A recent benchmarking project by Ventana Research shows that most organizations have not taken steps to address the basic need to develop product information to contribute greater business value.

The Ventana Research Benchmark: Product Information Management Report demonstrates that maturity in product information management is advancing slowly. Only 26% of responding organizations have begun product information management initiatives.

Although organizations are progressing at various paces, most are aware of the need to manage product information more effectively. Fifty-seven percent of executives said they are planning to change how they manage product data to improve data quality and operational efficiency.

Many organizations use desktop spreadsheets to manage this information, with predictably poor results: 54% of all participants use spreadsheets heavily and are not satisfied with their PIM process, and likewise 72% of those who find errors frequently or have major errors in their product data use spreadsheets heavily.

When considering technology and vendor issues, about half said that the functionality, adaptability, reliability and usability of software is very important.

However, gaining approval for a PIM initiative can be a hard sell: 55% said that the largest barrier to making improvements here is a lack of resources, and 38% said there is no budget for a project.

Ventana offers recommendations for organizations’ next steps based on their findings.

• Evaluate your organization’s maturity in managing product information.

• Identify barriers to creating a single, consistent product record.

• Identify and engage areas of the business that can benefit from PIM.

• Evaluate the impact of spreadsheet use on the quality of product information.

• Educate executives about issues with product data quality and their impact on revenue and margins.

• Craft the business case in terms of benefits specific to your organization.

• Consider expanding PIM to business partners and suppliers.

“The need for PIM to improve the consistency and quality of product data was validated in our benchmark research," says Mark Smith, CEO and EVP of research. "We found organizations missing the core process and technology to provide the information required across the marketing and supply chain areas and directly to customers and partners,” says Smith.

This benchmark research is based on input from 392 qualified participants, including insurers, with 54% in IT-related areas and the rest from business.

This article originally appeared on the Information Management Web site.

Valerie Valentine is senior editor for Information Management.

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