Master Data Management Solution for Retailers

Retek aims to synchronize product information across internal applications, suppliers to improve data accuracy, operational efficiency

Retek aims to synchronize product information across internal applications, suppliers to improve data accuracy, operational efficiency

Minneapolis — January 28, 2004 — Software company Retek has unveiled plans for its new product information management (PIM) solution, Retek Master Data Management (MDM), designed to help retailers improve the quality of item information, reduce item master errors, speed the time-to-market for new product introductions and reduce labor costs.

The item data quality challenge in the retail industry is formidable because of the complexity of managing item information across numerous departments, hundreds to thousands of suppliers, and thousands to millions of individual items. The item data integrity problem has increased in recent years as many retailers have implemented software point solutions that were not designed to function together.

"With numerous manual data entry processes across multiple applications, product data errors are pervasive and result in purchase order discrepancies, longer lead times and inefficient use of human resources," said Andrew White, enterprise and supply chain management research director at technology consultancy Gartner.

White noted that although many retailers are eager to realize the significant benefits from integrating their item data, some have already improved their product information management by connecting to supplier data in a variety of ways: home-grown electronic data interchange (EDI) value-added networks (VANs) such as QRS, e-marketplaces such as WorldWide Retail Exchange (WWRE) or registries such as UCCnet.

Retek said that its Master Data Management, to be available in the first half of this year, will provide a central repository of product information that enables efficient synchronization among heterogeneous internal retail applications and external suppliers. Retek MDM can be implemented in tandem with other Retek applications or as a stand-alone application.

The solution provider is highlighting the following capabilities in MDM:

  • Application Integration: A large proportion of the item management challenges retailers face arise internally as a result of limited application integration, process control and processes automation. Retek said that MDM enables improved controls by allowing retailers to create business rules that manage how item information is created, enhanced and shared across the enterprise. MDM automates the processes of integrating data and services between a retailer's internal applications to ensure data integrity, and the solution will include pre-configured integration to Retek enterprise applications (versions 9 and 10) to expedite the implementation for existing Retek customers, according to the solution provider.

  • Supplier Collaboration: Once internal systems and processes are synchronized, retailers turn to their supplier relationships for further gains. The current process at many retailers for integrating item information from suppliers into the enterprise is typically cumbersome and leads to high labor costs, poor item data quality and strained relationships. According to Retek, MDM streamlines the item induction process by automating and controlling the flow of item information into the enterprise. Retailers define their own unique workflows and business rules to be followed when processing item information publications from their suppliers. The solution integrates item information from multiple sources, including traditional EDI, EDI AS2 and supplier self-service portals. The initial release of MDM will also provide integration with UCCnet's GLOBALregistry.

  • Item Master Management: Many retailers' systems that create and maintain item information are inflexible and inefficient, Retek asserted, noting that these systems typically don't support unique new product types (services or non-inventoried merchandise), which can cause product launch delays. Inefficient user interfaces can result in increased data entry labor costs, and poor item data visibility can lead to high auditing labor costs. The provider said that MDM offers item attributes and item management workflows that are configurable by each retailer, product category and supplier.
Retek said its development team has been working closely with several retail customers to ensure the solution meets the needs of different retailers in multiple verticals and across geographies. Pre-configured best practice templates are being created based on customer input to shorten the implementation cycle for MDM, the provider said.

"Although the grocery vertical has made the greatest strides to improving product data accuracy, for several years, many of Retek's department store customers have been building custom solutions to better manage integration to EDI item catalogs," said Wade Gerten, director of product strategy at Retek. "Many of our customers, across all verticals, have expressed significant interest in improved item management and synchronization capabilities and have been instrumental in helping us develop the solution to meet their diverse needs."

The solution provider sees MDM offering retailers improved item data quality, with the synchronization of item data across internal applications and suppliers reducing errors caused by inconsistent data among different internal and external systems. With less redundant item information data entry and less time spent correcting errors, retailers will experience lower labor costs, Retek asserted.

In addition, Retek believes that efficient integration tools and flexible rules will reduce the time and cost to integrate enterprise applications among suppliers, and that the solution will help increase speed-to-market for new items.