How rich is your data?

Oct. 30, 2013
People are always asking me for specifics about PIES, such as how many or which fields need to be populated to have “full and rich” product data.

The other day I was speaking with a longtime colleague who works in sales for an aftermarket manufacturer.  He very proudly shared some news with me that he was pretty sure would impress me. 

“I know you are into all this ‘data stuff’ so I thought you would be interested to hear that we are now ACES and PIES compliant,” he said.

I congratulated him on joining the 21st century and asked him a question he didn't seem ready for.  

“That’s fantastic, and how rich would you say your data is?” I asked.

“Our data is ACES and PIES compliant,” he repeated. “What’s rich got to do with it?”

I explained to my friend that that ACES and PIES were two very different, yet complementary data standards. Being ACES “compliant” is a yes or no proposition. Your data either complies with the ACES vehicle and part type standard or it doesn’t. Being compliant means you have mapped your parts to the specific vehicle identification code based on each unique application. This includes year, make, model and other characteristics a vehicle has that actually affect what part is used (like 4WD, A/C, fuel injection, etc.) In other words, complying with ACES is a task that is clearly defined. PIES is not the same.

Unlike ACES, PIES "compliance" is not a single task to be accomplished and filed away. In the stereotypical vernacular, PIES is a journey, not a destination. It is a little like asking someone if they are “college educated.” The person who took Beginning Basket Weaving in community college can answer the same as a Ph.D. from an Ivy League school: yes. 

So it is with PIES. One supplier of a particular part may provide only the most basic attributes to their channel partners and customers. This might include things like price, package dimensions, weight, UPC, etc. Another supplier of that same part may present all those basics fields plus a bevy of "selling" data.  Selling data may include application specific installation videos, three-dimensional product images or a multitude of “lifestyle images,” of people using their product. This is where data becomes a "silent salesperson" to the masses. Technically, its not so silent since you also can include sounds in your PIES data.

What is interesting is that both companies can claim to be PIES “compliant.” It's just that in the case of the former, we are talking about basket weaving at a community college while the latter can be the equivalent of a Harvard Ph.D.  Hence my question to my friend about how “rich” his data was.

People are always asking me for specifics about PIES, such as how many or which fields do I need to have populated to have “full and rich” product data. My answer nearly always frustrates them – whatever your reselling channel partners require is what you need. 

The “relative” nature of “replete data” is akin to what Plato said of beauty: it is in the eye of the beholder. It is about what the customer needs when deciding what data is necessary. If a shop is in a city where local inspectors are sticklers for having MSDS sheets available, that data will be important. If a store does a robust on line business in truck accessories, product images are essential. 

So how does one find out who needs what data fields for their product line? The best answer is illustrated by the SEMA Data Co-op. They have put together a standards based system that enables a supplier to put together a composite of their receiver’s requirements. It is a valuable service that is not fully appreciated outside of the SEMA community. 

Next month, we’ll take a closer look at how it can be a great asset to replacement parts providers. 

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