Distributed or centralised product information management?

Often when a client is about to commence product information management rollout, we discuss the model of management and the processes used for it. There is no universal, correct answer to this question. Naturally, there is a vast range of options for the process, but here we will make the division into centralised and distributed management.

In the centralised model, product information is entered into the system by a few employees who specialise in this task. They receive product information from other actors in the organisation, such as product managers, buyers or the marketing department, and then refine that information as needed before it is entered into the system.

In the distributed model, the maintenance tasks have been distributed among several people across the organisation. In this way, a single person will not spend that long carrying out the task but, on the other hand, consistency may be compromised. Should the product descriptions sound like your company? The product information refining process is closely related to the ERP product process, and thus it is worth thinking of these two as a whole.

In addition, note the following:

  • are there country-specific variations in the assortment or products?
  • how has the translation process been managed?
  • quantity and quality of product information to be saved:how much and what type of data is collected for the products?
  • where, in what format and in how “finished” a state is product information obtained:how much is there a need to modify the data before entry into the system?
  • what differences are there between product groups in the data to be refined?
  • what are the desired and possible organisation methods of information management?
  • information supply chain management (ISCM) and authority relationships
  • how often is the product assortment updated, new products introduced, old ones updated or deleted?

Which model would work better for you? The choice is partly influence by the competence and existing roles of the personnel. Will product information be available from vendors or manufacturers or will it be mostly produced by you? In many cases, there are different responsibilities for different product data. For example, a product manager is responsible for the technical data of a product while the marketing people are responsible for the images. The marketing texts may be a shared responsibility. Making process choice can be a strategic or tactical decision. What is the goal? Are you seeking long-term benefits and differentiation or efficiency in the beginning?

Whichever your company chooses, we are the supplier that will walk with you all the way, from the beginning. We will support you, help you and together with you find the model that best suits your needs.

Are you interested? Ask for more:
Janne Costiander
janne.costiander@canter.fi
+358 50 552 1054

Software Companies and Work Culture Changes

In Finland there is much talk about raising the retirement age, unemployment, changing work culture and how our society can be brought back on the growth path and how economic challenges can be resolved. There is enough material here to write numerous blog posts, but for now I will focus on the changing work culture and on some solutions to bringing our society back on the growth path.

Working life and work culture have changed significantly in the past 15 years or so, during which I have been full-time employed. Gradually organizations and leadership theories have changed direction and now encourage more conversation and working in groups and sharing decisions and responsibilities with those in the organization that are experts and there is also a strong desire to keep organizational structures as low as possible. All of these trends are obvious at Canter and they have brought many improvements to the way that this company operates. Regardless of one’s role in the company, all matters are discussed and resolved together in such a way that everybody is clear about the plans and the role that they play and their own duties. Motivation is strong when one gets to participate in considering choices and in making decisions and in enjoying the results of the work together as a team. In an open and conversational work culture it is also very important to pay attention to individual differences and to offer sufficient support and direction to those who are not as active or extroverted.  At Canter it is possible for any employee to go and have a talk even with the CEO. This creates a positive workplace atmosphere, a collaborative work effort and everybody pulling together to reach goals. Everybody here is working as a team and not just for the sake of ”production”.

The changes in work culture also reflect in customer service and sales. As recently as 10 years ago, many software companies tried to keep all of their own information very secret and told their customers and partners only what was deemed necessary and most sales consisted of cold calls and meetings with clientele to introduce the product or services. Nowadays many software companies, like Canter, have opted for rather open collaboration with their clientele and partners. This means that in example, much information is offered in regard to the products and interfaces, which many parties can benefit from and product and service development needs and directions are openly discussed with the clientele. In sales more emphasis is put on marketing and electronic channels in order to identify the potential clientele that has true need for and interest in the products and services offered. Conversations about how these clients can be served best will follow the initial contact. Also clientele behavior has changed much over the years. Previously it was typical for a client to ask for what they needed from the provider, but there was no real collaboration. Nowadays clients will actively collaborate with providers. They participate in making choices collaboratively and ask about alternatives openly and participate in planning on how to best achieve the desired results together with the provider. The work culture will see much change in the coming years, for example, with the ever increasing field of telecommuting and the clientele involving more providers and service providers in their own business development and software companies offering products and services more than ever before to their partners and for the benefit of other parties who bring in clientele. We will all win when we collaborate and share information more openly.

Petri Lehmus
Account Executive
Canter Oy

Our Future Experts

Here at Canter we believe in working in the spirit of cooperation, having open dialogue and supporting the future career paths of all of our team members. We aim at helping our current talented experts grow and find their own future paths because things go well when everybody is clear about their own direction and also supports the growth of the company and the service we provide to our great customers. Competition for experts is growing more heated every day and for years we have supported the young inexperienced future experts in their efforts to enter the workforce and to grow with us in building powerful work experiences and in developing their own career paths.

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At the beginning of this year I received a great opportunity to participate as a volunteer with the Finnish Mentors (Suomen Mentorit) in order to help our future experts enter the workforce and find their own paths. Although I did have some previous experience with working life related mentoring, this was the first time ever that I had a chance to mentor freshly college graduated youth full of enthusiasm, talent and potential. Mentoring is a bit similar to active participation in the modern work culture in the fact that whether one is mentoring a new graduate seeking for their own professional direction or an already seasoned professional, it is the mentor’s duty to help the seekers find the direction they want to be headed toward in their careers and to empower the talent to make their own choices in regard to their own future. Many times in working life it is the superiors of an expert who decide their career path without talking with the expert and this often leads to weakened motivation on the part of the expert as well as diminished work performance and huge loss of human potential. Fortunately there are already many businesses, like Canter, that encourage the expert’s own choices regarding their career path.

Mentoring is one way to help future experts enter into the workforce. The future of our country is in the youth and it is of utmost importance that those with more experience offer their assistance to these beginners and challenge them to think about the direction that they want their careers to take and support the youth with their own visions and expertise so that the young do not choose a career path full of pitfalls. It is perfectly clear that once a young person finds the right path for them, they are more motivated and achieve better results and give their personal best to support the development and economic growth of our country.

Besides all the larger improvements and developments needed in our society, every single one of us within the workforce can help and support the youth by, in example, having conversations with them and by sharing our own visions and experiences with them. This will help our youth in becoming our future experts and will ensure our society’s ability to compete successfully in the international marketplaces.

Petri Lehmus
Account Executive
Canter Oy

Orient Occident has chosen Canter for their product information management partner

Orient Occident and Canter have started a collaboration.

 

”Creating price catalogs has been challenging for us. With the Adeona Sales Tool we are able to crate the catalogs automatically, with an uniform look. By doing this, we are able to dedicate more time for our clients and into closing sales.”

Managing Director Mikko Puputti

Other advantages of using the centralized Adeona-PIM solution in the first place were e.g., being able to swiftly create stunning offers with photos. In addition, photos and other enriching product information can also be added to the ERP system. There are also plans to expand the usage of Adeona in the future.

Are you interested? For more information about our PIM solutions, please contact:
Janne Costiander
050 552 1054
janne.costiander@canter.fi

 

Orient Occident is a local family business.  The company imports interior textiles, floor coverings and carpets. The high quality interior design products and services are marketed for producers, retailers and other influential bodies and decision-makers in industry. www.orientoccident.fi.

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. You can read more about the company at:https://www.canter.fi/en/company/

Product information is our most important capital

A few weeks ago, I was with a client who stated that in future, product information will be their most important capital. Products are sold through high-quality product information and it allows them to reach big targets, such as doubling sales revenue over the next couple of yers. For example, maintaining an online shop without […]

Sales, more sales, video  

kissavideo_canter_blogi

Would you rather watch this blog post on video? Image borrowed from https://healthyguide.net/

I admit it, I am pretty lazy. When I’m shopping online, I tend to spend only about 15 seconds on a single page – especially if there is nothing to grab my attention right from the start, or if I’m not finding what I’m looking for. My worst turn-off is badly presented content. Pretty pictures will make it easier to stay on the site, but if for example the photo gallery doesn’t work with the arrow keys, I tend to just give up before long as using the mouse from the bed is too much of an effort. I also read very selectively: large feature posts, sub-headers and maybe the reviews. If I am extremely interested in the content, I just might read the small print and the actual body text.

But how about a video? Those I’ll watch pretty much every single time – especially if they’re short ones. I’ve bought more than enough dresses online because of a compelling product video. Nowadays I know that photos often lie, but I feel that a video is more concrete, more informative and more truthful.

Me and I’m guessing everybody else never reads a manual, but when I’m having problems I always have some time for few minutes long how-to video. With the advent of multiple new channels and everything becoming social, the end users are creating these videos themselves as well. You can find out how the product actually performs by watching a short YouTube or Snapchat video someone posted.

I believe that most people are like me – lazy, who believe when they see. Moving images work better and demand less from us. According to recent case studies, product videos can increase the conversion rate of a web-store by up to 85%. Google is also giving higher search result ranks to sites with videos. Maybe my next blog post too should be a video…

Videos are an important part of enriched product information – in addition to being informative and sometimes even entertaining, at best they can be the factor that makes the customer decide to buy the product, and increase your sales. Does your company already have a solution to tackle this new frontier? Look into Adeona PIM solutions for product information management and publishing.

Could you utilize existing data more, so that the customer experience would always be high quality? 

This title is a direct quote from the Trade Union’s e-commerce education presentation by CGI’s Mikko Kuusisto. We were participating in a training of experts involved in e-commerce. The discussion in this event proceeded very fast into customer experience and its improvement. This topic is popular right now, and for a reason. Both good and bad service experiences spread faster than before and reach across multiple channels to ever increasing audiences. All of these experiences are also shared more daringly.

How do product information and customer experience in an online store relate to each other? The picture below tells the story. The most important parts of an online store are considered to be the product image, product features, product description and product reviews.

All of these details are associated with product data. Often this product data is stored in several places, based on each user’s preferences. One person’s excel looks one way, another person’s word file another way, and somebody else’s files look distinctly different. Product photos are stored in each user’s personal files, on the desktop or “where they are easy to find.” In a rush a wrong picture might be published with wrong information. If a customer cannot find what they want, there will be no sale.

It is possible to vastly improve the customer experience with already existing product data. Compilation of information in one place, for example in the PIM system, makes updating the product data more systematic. This way nobody has to look for “the right image” or wonder about a suitable marketing message. When product information is aggregated in one place, product data enrichment becomes easier. Everyone will have access to the same information in one place. Also, this way errors will be minimized.

Some of our customers have faced challenges with product data management.  You can view the solutions to their problems here.

Demands for Product Information are growing

Digitalization creates pressures concerning product information within an organization. Ever more extensive product information in a standardized format is being requested and demanded. During this fall I have had discussions every week with clients who are confronted with this challenge.

Wholesalers have set up their own e-commerce and supporting PIM systems. The goal is to create a process where product information is available collected from suppliers easily in a uniform structural format. This way, the products may be opened quickly in the systems and are ready to be ordered (time-to-market), and own work for collecting product information is minimized.

Suppliers experience this as pressure. Different retailers need product information – each in their own, slightly varying format. Filling Excel spreadsheets with information from thousands of products or offering product images named with EAN/GTIN codes or the client’s codes requires extremely heavy manual labor or may even be impossible. The challenges are very similar, independent of the size of the company. An enormous amount of energy is consumed doing routine work and the end result contains a considerable amount of errors.

Simultaneously, the company should also invest in its digital visibility and marketing. How to find the right balance and make use of work that has already been done? The unavoidable question arises, whether the time consumed in manual Excel use could be used more efficiently in increasing the visibility of the organization?

We have already succeeded in addressing these challenges with several clients, and the results have been magnificent. Besides mandatory product information listings, it is, for example, possible to automatically produce impressive client specific price lists with images – with the clients range of products assortment and prices. One of the successful examples is our client, Amo.

Watch the video and read of how the importer of toys Amo solved the challenge.

Customer needs are concrete in nature

Often, the customers’ needs regarding product information management or publishing automation are very concrete and their benefits directly observed. I was visiting a customer who produces instruction manuals for their products in numerous languages. At the moment, these manuals are produced fully manually, which means that the text and images are laid onto an InDesign document which gets converted into a PDF-file. The finished instruction manual gets saved onto the system as a PDF, which then gets shared onto websites etc.

As the brand image has recently changed, the instruction manual’s back cover needs updated, meaning that the change will apply to all instruction manuals. There are not overwhelmingly many of the products that require these manuals, only around 500. However, they get translated into several languages so the overall amount is significantly larger. Let’s assume that there are five languages, which then makes the overall number of these manuals around 2500.

The manual changing process goes as follows:

  1. The original file gets downloaded from the system onto the user’s work station
  2. The user replaces the back cover or adds the necessary changes
  3. The instruction manual gets converted into a PDF-file
  4. The produced PDF-file and its page layout file get saved into the system where it can be used again for websites etc.

This process takes around 5 minutes per document. Going through all the documents, this will take 12,500 minutes which is over 200 hours, or 30 full working days. In practice this means that one individual in the business would be making these changes to the documents for six working weeks. Thus, the job that seemed so insignificant at first actually takes a significant amount of time. In reality, the documents are translated into many more languages than given in this example.

This problem can be easily solved through publishing automation. These instruction manuals could be produced and saved automatically which would also mean that the updated documents would be quickly available in the system as the changes are processed.

An example of one of Adobe InDesign-based publishing automation: