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5 questions with Nico De Troyer

05 April 2022
Ida Lorenz
What does omnichannel mean for you and your company?

Omnichannel is more of a term that our customers use. Before we implemented our PIM system, we set up an intranet, a kind of intermediate database with an interface where all our data was collected to then flow through to the website, for example. Today, we control all data for our 3 websites (B2B, B2C and our Spanish website) through the PIM system. We use a channel set up, which gives us the flexibility to send different data to different targets. At the end of 2021, we were able to apply the same logic and connect a customer, an integrator, and the GDSN data pool directly with our PIM system. We even have a project planning tool linked to our system, through webhooks. My vision is to connect the PIM to a customer portal within a few years. That would give our customers the freedom to do multiple things themselves e.g., place orders, check the stock, see open invoices etc., and to exchange product data. To give you an idea: we use several different image formats, ranging from .jpgs to .tiffs, but not everyone can handle a .tiff file. A customer portal would also somewhat relieve the Customer support department. With a well-structured channel and a smooth cooperation between our ERP and WMS system, we can provide the high-quality customer service our clients deserve.

What are the biggest data challenges affecting your industry?

Our biggest challenge lies in our products’ diversity. We have items that fall under certain safety regulations, ranging from safety gloves to power generators, drills, screwdrivers, etc. Because of that diversity, sharing data with our customers in a structured way is not all that straightforward. We are also active in over 40 countries, which means we have to translate a lot of content into 20+ languages. We not only have to take into account the content but also various logos that are mandatory in some countries, e.g., CE certification, FSC, WEE, etc. Additionally, logistical data is often underestimated. When it comes to data sharing, there are several logistic layers to consider. Sales on an item level but also inner and outer packaging, or pallets with nested inner and outer boxes That type of data used to be a nightmare for us and still is a nightmare for many of our competitors

What initiatives are being taken to help employees with data management tasks?

Initially, the main reason for purchasing a PIM system was simply to give employees more control and a better overview of data and data maintenance. We also reviewed and rewrote our workflow, which is necessary if you want to achieve an automated flow. It’s our 4-phase-workflow: Pre-purchase, Purchase, Go-to-market and the feedback phase. You can see the 4 phase workflow as a perfect circle, starting with pre-purchase and ending with the feedback phase that fluently connects with each other. This way we do not miss any link in the process. We also added several triggers to our business processes. Those triggers can be displayed in a dashboard or receiving an e-mail getting a pop up when working on the product. Not only that but we also built-in data quality rules that can be configured in our PIM system. For the employees, it’s fairly simple. They now have access to dashboards where they can follow the entire flow and adjust it during the process.

In your opinion, what are important steps for the optimization of business processes?

Get a clear picture of the what and how. The biggest mistake is not listening to the company. It is an absolute truth that all processes can be improved. It’s the same in every company. The process must be aligned with the people who are there day in and day out to ensure the system is respected and observed. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make data management more successful going forward?

Don't underestimate the impact it has within the organization. Not just on the employees, but on the customer processes and market needs as well. In my opinion, the key to implementing data (change) management is to start small: scope out the big picture but use small steps. This ensures less resistance and a better feeling among employees. If you want to do it right, everybody has to be on board and support the process. When we first started the Data department, everyone talked about “the data” like it was something mystical. When asked “what is data?”, no one knew the answer. It took a few years for people to realize that data is the most important thing to communicate to the world. You have to realize data management is not MORE work, but less. When the foundation works, the rest is easy. When you look at online businesses or marketplaces, sales are no longer price-driven, they’re data-driven. It’s about who has the best, most detailed data, content, pictures,… You can no longer convince an online customer with the promise of a 10% discount if they buy 5pc. That is a new reality.

"Data is king of the digital jungle"

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