February 10, 2015

tED Magazine – The Future of Data

View the article in NAED’s tED Magazine by clicking on the image below. 

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The future of data


Is IDEA’s vision of “publish once, serve many” within reach? 

To say that IDEA and, more specifically, the IDW experienced growing pains over the years is a fair assesment. In an effort to help readers better understand the IDW and where it is heading, tED will use this space each month to answer questions and provide information about IDEA’s plans going forward. Is there something you want ot know about IDEA and the IDW? Submit your question to tED Editor Misty Byers (mbyers@naed.org) and it will be addressed in a future issue. To get things started, we asked IDEA CEO Chris Curtis: What has been IDEA’s biggest hurdle to day, and what is being done to resolve it today that is different from past attempts? 

Since 1998, IDEA has worked toward becoming a single source of complete, high-quality data, delivered efficiently and cost-effectively. The first major step began with electronic data interchange (EDI), with which IDEA was able to drive efficient transactions between trading partners with a widely adopted industry standard. The second major initiative is the one on which we are currently focused: the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW). The IDW was designed to allow manufacturers to securely share product and pricing data with numerous trading partners from one centralized location and in one standardized electronic format. In essence: publish once, serve many. 

While working to advance the IDW, IDEA has consistently faced two major challenges:

1. Consolidated and well-governed data has not been the norm for industrial companies. Therefore, properly gathering the data has been a slower, more manual process than anticipated. 

2. Distributors may not have pushed their manufacturer partners hard enough to provide complete data to a single source, but have instead accepted incomplete data, data directly from manufacturers and third parties, or filled in gaps on their own. 

Thus, in an effort to make the IDW the single source of high-quality data it was designed to be, IDEA had to devote time and resources to collect data from multiple locations for each manufacturer, making it difficult for the IDW to move forward quickly. As a result of these obstacles, our industry has lagged behind other channels in gaining supply chain efficiency and driving the demand that the digital economy can enable.

Our industry has changed significantly since IDEA began. Today, as more distributors seek to build strong web storefronts and further enhance their e-commerce capabilities, the channel has come together with a renewed determination to access consistent, high-quality data from one location.

In fact, through the IDW, we are close to realizing the potential we all hope for. Manufacturers can reach more than 4,000 distributor branches, and will soon have access to more than $80 billion dollars in contractor business, all while publishing their product and pricing data just one time. In turn, distributors can easily access the data of more than 2,000 brands, depending on their access authorization. 

To build on this momentum, IDEA has introduced new tools and initiatives, including: 

  • Strengthening the data standards process, including harmonization of the Electrical Attribute Schema and the ETIM standard
  • Launching the new Data Certification Program to not only help manufacturers structure their data in compliance with the Schema expectations, but also provide distribution with the assurance that the information used to market its products is of good quality and is readily useable  

Combined, these factors have led to an increased commitment by manufacturers to deliver the critical data needed by distributors, which, in turn, can help streamline business, lower internal costs, and increase sales. 

Communication between trading partners has never been better. Today’s mission is within our reach, and overcoming the hurdles of the past has sharpened our vision and ability to achieve the one-to-many solution IDEA was created to provide. 

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