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Some say a supply chain is only as good as its data, but that’s only half true. If the people who need it to make timely decisions can’t get to it, the best data in the world won’t help.

Unfortunately, with the proliferation of data from disparate sources that are maintained in myriad applications, one of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today is inaccessible, inaccurate, or missing data. Without timely access to accurate product information, for example, product innovation and commercialization slows, as does communication between suppliers and selling partners. Ultimately, this means the business’s ability to innovate and grow revenue is stunted.

The Value of Product Information Management

Recent research from the Aberdeen Group found that organizations using a product information management (PIM) system achieve significant competitive advantages. Compared to their competitors, PIM users are:

  • 4.6% more likely to bring new product introductions to market more effectively in time, volume, and quality
  • 1.6% more effective at delivering more quality products efficiently and on time
  • 45% higher in their performance to plan in terms of operating margin

The research also found year-over-year performance advantages that suggests PIM users’ results “are sustainable and come at a faster pace, compared to competitors.” This, according to the Aberdeen Group report, indicates that “the performance advantage will continue to widen.” Specific year-over-year improvements cited in the research include:

  • 4.7x greater production output
  • 55% higher production launch rate
  • 75% higher inventory accuracy
  • 45% higher customer satisfaction

Opening Up the Possibilities of the Cloud

Increasingly, the new best practice is to have accurate data available at all times to all parties in the supply chain. Some call this 360-degree availability. Once thought of as a holy grail (i.e., an impossibility due to technology’s shortcomings), it’s now not only possible—with the cloud, it’s easier than you might think.

The cloud offers a number of advantages over on-premises PIM systems. Cloud-based solutions are easier and less costly to deploy and maintain; offer more flexibility and scalability; and deliver product updates more regularly with little to no IT involvement.

Cloud-based PIM solutions also have rich product features to address enterprise-wide use cases. More importantly, cloud-based PIM solutions offer a faster roadmap to address requirements as your business evolves. Additionally, all users can interact with the cloud system using any device, including a PC, tablet, or smart phone, from anywhere.

Cloud systems also allow for a single database that everyone can see and update according to common governance standards, which supports increased collaboration across the supply chain.

By moving PIM to the cloud, companies can harness the full capabilities of clean and accurate data to promote innovation, decrease cost of quality, exceed customer expectations, and drive revenue. Business processes where companies can experience step-change improvement with cloud-based PIM include:

  • Simplifying item mastering: Standardizing and integrating item master data eliminates latency and inaccurate product information.
  • Speeding product commercialization: Running supply chain and ERP processes with clean and consistent product data accelerates time to market, reduces costs, and improves customer satisfaction, which helps increase market share.
  • Streamlining omnichannel commerce: Delivering complete and reliable product information across sales channels (web, print catalogs, mobile, and bricks-and-mortar stores), as well as ERP and order fulfillment systems, increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Strengthening trading partner collaboration: Providing and receiving data via supplier portals and automated web services reduces financial risk, missed deadlines, and lost market opportunities.

The End Game Is an End-to-End Supply Chain

As critical as these competitive advantages are, however, the biggest benefits of implementing cloud-based PIM await the forward-thinking executives who understand the end-game. For them, solving the “bad product data” problem and achieving such competitive advantages—as critical as they are—are just the beginning.

These executives are working toward implementing a complete end-to-end, integrated business process that Gartner calls Stage 5 in its Supply Chain Maturity Model. At this stage, the business is no longer merely working to achieve greater efficiency in current operations; it is implementing a business operating model focused on value creation, where it “is capable of creating value and shaping demand through a fully integrated digital ecosystem,” according to Gartner.

To that end, Oracle Product Hub Cloud—the PIM application which is foundational to the end-to-end Oracle SCM and ERP Cloud system—provides organizations with a vital path toward supply chain maturity. Oracle Product Hub Cloud connects directly to existing ERP and supply chain systems, whether they are hybrid or on-premises, Oracle or non-Oracle, giving businesses the integration required for digital transformation of their supply chains. Oracle Product Hub Cloud also can ingest data from existing supply chain management tools, as well as manual processes, including flat files or spreadsheets. With embedded social, mobile, and reporting capabilities, it also enhances business collaboration and efficiency.

Those who have implemented cloud-based PIM say that doing so provided a business process framework around the company’s master data management. They say the implementation itself reinforces or spurs a new way of thinking about the supply chain—a mindset change that some say is the biggest barrier to achieving Stage 5.

“The change management process and a lot of the workflow that we needed is built into the [Oracle Product Hub Cloud] service,” says Jamie Hornstein, director of information services for Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, of Meadville, Pennsylvania. The company is America’s oldest privately owned pet-food maker. Commenting on the business benefits of Oracle Product Hub Cloud, he states, “We’re expecting a reduction in issues related to data quality of up to 25%. That improved data accuracy will prevent creating a lot of downstream problems, and get to market a little bit quicker”. 

Take the First Step Toward Cloud PIM

As a business leader, you understand you must identify solutions that not only simplify and speed your supply chain, but also set your business on course for the future. The cloud is a proven way to do this, and PIM is a powerful way to start your transformation.

Visit “Product Information Management: Your Digital Link to the Cloud” to begin your journey toward simplified product data.

For more information, follow Kirk Carlsen on LinkedIn and Twitter


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