had had readily accessible information on which expert I can contact when in doubt
  • Reviews: What other customers are saying of this product

There’s been a lot of talk about how B2B trading is changing, and clients that are used to consumer online stores are expecting rock solid purchase and service experience also when buying online. The world definitely isn’t finished in this aspect. Products that don’t have complete information don’t sell. Fortunately, there are already some positive exceptions that stand out from the crowd. As for myself, I’ll do my business where the product information is extensive and up-to-date, and in this case the price isn’t always the decisive factor.

Read more about our solutions for product information management.

Product Information Management in Excel

I regularly visit clients to advise them on product information management and publishing automation. It may be a client who is just planning to obtain a PIM system, and it may be an experienced one with fine-tuned processes. Quite often when I am doing a consulting or training call, they ask me,

What is the usual way for solving product information management?

My usual response is showing them a picture:

tuotetiedonhallinta_excel_english

But there is a truth to the joke. Too often product information management issues have been solved with several parallel and overlapping Excel files. Sometimes the process has not been thought out or no one knows of anything better.

Excel is excellent in many places. Even our PIM product allows for mass updating product data or retrieving product information for refining or running reports on it using Excel files. Excel can be used as a CRM system, a BI tool etc. Excel is also certain to be the most used PIM system. It is easy to understand why Excel would be chosen as the tool: it is inexpensive, and the data model is flexible and familiar to many. It is also relatively easy to use it to transfer information to other systems.

However, Excel is not for everything. As a centralised product database is rarely works even to an adequate degree. Here are some reasons why:

Information security How is it ensured that the product data master has been backed up? Are backups made of the Excel files? Does the entire company’s product information travel around the world in a single user’s laptop? If a user makes local changes, is the workstation backed up? If the user accidentally deletes an entire worksheet, what happens? Are modifications logged? Can it be traced who modified what and when?

Data model
Although it is possible to model a variety of information types in an Excel file, how easily will it support:

  • modelling the different data models of different products (and guiding data entry accordingly)
  • defining inter-product relations and links
  • adding and managing product images and attachments
  • managing categories, groups and classifications

It is also industrious to build different rules and logic sets in Excel. How is it specified that some element is required?

Multi-user support
How does an Excel file support multiple people using it concurrently? Is the information required by different roles in different files? How is the information kept up-to-date? Is the latest information always available in the shared workbook or do users have a local copy of the files?

Images
How are product-related images managed in an Excel PIM solution? Probably in a separate shared folder? How are suitable versions made of the images for different channels? Automation, even in the simplest of tasks, will become difficult or impossible.

Searchability
How easy is it to find the products in Excel? If the data model is the slightest bit complex, information has probably been distributed across several files. If there are dozens or hundreds of thousands of products and each has a couple hundred attributes, you will end up with dozens of millions of cells in Excel. Not very excellent.

Integrations
How easy is it to create genuine system integration between Excel and an online store? A modern PIM system provides interfaces that Excel users can only dream of. For example, a JSON-based REST interface provides marvellous opportunities for easy system integration.

Usability
Is the Excel user interface developed for efficient product information maintenance? Hardly.

Channels
In the world of PIM, we talk of channels. This means how product information is used in different sales and marketing channels. How easy is it, for example, to get information from Excel to electronic channels or automated material printing processes?

Contact us, and we’ll tell you more about a real solution for product information management.