September 30, 2009

Trade News: IDEA E-Biz Forum Report from Tuscon

The annual gathering of the electrical industry’s dataheads convened in the Arizona desert this week with a lighter turnout than previous meetings, but with an invigorated sense of the importance of synchronizing product data throughout the electrical supply chain.

Whereas last year’s meeting was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of IDEA’s formation and the formal introduction of Bob Gaylord as the industry data association’s new president, the 2009 IDEA E-Biz Forum, Sept. 22-24 in Tucson, Ariz., finds the organization deep in the process of realizing its new strategic mission.

Gaylord kicked off the meeting with a detailed account of how the association is pursuing that mission. This pursuit concentrates heavily on outreach. IDEA team members have been traveling the country visiting customers to learn more about the problems they have communicating with their trading partners and looking for ways IDEA services can resolve those difficulties.

Under its new strategic plan, the organization is focused on four key areas: clean transactional product data, attributed data, net-price-into-stock communication (centered on the EDI 845 transaction document) and channel communication and education.

IDEA is also pressing hard on standards development and the integration of UNSPSC codes into all product data. In fact, inclusion of these codes for all products in the organization’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) will become mandatory in December.

Gaylord highlighted several key initiatives aimed at helping users make better use of the IDW that will be rolled out through the end of the year.

A new web portal through which distributors, manufacturers and reps can work more easily with their IDW data will go live Oct. 5.

In the next 30 days, manufacturers will have a new “utilities work station” interface in which they will be able to make line-item changes to their product data.

A standardized web ordering platform for distributor web storefronts that automatically populates with IDW data (in six languages) will be available by the end of the year.

IDEA is also changing the way it interacts with its customers, giving each of its customers a single point of contact with the organization.

“I want them to have one bellybutton they can poke and get an immediate response,” Gaylord said.

Presentations and educational sessions at the conference ranged from a talk by economist Todd Buchholz on the challenges of being competitive in a global economy undergoing rapid change to first-hand accounts by manufacturers and distributors of how they’ve addressed some of the thornier issues of collecting, correcting, exchanging and using product data, to users group meetings that brainstormed improvements that could be made to the IDW and IDX.

The 2010 IDEA E-Biz Forum will begin Sept. 13 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn. – Doug Chandler in Tucson