Is there more to PIM workflow than visualization?
blogSeptember 22, 2021
What's the power behind visual workflows that makes all the difference when it comes to your PIM solution?
Automated workflows started life in the manufacturing industry but have since become central to many aspects of today’s businesses. For some people, the term is ‘business process management,’ and for others, it’s plain old workflow management. Either way, the benefits of workflows to an organization are clear.
A product information management (PIM) workflow defines how a company wants their products to move through processes, from onboarding, to enrichment and product data syndication to digital shelf analytics.
how does a PIM workflow add value?
When done right, workflows can positively impact all areas of your business. Here are just a few ways a workflow makes a difference:
- Creates structure and order
- Streamlines and speeds up processes
- Eliminates time-consuming, often error-prone, manual tasks
- Increases productivity and stimulates collaboration
- Improves the quality of your products and services
what is a PIM workflow?
It’s surprising that a simple workflow can have such a significant impact. After all, it’s merely a sequence of tasks that process data. So, anytime data is passed between systems – or humans – that’s a workflow. It’s a path that maps out the start and the finish: from raw data to published product stories, for instance.
Adding automation into the mix ensures you meet pre-defined business rules, notifications, compliance policies, or completeness requirements. With automated workflows, tasks are turned around faster while also providing visibility and accountability at each stage of the process.
where does visualization come in?
You create visual workflows using a drag and drop interface to add and arrange tasks. The interface helps you plan and design the flow you want visually, using the pre-defined blocks. That’s all there is to it – a visual interface layer.
And it’s this visual interface that many people perceive to be workflow. But is there more to it than that? Let’s look at a PIM solution deployment to find out.
what is a PIM solution?
With customers having more choice than ever before, ensuring that you’re keeping all your touchpoints up to date with the latest product information is essential. If the product information is wrong or missing, your customer will click away – fast. Moving at digital speed is the only speed that matters in this digital-first world. A PIM solution helps you manage all the moving parts. It’s a centralized hub to consolidate, manage, enrich, and access product information. Best of breed PIM solutions (inriver, for example) also include integrated product data syndication (PDS) capabilities and digital shelf analytics (DSA).
A PIM solution streamlines your processes, improves productivity and efficiency, and enables you to distribute rich, high-quality product information across all your touchpoints. How does it do that? By enhancing the way, you work. Now, do you call that workflow, or is it more about process support?
process support versus workflow
In my experience, deploying a PIM solution affects multiple departments by breaking down organizational silos and stimulating collaboration. Often there is a change management culture around the deployment. It’s here that you see the importance of process support. But what is process support, and how does it differ from workflow?
Let’s use two real-life examples to demonstrate what it is.
1. identify silos
One of the best ways to kick off a PIM solution deployment is by getting representatives from the various departments together to discuss and agree on how they want to sell their products online. In one company, I witnessed different internal groups, who all sell one product, introducing themselves. The marketing team didn’t know the product managers, and neither group knew the sales organization.
2. gather technical information
During the discovery phase of a PIM project at a construction equipment manufacturer, it became apparent that the expensive machinery would sit in storage for three months before launching the product in the marketplace. Why? Because marketing didn’t have access to the technical information to craft the product stories. They could only start working on product enrichment activities after the product organization delivered the machinery.
In both these examples, imagine what the visual workflow would have looked like without process support. In the first example, the business would have three siloed processes working independently of each other. And for the construction-equipment manufacturer, they would continue to lag behind their competition as their existing workflow was negatively impacting speed to market.
Process support ensures that the business users define the optimal way of working by identifying the Event – Condition – Action sequence. As you can see, process support helps identify all the required processes and can refine (and in some cases fix) the way teams work together before you map or implement any workflow. For a PIM solution, workflow – visual or otherwise – is only one element of a successful deployment.
PIM workflow of the future
As we evolve towards composable commerce, we’ll see PIM solutions adapting. One of the requirements for composable commerce is having a flexible architecture, which lets you swap individual applications in or out at any time. What does that mean for PIM workflow? Ultimately, it’s about breaking the workflow down into a few key elements:
- A visual workflow engine
- A rules engine
- A connection framework
What’s the benefit of separating the components? First, it gives you a genuinely future-proof platform based on modularity, openness, and flexibility, preventing vendor lock-in. Second, it enables you to leverage existing systems and increase your ROI on those investments. For instance, your Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution already has a visual workflow engine. So instead of purchasing another, extend the PLM visual workflow engine into your PIM solution, and use the PIM’s rules engine with its connection framework.
When it comes to workflow in a PIM solution, now and in the future, visualization will continue to be a handy user interface layer for the business. However, the real power is what’s beneath that – the process support, flexible data model, governance, and connection framework to ensure you move at digital-speed, get your products to market faster, and deliver on customer expectations.
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