Product information management
Product Information Management (PIM) means managing the information required to market and sell products through distribution channels. A central set of product data can be used to feed information to media such as web sites, print catalogs, ERP systems, and electronic data feeds to trading partners.
PIM systems generally need to support multiple geographic locations, multi-lingual data, and maintenance and modification of product information within a centralized catalog. Information kept by a business can be scattered throughout departments and held by employees or systems, instead of being available centrally; data may be saved in various formats, or only be available in hard copy form. Information may be needed for detailed product descriptions with prices, or to calculating freight costs. PIM represents a solution for centralized, media-independent data maintenance, as well as efficient data collection, management, refinement and output.
One finds a number of other terms that are similar or synonymous in meaning, usually deriving from other fields. These include:
- PDM – Product data management derives from the concept of engineering data management (EDM), denoting systems for the effective management of product development data and the coordination of manufacturing-related processes. The term is used primarily in the field of computer-aided design (CAD).
- PRM – Product resource management is used by some software providers as a synonym for PIM (Product Information Management), as well as Product Content Management (PCM), mainly popular as a term in England and France.
- Product life-cycle management (PLM) refers more to a management strategy than to a specific IT technology, the goal of which is to optimize product life cycles through the gathering and analysis of product data generated over time.
- Media asset management (MAM) refers to the management of unstructured multimedia objects such as images, graphics and presentations as well as ‘meta-information’ (data about data). The term is used primarily in the media business.
- Cross media publishing (CMP) comes from the print and advertising industries, referring to the coordinated use of multiple media in complementary fashion. It also denotes the repeat usage of individual structural elements such as text, images or graphics within different media.
Link with enterprise content management
Enterprise content management is a term encompassing technologies, methods and tools used for gathering, imaging, storing, archiving and providing electronic content. Distinction can be made between four separate sub-areas. Document management systems (DMS) are deployed for archiving, and PDM involves the management of structured, technical data for such applications as parts diagrams and lists. Content management systems (CMS) are more commercially oriented and provide a framework for knowledge management or informational service offerings through the management of unstructured, document-type content. PIM systems are used to manage structured data in a business context for feeding into any kind of distribution channel, from electronic catalogs to online shops to print catalogs.
Technological basis of product information management (PIM)
PIM systems consolidate all product information onto a single platform. In terms of company IT infrastructure, this means having a PIM platform running over alongside a database with an application server, and/or xml based exchange of product information. This forms a foundation upon which to build sales and procurement business processes. With PIM solutions, access and user authorizations for all database information, ordering processes linked with inventory management systems and the mechanisms for modular expansions are managed via a web-based administration interface.
Procurement systems and platforms such as online marketplaces are based upon electronic catalogs. PIM systems can load descriptive product information as content into a catalog management solution, where products are grouped and managed for specific target markets. Data exchange interface standards such as Open ICEcat and CADA BAZAAR allow seamless interchange of electronic catalogs between vendors on the one hand and purchasing firms and marketplace operators on the other. Procurement solutions are closely related, which automate the procurement process for purchasing goods and services. These create transparency for the product data of multiple vendors to support the centralized management of multi-supplier catalogs and facilitate price and quality research.
The market for PIM solutions
PIM solutions are most relevant to firms in retailing, consumer goods and manufacturing. Considerations in opting for a PIM solution include:
- wide array of products
- frequently changing product characteristics
- non-uniform IT infrastructure (perhaps resulting from a merger)
- online business
- electronic ordering.
Leading PIM vendors
According to independent technology research company Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management of Product Data Solutions in 2013  leading vendors in the market are Oracle, IBM, Stibo Systems, Riversand and Tibco Software.
Forrester Research, another independent technology research company, identified in their 2014 Forrester Wave  the leading Product Information Management vendors as Hybris, IBM, Informatica, Stibo Systems and Riversand.
- Sayid, Aksa. "Know What is Access 2013 Template". Access Templates. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- Thomas Lucas-Nülle: Product Information Management in Deutschland. Marktstudie 2005