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Who put a DAM PIM in my PLM platform?

Part numbers, SKUs, dimensions, branding assets, images, sales collateral. Amazing things happen when ALL your product information is housed under one proverbial roof.

A few years ago, when I was leading the IT organization at Club Car, the largest manufacturer of golf cars and utility vehicles, the folks in marketing came to me asking for a digital asset management (DAM) repository to store their images of our cars and accessories. 

This had come on the heels of a very lengthy and arduous product lifecycle management (PLM) implementation. My first instinct was to have our marketeers leverage what we had already built and store them in the same system. 

It seemed only reasonable that the artifacts, aka assets, that are associated with a part/kit/SKU should all be housed and accessible in the same place as the rest of our product data. 

After all, the part numbers in the engineering bills of material were inarguably the best reference to catalog the assets for easy location. As a former librarian, I was thinking in terms of the Dewey Decimal System used to locate non-fiction books in a library. 

A single source of truth for anyone and everyone to find all our product “stuff!” What could be more natural? 

Plot twist! The marketeers were incredulous and I was quickly told that chocolate doesn’t belong in peanut butter and that the inverse is even more ridiculous. In other words, a PLM is not a DAM, which is not product information management (PIM). Or at least not at the time.

The evolution of product management (and its acronyms)

But I am getting ahead of myself. For those who aren’t familiar with this conundrum, let’s walk through the alphabet soup that is the ecosystem of product data. 

Product data management (PDM) is the process—and can be a software system—that manages information related to a product. In the old days, PDM was primarily used by engineers as a centralized repository in the computer-aided design (CAD) process to maintain all of their documentation associated with product development, including technical specifications, drawings, and engineering bills of materials (eBOMS). 

Over the years, the industry evolved and PDM morphed to become part of a larger, more encompassing PLM system, which manages all aspects of a product or stock keeping unit (SKU) as it moves through the stages from inception, development, and introduction, growth, maturity/stability, and decline, all the way through retirement and replacement.

So, what is the difference between PDM and PLM? In short, PLM software goes beyond development and is used to track all product data spanning beyond engineering and development of a product.

Yet PLM systems have somehow remained primarily within the domain of Engineering, Procurement, and Product Management. 

What about our good friends in marketing and communications? This is where PIMs and DAMs come in.

A PIM is a business application that provides a single place to collect, manage, and enrich product information, create a product catalog and related marketing material, and distribute it across the value chain. That would include sales, dealers or distributors, and potentially, all the way to the end customer through websites and eCommerce.

Our PIM at Honeywell Building Technologies, another one of my alma maters, was a keystone in our B2B eCommerce initiative. It contained titles, images, and descriptions of our SKUs to be presented for all internal and external marketing for websites, social media, and eCommerce catalogs driving our digital transformation.

But wait, there’s one more acronym!

DAM is both a business process and an information management technology, which creates a centralized system for organizations to organize and access their media assets. 

If you pigeonhole these solutions, a DAM is about managing digital content like logos, images, videos, presentations, brochures, and other marketing materials. Whereas, a PIM is about managing product information, and ensuring it’s accurately and consistently published to commercial channels throughout the product life cycle.

When implemented and managed correctly, both systems can save companies a significant amount of time and money by speeding up time-to-market and automating the distribution of digital and product assets with consistency, acting as a single source of truth.

There’s room in here for everyone

If all of these distinctions are lost on you, you aren’t alone. After all, isn’t the goal to have all of our product stuff in one place? 

So you can imagine my frustration when I found out that my marketeers were right! At the time, the functionality they were seeking from a DAM was not native to the PLM solution we had just invested in at Club Car, and it certainly wasn’t intuitive how they could peacefully coexist in the same environment.

Enter Salesforce, and the power of the platform, making all things possible!

Now let’s ask the same question: what if your platform encompassed all of the features of PLM, PDM, a PIM, and a DAM? Consider the benefits: instead of siloed data marts, you would have a single repository used by anyone who touched any data or assets associated with any and all of your organization’s products: Engineering, Product Management, Quality, Marketing, Sales, Communications, everyone! 

You would have the assurance of a single data source with accessibility, continuity, and accountability by all parties.

Combining PDM, PLM, PIM, and DAM into a single system would allow better access, change control, and visibility. It would provide a uniform structured way to catalog the data by part number or SKU to ensure there are no duplicates and they can be found with ease. 

It would be a “one-stop-shop” to collate, collaborate, and distribute all information and assets, as well as integrate with other marketing tech tools. This is especially applicable for the creation of CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) tools, which leverage CAD drawings to represent the product to be configured, either by an experienced engineer, a new user, or anyone in between.

Aside from these user benefits, imagine the savings in IT costs! Consider the time and energy, not to mention licensing and server space, for IT to maintain four systems instead of just one.

What would ultimately prove the success of this combination? If all parties who touched the data or assets, from your Engineering team to Product Management to Marketing and Communications, each looked at the same system and thought of it as “theirs,” it would be a start. 

And if it were intuitive and had a great Salesforce-like interface with which the marketing folks were already familiar, that couldn’t hurt either.

With that in mind, I would encourage you to check out the latest demonstration of the capabilities launched by Propel during Dreamforce. Gosh darn, if they didn’t serve up a DAM PIM and PLM in a single platform

Give your product and marketing teams the chance to see it for themselves and perhaps cure their product information headache. If they look at it objectively, they will be happy to drop their DAM acronyms.

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Post by
Frank Borovsky
Vice President of Industry Sales, Salesforce

Frank Borovsky is Vice President, Industry Sales, at Salesforce. He leads a team that leverages hands-on experience in industry to assist companies in Manufacturing, Automotive and Energy in their digital transformation journeys. Frank acts as a customer advocate and advisor based upon his previous experience in leadership roles in strategic planning, marketing, new product development, Information technology, customer experience and data analytics at Honeywell, Cooper Industries/Eaton, Ricoh, and Ingersoll Rand/Club Car.

Fun Fact: Frank swam with piranhas in the Amazon.

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Frank Borovsky