Investing in product information management directly affects both the company’s competitiveness and the efficiency of internal processes. At the heart of success is a management model that takes product information management into account as part of the company’s strategy and authorizes the loss of responsibility through clear processes. Product information management is managed with an open and long-term approach.
Product information management is not an IT project. It is a strategic choice, and requires leadership, implementation, and patience to succeed. What are the biggest pitfalls of product information management and how can they be avoided?
“Implementing product information management is a change process. The process usually starts where the pain is greatest, that is, where data management is at a concrete level. However, the change cannot be confined to one unit but must cover the entire company with its different levels. It requires a change in practices, but in particular, it requires the ability to lead change. The change must be led in the long run” says Minna Andersson, Canter’s Head of Sales and Marketing.
When a company’s mission is to create more impressive product experiences, it also materializes for the end user – through the implementation of organized product information management.
The importance of product information plays a major role in the customer’s purchase decision. As many as 76% of the respondents to the “Product Information Management in Finland in 2021” survey conducted by Canter and the research office Vastakaiku considered the importance of product information and product contents to be highly important for the customer’s purchase decision.
“Easy access to information also affects the customer’s place of purchase. Product information enriches content, creates new marketing opportunities and thus makes the company stand out from the competition,” says Panu Erola, Vastakaiku’s strategic research consultant.
Change is an opportunity for leadership
Permanent change requires long-term leadership. Good management is a prerequisite for success in the implementation and systematic use of product information management.
“As the process progresses, a wide variety of emotions arise. It can be a major crisis for a professional who manages an organization’s knowledge, a place of inadequacy for another, and a growth experience that inspires professional enthusiasm for a third. The awakened emotional states of all must be recognized and taken into account, as change requires mental endurance and encouragement. Only then can the organisation’s joint development in product information management continue,”Andersson explains.
Challenges posed by Covid19
Respondents to the Product Information Management in Finland survey estimate that sales of digital channels will double in the coming years. The biggest growth was in e-commerce, digital services, applications, websites and social media.
“Corona put the companies in the middle of a new situation. One had to learn to act quickly in a way that was only a goal for some companies within a few years. Dare to step into a new norm paid off. Online trading and virtual events became part of the everyday life of companies,” lists Katariina Tenhunen, CEO of Vastakaiku.
57% of companies with product information management in use experienced improved competitiveness during the pandemic, while only 33% of those without product information management felt that their competitiveness had improved. 84% of respondents consider centralized product information management to be a critical factor for future success.
The pitfalls of Product Information Management
Product information management must be based on a strategic understanding of what is to be done and what is to be changed. If the overall picture is not stopped, development becomes challenging and easily drifts into sub-optimization.
Another major stumbling block is the lack of understanding and support.
“There may be people within a company who are willing to drive change, but without the support of business management, the enthusiasm of those cannot be harnessed and implemented for others. Lack of support also automatically affects resourcing. When an issue is not seen as significant at the management level, it is also not allocated working hours or a budget,” says Andersson.
It is never too late to wake up to the current situation and strive for change in product information management.
Organizational attitude and understanding
Nothing comes by commanding or waiting. But with leadership.
Many of the respondents to the survey pointed out that their own desire to invest in the product information management process was dampened because other staff did not see the issue as important. When the overall picture is not clear, it is not possible to detect its far-reaching nature either. This, in turn, only makes the moment standing and tempos about doing. It is especially important to focus on what is being developed and with what mentality.
“Product information management should be at the heart of the business and have peace to develop. Perseverance and thematic advancement create the foundation on which to develop a strong future,” says Andersson.
How to influence the attitudes in the company and create commitment?
In a company where information is power, the introduction of product information management can cause its own challenges and a sense of being threatened by some individuals. Then it is paramount to communicate what is happening and why, how product information management helps everyone – including those responsible for information – and how many positive things it can bring to everyone’s job description as information sharing becomes open and transparent.
“An employee can get more pleasant and extensive work tasks when time is freed up from copying and reviewing information to other things. People are involved in change when they know how they can benefit from it,” says Andersson.
Excerpt from the Product Information Management in Finland 2021 survey
“how has the competitiveness of your company changed in the market with the corona pandemic? 1 – very much weakened, 5 – very much improved
Top left: (companies with) PIM in use
Left center: (companies with) PIM not in use
Lower left: All respondents“
Dialogue and transparency
The product information management process requires a two-way dialogue from the organization; horizontal and vertical, but also transparency towards customers and partners.
“It is essential for product information managers to make their own work visible in the organization and to be able to communicate openly upwards so that management stays on the map and knows how critical it is,” says Patrik Palatz, CEO of Canter.
Organization and responsibilities
If the division of responsibilities for product information management is unclear, it will inevitably pose challenges.
The absence of a person in charge of product information management in one’s own unit can also lead to a detached and decentralized understanding, in which case the entire organization suffers from sprinkled information and its management.
“Everything starts with business and organizational DNA. What kind of management system does the company have? It’s not worth bringing too different a new way to everyday life that goes against an organization’s normal corporate culture,” Palatz explains.
Who or what team is responsible for data and knowledge capital development, who is responsible for information and content themselves? Data ownership can be decentralized, different sections can be responsible for different content. However, so that everyone has a role to play and everyone is communicated transparently within the organization.
“When responsibilities are shared in an organization in an organized way, things work,” Canter CEO Palatz continues.
It is important to remember that it is not just a project but bringing product information management into the organization is a strategic choice. It has to be kept in mind all the time.
In what role can the person in charge be responsible for product information management? In some companies, the responsibility lies in marketing, in others at the IT end.
“The key is to find those executives who are committed to the knowledge capital development project and architectural development. However, strategic development plays a key role, so the dissemination of information through key personnel should take place for everyone, everywhere,” Palatz explains.
Operating models and processes
When a company invests in product information management and knowledge capital development, it begins to show in everything it does. The information is better up-to-date and comprehensively displayed and the information is available to all departments. The system supports doing and and doing business.
Clear operating models and processes support the management of product information management and ensure consistency in everyday life. Agreed operating models play a big role.
“The product information management process is teamwork. Management openness and the systematic advancement of the matter with the support of team leaders, as well as general communication bring results over time. The understanding of goal setting and the message cannot be outsourced to the recipient of the message, therefore the clearest possible communication and open atmosphere support the process in the best way,”Palatz concludes.
At its best, product information management creates a lot of opportunities for a company. As customer needs grow and they increasingly demand information service in addition to purchasing behavior, product information management is an essential tool for maintaining and growing the customer base.
“Product information management creates competitive advantage and differentiation from competitors,” Palatz sums up.
5 tips for the Product Information Management process
- Product information management must be managed: commitment comes from leadership.
- Involve the entire ecosystem from the start – documentation saves time and effort.
- Product information management requires a lot of resources at first, but over time it makes life easier and eliminates unnecessary duplication.
- Everything is done with the customer in mind.
- One thing at a time: not everything can be done right away, it is an ongoing process.
The text is based on the Product Information Management webinar held on March 25, 2021, which you can watch here (in Finnish). The topic of the webinar is Managing Product Information Management – typical stumbling blocks and avoiding them. The webinar will also cover the Product Information Management in Finland research conducted by Canter’s experts and the research agency Vastakaiku Oy. The main goal of the study was to map what is the current state of product information management, challenges, significance for the company’s competitiveness and what product information management will give the company in the future.
The respondents were mainly professionals and experts working in product information management who have to look at the issue from a management perspective. The study obtained an even distribution of companies of different sizes from different industries.