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How to build a business case for PIM

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How to build a business case for PIM - ©iStockphoto.com/alvarez

A strong business case can be integral to the success of a company’s PIM implementation. Unlike a proposal, which focuses on why a company needs a specific project, a business case outlines the what, how, and who in order to help persuade key stakeholders and project sponsors that the project is worth pursuing. Its significance shouldn’t be underestimated – a weak business case can lead to a project being rejected or cancelled, particularly if it highlights challenges that could cause the project to fail.

A business case must therefore address the company’s goals in pursuing that particular project, the potential challenges that might prevent the company from achieving those goals, what can be done to overcome those challenges, and whether the business is sufficiently well-equipped to deal with them. Once you are confident that your business case can offer the necessary assurance, the following four steps will enable you to clearly present your rationale and recommended course of action.

    1. Confirm the opportunity – This is where you’ll explain why the project should be considered in the first place. Describe your company’s current situation and the business opportunity the proposal will address. Here you should include the background of the project, the logic behind the investment, and any high-level business requirements.
    2. Analyze and develop a shortlist – Research and identify the alternative available options, explaining your choices. Then choose three or four to analyze, from which you can build a shortlist. Bear in mind that business cases tend to be written for people who don’t have detailed knowledge about the subject area, so it’s worth keeping your language as simple as possible.
    3. Evaluate the options – Weigh up the options and explain how each can deliver on your business objectives. When discussing alternatives, consider their strategic and financial value. Then, choose your preferred option.
    4. Offer your recommendation – Confirm the recommended option, using relevant documentation to support your reasoning.

How do I create a business case for PIM?

As we’ve seen, a strong business case clearly communicates the benefits and potential of a proposed project. When arguing the case for implementing a PIM system, you need to be clear on how such a solution can benefit your company.

In addition to the steps outlined above, it’s important to build a good relationship with project stakeholders. In addition to identifying a problem and suggesting a solution, a good business case is also about communication. Ensuring the success of a project during its implementation phase depends on building and maintaining a relationship with all its stakeholders. Among other things, they’ll want to know the state of the project at any given time, the impact it’ll have on the business, and how they can address any problems that arise. However, honesty matters if you want your stakeholders to trust you – and your project. Be upfront about any potential risks or challenges. Sweeping them under the rug will ultimately undermine your case.

A business case should include references to relevant industry trends for greater context. PIM has traditionally been associated with the retail sector, for example. Recently, though, the growth of IoT has seen wider adoption of PIM by manufacturers. In his paper1, “The Rise of the Internet of Goods”, Dr Michael Mandel explores how the digitization of distribution and the explosion e-commerce fulfillment centers, largely led by Amazon, has seen manufacturers shift from warehouses to a D2C model, in which the use of PIM is highly beneficial.

And, of course, while it’s important to mention the operational benefits of a PIM system – the why of the project - a business case needs to highlight the potential gains it represents – the what. For one thing, by providing a company with a central repository of all its product information, a PIM system will improve its speed to market. What’s more, by cutting the time companies spent on managing product information from multiple disparate sources and systems, it will cut the time needed to produce new or update product information, as well as allowing for more accurate, complete, and consistent information across different touchpoints.

It’s essential, too, to think how a PIM system will impact the customer experience. Consumers today expect greater personalization in their interactions with brands, such as product recommendations based on previous purchases. Those companies for whom this is a priority should consider a PIM solution capable of offering contextual and personalized customer experiences, in addition to cleansing and transforming product data. In fact, this is important in more ways than one. A company’s stakeholders want to believe they’re being offered a solution that works best for their customers – not just as a means of generating revenue.

Finally, don’t skimp on the details. To present stakeholders with the clearest possible picture, a business case should be explicit about factors such as a PIM’s specific features, how long the implementation will take, and what change management will be required as a result.

A PIM system is a significant investment for a business, and a decision that won’t be made lightly. So a strong business case, detailing all considerations and reasoning, is essential in persuading the ultimate decision-makers that your recommendation is the right one, and will deliver the benefits they expect.