Life of a SKU: Is Your Org Approaching PIM Strategically?

B2B organizations often have much to consider in developing the vision for their digital strategy. Do their buyers prefer to make purchases through a marketplace or through a custom portal? Do their sales reps and customer service reps work from the same CRM and source of truth? How much personalization is possible with on their site?   One thing that might not seem like a complex concern is all of the information contained within a product SKU. But it is a critical consideration within your digital strategy.  From conception to deployment to retirement, the life of a SKU is a fundamental cycle for manufacturers, distributors and retailers that informs a key component of their digital strategy.  From day one, B2B companies must ask themselves, “Am I standing up a data strategy that understands my product information needs or am I blindly relying on technology and hoping it’s a silver bullet to my data challenges? A successful product information management (PIM) strategy is not just about external data sources. The type of business, internal processes and existing IT architecture also play a role in how data “lives and breathes.” It’s common for most organizations to have a complex ecosystem with multiple onboarding and syndication points for product dataGiven this sophistication, it’s crucial to the strategic vision of any B2B organization for key decision makers to outline how product information will be communicated across teams and channels.  For a manufacturer, SKUs may be used in product lifecycle management solutions, uniquely built out, attributed and enriched with engineering processes and CAD design in mind.   For distributors, a SKU may be developed from a vast network of suppliers and/or data pools, categorized accordingly and then enriched to exemplify a distributor’s valueadd in the marketplace.    In both these scenarios, multiple technologies are in play. Whether it’s an ERP, PLM, PIM or commerce system, each of these machines have unique roles in the organization and require users and IT to not only account for data flow and governance, but to also understand how internal solutions need to talk to each other to ensure data integrity and usability.   External to the organization, SKUs must also be raised in such a manner that they are able to drive business results. Whether they are syndicated out to distributors, marketplaces or direct to consumer, different parts of a SKU’s lifecycle inform how to best organize, enrich and attribute product information and collateral to create an effective digital representation of a product.   This all relies on one key assumption: that your organization agrees on what the life of a SKU looks like for the company.   Have you ever stopped and asked different resources where SKUs are created, enriched and finally how they’re syndicated out? What you may find is that engineering, product managers, marketing, operations and logistics may have similar but materially different answers.   It is these incongruities that can strain and tax workflow and governance, leading to inefficiencies that, over time, depreciate product information quality and decelerate speed to market.   The truth is that the life of a SKU, like many concepts we come about in business, tends to vary by organization and rarely follow a single path. However, if you’re able to align around what the right process should be, you can drive efficiency across multiple business units and earn buyin for the process throughout various stakeholder organizations.  Like any lifecycle, the life of a SKU requires nurturing – or strategic focus – from every team that touches it. Organizations that foster this thoughtful approach to product information will see the results in a successful, efficient digital strategy. 

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