LANSA Product Takes On Greater Role in Data Sync Initiative
July 9, 2013 Alex Woodie
When LANSA launched its Data Sync Direct product years ago, the plan was to use it to pull product-related data from various data sources, such as DB2/400, so it can be merged into the global data synchronization network (GDSN). Over time, as the GDSN has expanded its reach, LANSA’s DSD has evolved, as well. In fact, for some DSD users, the product now serves as the original source of product data, or a product information management (PIM) application.
The trend toward omnichannel retailing is having a major impact on the GDSN exchanges, such as 1WorldSync, which is the primary data pool used by the consumer processed goods (CGP) supply chain in North America and Europe.
When the GDSN initiative launched more than a decade ago, it was originally focused on ensuring the accuracy of a limited number of product attributes in the consumer processed goods (CPG) supply chain–such as package size, weight, color, etc. This was purely business-to-business (B2B) type of information–from plant to warehouse, from warehouse to store–and it didn’t impact or involve consumers.
With the advent of omnichannel retailing and the desire of retailers to satisfy the “any product, any time” mindset of smartphone-wielding consumers, that is all changing. Suddenly, members of the CPG supply chain need more data to satisfy the needs of consumers.
The result is that the GDSN data pools have expanded the types of data that they are standardizing and synchronizing. In addition to the basic B2B information, it is starting to handle B2B2C information, including images of products and product catalog information.
This extension of the GDSN into consumer data has had a big impact on DSD, which was recently upgraded and released at version 6.8. LANSA president Steve Gapp and product specialist Randy Mercer recently explained the significance of the changes to IT Jungle.
“Over the past two to three years, we’ve been adding more and more functionality that’s apparent in this 6.8 release, which is to increase the capability of what was purely the data sync piece,” Gapp says. “It’s grown into a far more comprehensive solution, which we now talk about being a PIM.
“What that means,” Gapp continues, “is we have infinitely more ability in our own product to define and extend production information beyond the GDSN fields or attributes, into a whole host of additional data, to support these requirements of feeding various downstream systems, such as Web shops and the like, with a whole set of product-related attributes that are needed.”
One of the reasons this is needed is because of all those smartphone users who are pulling up all kinds of product-related information, perhaps by scanning a QR code with their camera, or perhaps by just navigating the Web. “At the moment, the brand owners, the people who own those products, haven’t managed to get control of what information may surface up in that browser or that native mobile application,” Gapp says.
The new PIM capabilities are necessary to generate and manage the information, such as images and catalog data, when it doesn’t already exist. In most IBM i shops, the product data is stored as part of the ERP system. But few ERP systems have evolved to support the additional product information capabilities required by the omnichannel initiatives and the expansion of GDSN into B2B2C.
This work is actually an extension of what LANSA has been doing with DSD from the get-go, Mercer says. “We found out early on that some of the sources of data didn’t exist,” he says. “Some of the data was there, but some wasn’t … so DSD evolved early on into an elaborate user-facing application that would allow for, not only pulling data out of iSeries apps, but also presented the users with an interface with which they could interact with the data, and add to it, to add some additional attributes that just aren’t stored anywhere else.”
With DSD 6.8, LANSA has focused on extending its PIM capabilities. To that end, it received a new data quality feature that makes it easier to view data exceptions on screen or to report it off-line into a database format. Users also get new dynamic attribute views to help them quickly get to specific product information. The product can also dynamically aggregate “synchronization ready” product data based on trusted sources of data, LANSA says. It can also automatically populate attributes based upon a specified data source. This release also brings new workflow capabilities that include product data approval.
Performance has also been bolstered. “As the user has interacted more and more with the apps, we’ve gotten more elaborate with the things that we allow them to do, and naturally that starts impacting the performance of the app and the types of things you’re expecting it to do,” Mercer says. “The user experience has been improved very much in terms of response times and performance, so the user can do what they need to do without getting bogged down and waiting for the application to help them do their job.”
LANSA has close to 400 customers of Data Sync Direct. For more information, see www.lansa.com.