Top moments of 2016

We’ve left yet another year behind us and have started a new one. After the first two weeks I can easily say that the following 350 days will fly by us swiftly, as they usually do. With all the “Let’s do everything better this year” hype going around it’s good to remember that we’ve achieved a lot during 2016, and as such we’ve summarized the year in a list.

1. New office space

We love Spektri! We have furnishing by Martela, interior design and taping done by Jenni, and a brand-colored wall and soundproofed windows. We also have an oven, and during the latter part of the year we ate more croissants than ever before in our lives – combined. But the most important thing are the people here, so feel free to visit us and take a look!

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Welcome!

2. New friends and colleagues

In 2016 we (and our band) were joined by Abel, Turo, Mary, Ivar and Outi. It’s so great to have you guys with us!

3. Adventure Park Huippu

The day we spent at the adventure park Huippu was really something for those loving and fearing the heights alike. Jumping like Tarzan really showed us our true strength. If you’re looking for something more than just another day at the office, Huippu is most definitely worth a look.

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So cool!

4.Kettle Beast

During the last quarter of the past year it was time to let our actions speak louder than our words. During our Christmas party on 28.10. our office band Kettle Beast performed their first gig. Even the little issues with electricity didn’t slow them down, and the band was rocking, all of us were dancing and everybody was enjoying themselves. The first gig was far from being the last, and one and half months later they were playing again at our housewarming party. And they’ve already been booked again..

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Kettle Beast after their first gig.

5.Housewarming party

During December we had our housewarming party just three days after all the taping was finished. The house was full of clients and affiliates enjoying great food and drinks! We had good time, and according to the positive feedback so did our guests. Kettle Beast were better than ever before.

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Housewarming party in December.

6.Popcorn machine

We thought we’d be really unique and imaginative when we took a popcorn machine to the recruitment fair, but our dreams were quickly shattered by dozens of other people having the same exact idea. Oh well! The machine has been running in our kitchen ever since charming everyone, and I can tell you that many challenges have been succesfully dealt with with a popcorn bowl nearby.

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The machine that saved our days.

7.New clients

Last year we got to start new projects with Fredman Group, Leipuriliitto, Helvar and Orient Occident. It has been an honor to get to know you and to work with you in order to further business and product information management applications. Your needs and requirements allow us to develop as well.

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We and part of our new and old clients.

8.Old customers

” We only have nice customers”. This is a saying that can constantly be heard throughout the office, and it reminds us how behind every company and title there is always another person. We’ve been lucky to meet some great people to help us bring our development projects over the finish line, and to help us build a new and better ensemble. Thank you, for allowing us to work with you!

Here’s to a successful 2017!

Remember these image management tips

A well-functioning image production process is an integral part of successful product information management. An exemplary image production process and optimal master format enable efficient administration and optimal utilization of the images.

As part of product information management, we always define the image production process and an optimal master format together with our clients. Regrettably, many companies still utilize outdated information in their image production processes, or processes that are meant for another purpose entirely. When high-class utilization of images in multiple channels is needed, this matter requires particular attention.

To start, it is essential to know the big picture and all the contexts where the images will be used. This article primarily examines the management of thousands or tens of thousands of images, where the choices are guided by e.g. as straightforward a workflow as possible and a high level of automation. In other words: how to achieve a good basic quality as (cost-)efficiently as possible. One of the greatest challenges in the pipeline between digital and print is color management, which sometimes makes choices difficult.

There is no one single configuration that would apply always and for everyone, but in the following there are a few tips to help you get started, at the very least.

1. Master format (for photos)

JPG or PSD. A minimally compressed JPG works as a master image for almost all purposes. It supports color profiles and clipping paths. If you need the following features in master images, it is recommended to choose PSD (Photoshop) as master format.

  • Transparency
  • You want to preserve the Photoshop features of the original, e.g. layers.
  • It is worth your while to go through these carefully, so that the image works smoothly for all channels.
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A sample image from Martela’s photos.

Original image size 5760 x 3840 pixels. The original image has a lot of white background. File sizes when image is saved in different formats:

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For JPG images, the Photoshop Quality value is in parentheses.

The graph shows that, for example, using JPG (quality 10) in comparison to the original TIF gives up to a 99% reduction in file size.

2. Color space and color profile (for photos)

An RGB workflow enables high-quality image utilization in different channels. Today practically all images are photographed digitally, resulting in an original file in RGB mode. In RGB workflow the image is kept in RGB mode as long as possible. For printing purposes, the conversion to CMYK mode is done only for the material that is sent to the printing service, directly into the ICC profile that the service uses. All redundant profile conversions result in loss of image data, i.e. hues.

It is recommended to choose AdobeRGB or sRGB as master image ICC profile. It is usually a matter of taste, but Adobe RGB’s Gamut is slightly wider than sRGB’s. Browsers used to support only the sRGB profile, but today all the most common browsers know how to utilize also other ICC profiles, and color management works also within the browser. In this case it might be best to embed the profile into the image, resulting in slightly bigger file size.

3. Vector images and graphics

It is recommended to save vector images in AI (Adobe Illustrator) format or EPS format. The RGB instructions don’t necessarily apply to vector images. Logos, for example, use often spot colors, when the original color profile is to be left untouched.

Defining black in RGB -> CMYK conversions brings an extra challenge. For this reason graphics going to print are often produced and stored in CMYK mode.

4. Dimensions

The physical size of the master image, i.e. it’s dimensions, can be defined according to the largest known image size requirement. It is also possible to use the full-size original, but if, for instance, there are hundreds of thousands of products and product images, it may be wise to limit the size of the master image and thus optimize disk and data bandwidth usage. A correctly picked image format also helps in file size optimization.

5. As uniform a mass as possible

So that the processes for large numbers of images can be made as streamlined as possible, special attention needs to be paid that images from different sources are according to your instructions and in as uniform a format as possible. We do almost always help our clients communicate to their suppliers and partners about the used image formats. Photoshop automation can also help in harmonization of a large mass.

6. Utilization in different channels

Take into consideration all channels that are being used and how the images can be converted, as automatically as possible, in to the form required by the different channels. When e.g. PIM system automation is used to create versions of images for use in different channels, attention needs to be paid to, for instance, optimizing thumbnail image size (format, profile cleaning etc.). If web is the only channel, the process as a whole is a little easier to carry out. Then again, if one day there is a wish to use the images in print, the process built for web requirements may cause huge changes.

About the production processes

It pays to configure image production processes carefully. Also in this case a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Below an example of one image production process:

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We are also glad to help with anything image related. Go ahead and ask more, and we can tune also your image production process up to its peak.

More image production tips: https://www.shopify.com/blog/75481285-6-steps-to-streamline-your-product-photography-workflow

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.

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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.

Read more about working in Canter.

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.

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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 <3 Product Information

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.

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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.

New strengths in product development

Last spring, we got a new employee at the office with Abel starting with us as Full Stack Developer. Abel has now been working with Canter for half a year, and we interviewed him and asked him about his thoughts of the new job and work environment. The developer, who formerly worked at Aalto University, where he also graduated, says he has been well received at his new job.

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I knew nothing of Canter before I was contacted and started actively looking for information. I arrived at the interview and ended up working here. I was very positively welcomed and immediately got to working with new, interesting challenges.

When asked about his goals, the answer is prompt.

At the moment, I’m working with our next-generation product version, and the goal is to take this project further according to the project timeline together with Janne and Tuomas. I have learned plenty of new things in a short time, and this type of work and learning fits me like a glove. I like it that I have the opportunity to develop every day.

Getting to know the new work environment and workmates has also been smooth.

The people here are very extrovert and helpful to each other, which is something that helps solve even the greater challenges quickly. What has been surprising is that we also have some people who are very talented musically, and that I admire greatly :-)

Would you like to be part of our growing and developing team? 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”!

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.