Posts

Julkaisuautomaatio markkinoinnin tehostaminen

Publishing automation in Finland

I have been working with database publishing and publishing automation for little over 10 years now, usually as a part of process development of our clients’ sales and marketing needs. Here are some of my thoughts in regards to the state of publishing automation in Finland currently.
First it’s good to note that despite long-standing transaction printing being based on mostly the same concepts and principles (data from multiple sources to one printer), I will not consider it a part of publishing automation here. Personally I see publishing automation in regards to how the (product) content is being published from one source to multiple channels or medias automatically. Read more on how Canter covers publishing automation here.

High quality data opens new opportunities for full-scale utilization of publishing automation

The use of publishing automation is Finland is very fragmented, and many applications with publishing process automation which could have lots of potential uses within companies do exist. The technology is constantly developing and making new and more modern solutions available.
In my view, the single biggest slowdown in spreading the solutions and getting the best out of the systems within companies is the poor quality of the data available. Typically this is the result of undeveloped information management practices and tools. Many of these companies still lack the understanding on how important a well-organized information management actually is. Luckily the digital tsunami has made many companies and management teams to understand how data and the quality of it are important for the entire business. Publishing automation is also based on high quality structured information, regardless of the channel it’s being used for.

Efficiency via publishing automation

I have noticed that in Finland many small companies have taken the process automation really far, which is quite natural when the business is being developed with small resources and efficiency is always in the center of everything. On the other hand there are also companies which do not think of these things at all, because the knowledge of technical solutions is lacking, or because a third party has always been in hired to supply printed catalogs and similar materials. Fortunately for SMEs, the range of solutions and expertise in the market has become more diverse. Solutions can be found in many price ranges, and every singe euro invested in the development will turn profits faster than before.

Renovation of information logistics is the lifeblood

Medium-sized companies are a mixed bag. There are companies which are still just starting up, and companies which have taken process automation really far. Industry-specific differences can also be significant. For example, many importers and wholesalers have found that maintaining information logistics is their lifeblood with intensifying and globalizing competition. The change in value chains can also be seen in how these companies have had to wake up to the development of information management and publishing automation.

Among the manufacturing industry I still see much work left to do with these things. With export-oriented businesses language version management is a common challenge, which in itself often serves as a powerful driver for optimizing and automating content and publishing processes.
Many of the greatest domestic growth tales involve an aspect where stopping and thinking of internal processes and procedures did simply not happen because all the focus, energy and hands had been caught up in business development and growth control. And at some point it was seen that the scaling and stretching of people was no longer possible or rational.

Publishing automation as a continuation to product information management

At Canter we think that the source of the information in publishing automation is irrelevant, as modern solutions are able to access information from multiple sources. Quality and structure still largely dictate whether automation is rational, what level of automation could be realistic to achieve and what kind of outcome could be achieved. For this reason I see publishing automation as a continuation to product information management (PIM).

Typically the PIM system acts as a centralized publishing database, but sometimes it may also be justified to make separate intermediate storage for different channels and publishing processes. If necessary the information can also be obtained from the company’s partners’ systems. PIM is usually a part of other operative systems, such as enterprise resource planning systems, which provide data that can be further processed and enriched in the PIM system for distribution and publishing. In some instances the product process could be built in such a way that PIM serves as a source of information and as a so-called product master that distributes data controlledly to all systems in use.

Let’s use data from where it already exists

Customer information, as well as other customizable content and variable data needed for printing are not typically replicated to PIM, but are usually read directly from their own sources and connected to the process before printing.
Customization in B2B environments, such as the production of customer-specific contract pricing lists, is usually based on the content of the PIM and ERP systems – sometimes also in the CRM content. For example this includes customer specific product information, price information and contractual or customized product information.

To conclude, there are a number of companies in our country that make use of the publishing automation systems, thus gaining a significant competitive advantage. With publishing automation it is possible to significantly improve marketing processes and improve multi-channel customer experience. There are even more companies that have not yet made use of the opportunities offered by the publishing automation systems for their businesses. As part of marketing automation the use of publishing automation will surely grow in the next few years.

Myyjä graafikkona salestool

Salesman as graphic designer – when everyone gets annoyed

Often sales personnel spend a lot of their work time creating all sorts of discount leaflets and other product information catalogs. For example they might create or compile price lists, product cards or customer-specific listings as an attachment to offers, because the marketing department doesn’t have the time or the skills to help. The sales personnel get annoyed because this takes up lots of their time and because it is boring copy paste job they wouldn’t really have the time, know-how or correct tools for.

On the other hand the marketing department might receive requests from the sales department to create personalized price lists or lists – which should be ready preferably the same day, or at the very least tomorrow because the offer needs to be sent to the client. Or they get asked to tune the self-made, copy-and-paste leaflets because they didn’t turn out visually appealing. The marketing department gets annoyed because this creates more work than they are able to deal with, because of how boring it is and because the sales personnel do not consider the brand uniformity at all when they create the leaflets.

If everyone gets annoyed, the outcome at worst can be visually appalling and content-wise lacking leaflets which take up lots of work time. If the sales personnel start working as graphic designers, does it make any sense to begin with?

All the time they have to spend on something other than making sales shows up in the profits instantly. And then everyone gets annoyed even more.

Luckily, there is a solution. Sales Tool creates good looking product information leaflets automatically, allowing the sales personnel to personalize them a bit – and then Sales Tool handles the rest. The end result is a ready, brand-related offer leaflet which even the marketing department is pleased with. And now everyone is happier.

According to customer feedback, the use of Sales Tool has helped many of our clients to achieve better results. For example IKH resellers sent us the following message:

Plaudits and big thanks to you for the Sales Tool! It works great, and now our sales space looks great when all the price tags are uniform. This saves unbelievable amounts of our time!

In the video below you can see how IKH uses Sales Tool to create their price tags.

You can have a look at other customer solutions from here.

Should you also free your sales personnel back to sellin? Contact us!

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.

canter_sieniasateella_blogi

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!