Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software fills a critical “hub” role that provides visibility and control across sales-related business functions. While it can greatly improve a business’s efficiency, an ERP is less than ideal for managing and publishing product data. When we take a deeper look at the role of the ERP vs. the role of a Product Information Management system (PIM), it becomes clear that PIM is the better choice for managing and flowing product data to customer channels.
The ERP as Command Post
The purpose of an ERP is to organize and optimize business processes. An ERP integrates all of a company’s internal sources of information to give management a central command-post view of critical “back-end” operational data. This data typically includes:
- Parts lists, including customer-facing part number, selling units, package quantities
- Supplier name and supplier part number
- A very short part description – just enough to identify the particular SKU and print on the invoice
- Inventory levels by warehouse and/or retail location
- Part costs and price lists
- Shipping, hazmat, legal, environmental or other handling advisories
- Codes such as sales regions, sales reps, countries, regions, etc.
One of the chief benefits of an ERP is information sharing between functional departments. The ERP connects the information “silos” across an organization. From this central depository — sales, finance, purchasing, logistics, marketing and other key departments — can easily access information that would otherwise be invisible or difficult to obtain.
As powerful as the ERP is, it proves inadequate for effectively managing all of the product data for tens or hundreds of thousands of SKUs. Product information stored within the ERP is rudimentary. This minimal data is not intended to be customer-facing.
In addition, the ERP lacks the flexibility and granularity required to organize and enrich product data. For example, it may be nearly impossible to add a data field to the ERP, expand a one-line product description to even a single paragraph, or change a data field parameter. It’s extremely challenging to utilize an ERP efficiently to publish product information to multiple customer channels such as websites, marketplaces and print.
PIM for Omnichannel Publishing
Businesses need a robust tool that can allow them to craft, manage and publish product information to digital and print channels. Furthermore, a business needs to handle this mountain of information efficiently. Enter the PIM. A good PIM solution does all of this, and more:
- Provides an open system for integration, both upstream to ERPs and downstream to commerce channels (print, online store, tablet, phone apps)
- Allows product hierarchies to be defined and modified
- Permits an infinite number of object types and attributes
- Supports channel-specific categorization and multiple catalogues per channel
- Uses integrated data quality tools to cleanse and improve overall product data
- Enables global product updates across the entire database as well as localized changes for specific situations
- Stores assets such as photography, manuals, schematics as well as product descriptions
- Is limited only to the parameters of the data model
- Supports multi-language publishing
- Can extend the useful life of an older ERP by providing functionality beyond the ERP’s capabilities.
Key point: The PIM will interface with the ERP just as other internal systems do. The best PIM products allow multi-directional communication to and from the ERP. For example, the PIM can pull prices from a price file to publish in a print catalog. New products can be created in the PIM first, and key data transmitted back to the ERP when the products are ready for launch. An API connector is the typical link between the PIM and the ERP.
ERP and PIM: Like Making a Movie
To illustrate the complimentary roles of the ERP and the PIM, think of a motion picture production.
The ERP represents the off-screen side of the studio: the finances, the logistics, the contracts with talent, the physical production locations and the distribution agreements.
The PIM is the stage or location where the actors, directors, film crews, editors and supporting crew create and produce the final product that you, the consumer, see on the screen.
The ERP and the PIM are interdependent. And vital for a successful business.
To have your product information strategy take center stage, contact our PIM experts to see why thousands of marketing and commerce professionals worldwide rely on Agility to manage their product information.