IBM delivers data management software

Hoping to help manufacturers and retailers bring their products to market faster, IBM on Tuesday announced several enhancements to its WebSphere Product Center software that combines product information management with out-of-the-box connections to commerce and portal solutions.

With Version 5.2 of WebSphere Product Center IBM has provided pre-packaged integration with its WebSphere Commerce and WebSphere Portal. This integration allows for the display and sharing of specific information based on an individual user's needs. Companies are able to make product information, such as imaging, packaging, prices, and promotions, available to business partners and their users.

Explaining how the products can work together, company officials said product information is captured and displayed through the WebSphere Portal and resides in a central repository located in the WebSphere Product Center. The data can then be leveraged through an enterprise and at end-user "touch points." Typically, most companies must exchange this sort of data manually, which can result in duplications and other errors, they said.

Citing examples of the advantages derived from the integration, a company spokesman said retailers can better enable their suppliers to manage new and changing information about their own products faster, and as often as they need to without any manual intervention. Manufacturers, for instance, can make detailed information about their products available to employees for training purposes as well as being able to provide better customer service, the spokesman said.

"In just about every industry we see, whether it is electronic or automotive or retail, companies are using product information management software to lessen the pressures of managing product information or to collaborate with training partners," said Dan Drucker, IBM's director of product information management. "And from what we see, more are ramping up to use this product [Product Center] to expand out into areas like RFID and global data synchronization," he said.

Offering proof of its strategy, IBM officials pointed to a recent Yankee Group report that stated product information management is resulting in 25 percent improvements in both top and bottom line benefits for larger companies. In that same report, 63 percent of those surveyed who had implemented product information management software said sales increased as a result of better relationships with retailers.

One such company, West Marine, a retailer of boating supplies with revenues of US$650 million, used Product Center to eliminate redundant manual data entry in multiple databases. They also used it to present more detailed information to its sales channels, including 374 retail stores and its Web-based sales catalogue.

The improved release of Product Center features new security and Web services capabilities to support RFID data interchange among business partners. The new version can collect information from WebSphere RFID Premises Server and WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure-based devices that might be located in retail stores and manufacturing sites.

More information about the offering can be seen at www.software.ibm.com.

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