Beiträge

Presenting: The Edge

In this last post of 2013, a few words about symbols, and about beginnings, journeys, and shoes. Our logo was created 12 years ago with the inaugural release of Agility. The diagram below, from the original data sheet, gives an idea of how this:

Agility Multichannel Logo

grew out of this:

Inspiration for the Agility Multichannel LogoHere’s some of the text that accompanied that diagram from 2001:

mens shoesTHE NEED: Today, managing product information and promotional content for your business is complex. Your company could be managing online as well as offline promotions; publishing in multiple languages in many countries; maintaining product data for products in a variety of different sizes and standards. Take this example, for instance: the size of men’s shoes is not the same everywhere. If you think that your shoe size is nine in North America, good luck finding a fit in France, where you should actually be looking for a size 43 or in Japan, where you are a size 27. In today’s marketplace managing one shoe SKU with its multiple size attributes in your database can turn into a headache… multiply this by your 20,000 SKUs with their multiple attributes and product descriptions and you’re heading for chaos.

THE SOLUTION: Greater flexibility and scalability. Agility includes our unique EDGE technology, which gives product managers and IT teams the ability to link objects, the basic building blocks of the data structure, into an infinite variety of taxonomies to describe product assortments, digital media assets and campaign plans.

This is a good time of year to look back. As a company made up largely of people who have worked together for a very long time, it’s good to be reminded of that original intent.  We’re happy to say that because we set off on the right foot and in the right direction, with the right data structure and building blocks, Agility, with the input of innovative and dedicated customers, has developed in sync with the leading edge of technological advancement. Product Information Management is no longer just an IT or product management issue. It’s central and essential to every department and stakeholder in every commercial enterprise. The company with 20,000 SKUS in 2001 now has hundreds of thousands, with more assets and attributes per product feeding into more channels than most of us could have imagined back then.  But the basic idea behind that original mission statement remains true today. Shoe styles have changed, but feet are the same as ever. And it’s people after all who matter most. All of us at Agility Multichannel thank all of you for coming on this journey with us, for pushing us, challenging us, keeping us on track, and making our job a pleasure. And we wish you and your families the very best for 2014 and beyond.  Cheers!

Internet Retailing, 2013 Conference

We’re back in the office today after a full day yesterday at Internet Retailing’s London conference. There were many interesting speakers, presentations and workshops, and we did manage to sneak away and catch some of them. Still,  this was our home for most of the day. Lots of people stopped by, and that was great, so we’re not complaining. By the way, this event was sponsored by Demandware and, in case you missed it, just last month we were pleased to announce that we’d become one of their technology partners. Demandware Commerce clients can now implement Agility® product information management software in a fraction of the normal time. With 100% of the sophistication that comes with the simplest PIM on the planet.

Simplicity

We were incredibly gratified last month to learn that Ventana Research had given us their Technology Innovation Award, which honors „pioneers who have developed clear visionary and transformative technology, going above and beyond to introduce new advancements in use of technology, analytics and information.“ Ventana Research CEO and Chief Research Officer Mark Smith has written a thorough explanation of why we were singled out, and you can read that here. I’m personally grateful for the thoughtful analysis and perspective and I like every word of it. But if I had to pick two favorites they’d be “simple” and “sophisticated.” Product information management and master data management are often referred to as internal plumbing. That’s not a very sophisticated metaphor, but to push it further: if you’ve ever remodeled a bathroom, you know that, so long as you can pay for it, nothing you can dream up to do will faze your contractor in the least, except when it comes to moving the soil stack, which is not for the faint of heart.  I hate to say it but that’s how PIM is too often viewed. The kind of thing you hope you’ll never have to change. But every product-centric company has to come to terms with it at some point. What usually happens is that one day it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that there are too many silos of data; that departments are duplicating tasks; that results are inconsistent; that the status quo is getting in the way of progress and growth. The pressure is building to get more products to more channels, quicker, with richer data. And that’s when someone finally decides to have a look at the plumbing. The thing every department has its own unique reasons for not wanting to mess with.faucets Two years ago, after about 200 man/woman-years of customer-led R&D, we took stock. We felt pretty confident about our software’s functionality. And we realized that there probably wasn’t a unique customer requirement that we hadn’t seen and accommodated. But getting an entire organization, top to bottom, right to left, to sign on to a major overhaul of a central, essential process, even when their existing one is admittedly out of date and woefully inefficient? Well, that was still usually a very tough, painfully drawn-out exercise. We found that what was sorely lacking in the PIM space in general was the kind of simplicity and elegance of design that makes technology easy and even pleasurable to use. So that every stakeholder can look past the immediate challenges of remodeling the enterprise, to readily see and experience the value and benefits. We decided then to make simplicity our development mindset and company-wide mantra. We would never stop pushing ourselves to add new and improved features, but we gave ourselves the added challenge of making Agility® the simplest PIM available. Configuration, workflow, reporting, syndication to ecommerce platforms, iPad and Page Design capabilities, and so on. Every element was re-examined, re-assessed, simplified. We’re especially chuffed about our brand new Agility Modular Interface (we like to call it AMI, with a French accent) that lets every individual user in every department tailor our software according to their own needs. Choose a role and workspace, customize it with some nifty pre-built gadgets and drop-and-drag tools, and go. No need for the IT specialist. It looks good, feels good, works great, right away, no matter where you sit. And it’s something that hasn’t been done before. Managing product data, as most people reading this will understand all too well, is extremely complex. It’s touched by individuals in every department – creative, ecommerce, content managers, product managers, merchants, translators, vendors, et al; it’s enriched, approved, syndicated, designed with, and relied on for accuracy, at every level and every point of customer interaction. It has to be trustworthy and richly Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Self-Portraitmultidimensional. It has to smoothly flow into ecommerce and other enterprise applications and feed an ever-growing number of channels and touch points. Again, it’s inherently complex and cumbersome, and we couldn’t be prouder to have won an award for making it simple. But of course it isn’t merely simple. In the words of someone not often quoted in our trade, Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Leonardo's sketch of a valve flush toilet

And because in googling him I just stumbled upon a design he made of a flush valve toilet that in its day would certainly have been worthy of a Technology Innovation Award, and because it nicely closes the circle on all this potty talk, I’ll say no more and leave you with it here. Thanks for reading!

Richard Hunt, CEO, Agility Multichannel

Leonardo’s sketch of a valve flush toilet

2013 European e-Commerce Workshop

With apologies to the rest of the world, we believe we have the prettiest workshop settings and best looking customers Full Stop