Product Information Management Space Heating Up

As IBM acquires Trigo, PIM gaining prominence as foundation of data synchronization efforts, RFID projects

As IBM acquires Trigo, PIM gaining prominence as foundation of data synchronization efforts, RFID projects

Somers, NY  March 15, 2004  With IBM's acquisition of product information management specialist Trigo Technologies, announced last week, the PIM space looks set to heat up, and consumer products manufacturers and retailers could ultimately reap the benefits, according to at least one analysis.

PIM solutions help companies integrate and centrally manage product information that is typically scattered across their enterprises. In addition, the solutions can be used to link product-related information with terms of trade such as pricing and then synchronizes this information internally with existing enterprise systems and externally with business partners.

These solutions therefore can serve as a foundation for such initiatives as global product data synchronization and radio frequency identification (RFID). Analyst firm AMR Research has suggested that such the data synchronization initiatives in the consumer products and retailing industries could result in up to $40 billion in savings for companies in these markets.

For its part, Trigo has said that its customers  which have included retailers, consumer products firms, manufacturers and distributors  have been using its PIM solution to help them increase speed to market, grow sales, reduce expenses, address industry mandates and enhance customer service by improving the content, quality and processes that support product information.

In making the acquisition, IBM said that Trigo's technology would further extend Big Blue's portfolio of integration middleware as part of the WebSphere brand of products, and it would boost the ability of IBM and its business partners to offer industry-specific middleware solutions that can access a centralized source of integrated product information.

"Trigo complements IBM's middleware portfolio perfectly," said Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and group executive of Big Blue's software group, in a company statement. "The benefit to our customers will be in our ability to deliver sophisticated, industry-specific middleware solutions that enable customers to introduce new products rapidly, improve their supply chain operations and customer service and enhance business performance."

AMR's Kara Romanow, in a research alert last week in the wake of IBM's acquisition of Trigo, wrote that the acquisition offers benefits both for IBM and for Trigo. On IBM: "While PIM vendors traditionally don't play in the middleware space, most implementations use middleware components to get data in and out of a central data repository. IBM can now provide the whole package."

The benefit for Trigo is that, as part of IBM, the company will be able to grow faster with its parent company's 15,000-strong sales force behind it, and IBM's research and development budget will help drive the evolution of Trigo's product, including improvements in its scalability, according to Romanow.

IBM's move follows the recent acquisition of PIM provider HAHT Commerce by Global eXchange Services (GXS), and the AMR analyst sees these deals heating up the competition in a product information management space also populated by such providers as Comergent, Velosel and QRS, which announced last week that it is leveraging Cardonet to provide the foundation for its own PIM solution, QRS IMPACT.

Bobby Patrick, senior vice president and chief marketing officer with GXS, suggested that the recent deals highlight the prominent role that product information management is coming to play. "These acquisitions of the two market leaders in product information management  IBM's deal with Trigo and Global eXchange Services' acquisition of HAHT  validate the cornerstone role that PIM plays," he said.

However, Patrick made clear that he sees a difference in the approaches that IBM and GXS are taking to PIM. "IBM's software group championed the Trigo acquisition and views it as an additional component of IBM's middleware offering," he said. "Global eXchange Services views PIM as key to driving external data synchronization and data management throughout extended supply chains. Based on our view, we believe PIM's role gets even more crucial because it will serve as a foundation for fueling the adoption of technologies like RFID throughout collaborative trading communities."

With PIM generating all this attention, AMR's Romanow expects other infrastructure vendors, such as Microsoft and BEA, to get in on the act with their own enterprise data management systems. She also predicted further consolidation in this space as the large infrastructure players become the dominant providers of these solutions, although QRS, for example, might object that they already offer an integrated solution while the larger players are just getting started in this field.

Ultimately, Romanow concludes that the Trigo deal is a plus for both the solution providers and the industry as a whole. "It elevates the importance of enterprise data management and the role of PIM into an infrastructure application that can be used to tie together an enterprise with disparate business applications," she wrote last week. "It validates the overall data synchronization strategy that most CP manufacturers and retailers are undertaking and will promote adoption to accelerate the $40 billion in savings being attributed to this initiative."