It’s something that every company, no matter it’s size, does. Bring products to market. Products don’t have to be physical assets like shoes, or machines; they can be software, or financial services, or consulting offerings. No matter what type of ‘product’ they are there needs to be an accompanying process to take product ideas to market, and then support them once a customer starts to use them.

The more complex the products, the more solutions that exist to support and help manage the various steps of the process. But where to start? If you search for the term ‘product information systems” on Google you get 2.4 billion (yes billion) hits returned. So clearly there is a lot of demand for such systems.

Over time product-related software tools have developed into a handful of main categories such as:

There are of course many others that address more niche needs in the product lifecycle.
As you can see on the accompanying illustration there is a distinct order of when and where in the process these systems are applied and we will take a more detailed look at them in that sequential order and conclude with a discussion as to how the emerging product asset management platform approach can leverage these systems to deliver a consistent view across the product lifecycle.

Product Information Systems

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions are perhaps the most influential of these platforms designed to assist the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal of the manufactured products. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies. PLM has a strong history of driving cross-functional data exchange but, as outlined in the definition, it is focused on the manufacturing of physical products, and only covers the ‘lifecycle’ up to the point where the product comes off the production line thereby ignoring marketing, sales, and most importantly supporting the product once it’s in use. Traditional PLM systems also struggle in environments where a more agile product lifecycle management approach is required, especially in software, and trend-driven industries where speed and agile operations are key competitive differentiators.

Product Data Management (PDM) software is designed to track and control data related to a particular product. It tends to be specification centric data and looks at the product from a more technical viewpoint. The main area of focus tends to be around the specifications for manufacture and development, and the types of materials that will be required to produce goods. PDM allows a company to track the various costs associated with the creation of a product. In some cases, the PDM function is included within a PLM platform.

While PDM is focused on the production side of the product lifecycle, Product Information Management (PIM) systems are focused on the information required to market and sell the products. A central set of product data can be used to share/receive information with media such as web sites, print catalogs, ERP systems, PLM systems, and electronic data feeds to trading partners. PIM represents a solution for centralized, media-independent data maintenance, as well as efficient data collection, management, refinement, and output.

Each of these systems described addresses different parts of the product lifecycle but none of them give an end-to-end overview of the product across every stage from idea to market. To achieve that you have to track different types of data across different systems. This is where implementing a Product Asset Management (PAM) approach can help drive real value by connecting the product data with the associated content assets in an intelligent way. PAM supports a consistent view of product-related assets and associated data throughout the product value chain, in turn driving revenue growth through reduced time to market.