What can product information management (PIM) do that ERP can not? We're a large enterprise, if that makes a difference.

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PIM is often a subset of an ERP system. In cases where small companies are consolidated around a single ERP infrastructure, PIM might actually be embedded into the company's ERP system. For instance, a medical device company we know runs on Oracle's JD Edwards system, where a single product master file is accessed across various JD Edwards modules.

Most of Baseline's clients have PIM separate from their ERP systems because their ERP systems represent one of dozens or even hundreds of different applications that access, process, and generate product data. PIM masters that product data in a single location so that all product data is consistent regardless of the system or application that needs it.

Truth be told, I know some pretty big companies that are struggling with whether and how to deploy PIM. "Our ERP system IS our integration platform, and our de-facto integration strategy," one IT executive told me recently. But this was after I'd heard a product manager explain that her company was cannibalizing its own sales, with different divisions selling the same product in various forms, packages, and bundles, often to the same customer. What PIM can do that ERP cannot is ensure a common definition and view of a product across a range of systems and organizations.

This was first published in October 2008

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