Master Data Management

Product Information Management

MDM or PIM for B2B?

Monday, March 07, 2016
Layer One - Vice President of eCommerce

Where’s my data!

Most mid-market to large Business-to-Business (B2B) companies implementing ERP, PLM and other back-office systems have come to the realization that their product data quality is incomplete, inconsistent, redundant and in many case plain out missing. Unfortunately, this is discovered when attempting to present or share this data with partners and end customers. Manufacturers cannot rely on their Channel Partners to cover for their poor data quality and the Channels are demanding, if not enforcing data quality as a requirement just to get into the game. However, now they are asking for enriched product data that can be modified to meet quickly evolving marketing initiatives. Trying to display product information to a potential buyer without enriched product information available to the right channels at the right time will not fly any longer. And will not sell.

What is MDM and PIM?

Master Data Management (MDM) definitions will vary, however according to Forrester Research it “is a category of software infrastructure that operationalizes the acquisition, distribution, and management of core data entities, including customers, products, and suppliers”. MDM tends to be an Information Technology (IT) discipline that in partnership with data stewards from business groups such as Sales and Marketing, establish core governance standards for data to be gathered, cleansed and syndicated or consumed by other systems (i.e., ERP, CRM, PLM). It has been used for everything from consolidating/synchronizing multiple ERP instances across an organization to providing a 360-degree view of one or more data entities (i.e., Customer).

Product Information Management (PIM) although also improving data, in contrast tends be a business process discipline where Marketing groups utilize a technology platform supported by Information Technology to source Product data, enrich that data and publish it to omni channel solutions (i.e., e-commerce, publications, marketplaces, mobile app). PIM provides a business friendly user interface that easily allows a person to enrich product data with additional information and quickly publish it out to the multiple channels. As an example, PIM may be used to organize a number of product images into a story showing not only the product (a motor), but also showing the motor in use on a specific industry assembly line. The PIM allows relationships to be established between a product and these different images, place them into a campaign format and quickly publish them to an eCommerce channel and publication channel.


There are many considerations to be taken into account when determining which discipline should be pursued for most B2B companies. It is not always one or the other. Sometimes both are needed and they feed each other. Some will say that MDM is the longer term choice for those that want to position themselves for 360 degree views of entities and across entities (i.e., Product, Customer, Price) and this may be true for companies focused solely on back-office operations, consolidating/synchronizing systems and cross entity business intelligence. However, when a company identifies the need to publish enriched product information to multiple omni channels with an emphasis on time-to-market, PIM will become a necessity. It is important that business groups such as Sales and Marketing collaborate with their IT counterparts in making these decisions.

When discussing MDM, PIM or Both, consider some of the following questions:

  1. What are our business drivers, objectives and intended outcomes, can they be measured?
  2. What are our Channels? What requirements or demands are coming from each?
  3. How are we exchanging product data across business groups and with our channels?
  4. What is taking place in our industry or the industries we address? i.e., industry data standards groups, exchanges, consortiums, business models, go-to-market strategies
  5. What types of products do we need to manage better and promote differently?
  6. What data processes exist today for improving, enriching data and what are our pain-points?
  7. Who manages different aspects of our product data lifecycle? Are we siloed?
  8. Do the same products and associated data exist in multiple systems?
  9. Are they linked together? i.e., common identifier
  10. Do we publish product data to multiple channels? i.e., partner channels, ecommerce channels, publications, mobile?
  11. Does information need to change rapidly to adjust to channel and market changes (i.e., new on-line campaign within ecommerce channel or publication)?

We will explore these considerations and others in a series of follow-up posts. We will also touch on different uses of both MDM and PIM.

In summary, it is not always an “either or” when considering MDM or PIM solutions. Both MDM and PIM are disciplines enabled by solutions, each with a different focus and purpose. They typically augment each other and as organizations mature, they both may be required. The challenge is determining which do you need now.

Interested in learning more?

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