GDSN® all grown up…

It’s been over 10 years since the first data was exchanged via the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) and much has changed.  In my 10 years of involvement in product data exchange through the GDSN, data synchronization and information exchange has never been more exciting than it is now.  The ability to talk first-hand about “Big Data” at a cocktail party has never gotten so much attention.

When I first started working with customers to implement GDSN we focused on the basics: attribute definitions on the core logistics information and assigning GTINs at all levels of the product hierarchy including the pallet and message choreography.   The methodology was pretty straight forward – Plan, Educate, Design, Develop XML, Test and Support.   Fast forward 10 years and think about all we have learned and experienced along with the changes in the recipient demands.  Now we even say “Recipient” and not retailer when we talk about exchanging data through the GDSN.  It isn’t just about CPG anymore!

The initial requirements of the first active retailers were small compared to today.  The core 30-40 attributes were somewhat manageable and accessible within an organization.  The first set of retailers took some time before they began integrating the data into their backend systems and processes.  As this happened and as other recipients entered the Network, attribute requirements started to expand.  The importance of business processes that supported the message choreography and the integration of the data became the measure of success for both source and recipients of data.

Now the increased demands for product information is forcing suppliers to realize that the only way to manage these data demands and to be able to ensure the scalability and reliability of the data is to optimize their business processes.  The focus for suppliers has shifted as data is now viewed as an asset.  Sharing complete and accurate data can set a supplier apart from their competition.  Organizations are forced to look at how they capture, manage and distribute their product information.  Any one of these functions can be a large undertaking for an organization:  understanding the super-set of attributes required by their customers, assessing their organization and the many systems within their organization that store product data to begin to capture the information.  This act alone can uncover significant variations on the same information; which leads to a host of questions around the data:

  • What are the attribute requirements across all of my recipients?
  • Who owns the product information within my organization?
  • Is the data reliable, does it have the appropriate data governance to ensure it is accurate?

Once data owners have identified all the attributes and where the information is stored, then comes the challenge of aggregation, mapping and distribution to trading partners.   The data demands impact all areas of an organization, not just the logistics teams.   The owners of the data are further challenged as product information needed by trading partners and consumers is housed throughout the data owner’s organization and in various systems.   This challenge has led to a direct increase on demand for PIM solutions.

As organizations continue to address these challenges and realize the asset they have in their product information, it will be interesting to see what the next 10 years brings.  With the consumer driving the demand for more data, the next 10 years are sure to be exciting for all of us data geeks!

About Tammy O'Donnell

VP, Global Professional Services

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