As referenced in some of our recent posts, we are in the process of reworking our entire data gathering and distribution process. Thanks to some great work by Randy Bownds and the rest of the data management and product development teams we have not only improved the quantity of the data but the overall quality as well.
The overall number of products published on a monthly basis has risen dramatically over the past 6 months (we published over 10,000 new products and updates last month) and we are now at over 100,000 product SKUs in our database. We recently launched our Online Data Library, which allows our users to search for, preview, request, and comment on product data. In addition, we have completely streamlined the process for our customers to request data via our new Data Subscription Request form on our website. We are serious about this effort because from our years of experience in this market and in trying to create a software platform that truly helps our customers do their jobs more efficiently, the number one issue/complaint/request we hear is – you guessed it – data.
Data drives everything. In order to sell the job, you need pricing and availability. In order to design the job you need dimensions and inputs/outputs. In order to deliver the job you need to understand the amount of time and labor required to install the system. Data is central to the entire system integration process, and we have spent the past 10 years trying to make this critical element easier to deal with for our customers and partners.
One of the reasons that there is no easy answer for the data issue is that there is not a standard for product data. Definitions, descriptions, and model numbers all vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. There is the InfoComm EZip format, which has seen some adoption from some manufacturers, but that doesn’t cover all of the information needed to install an entire system. Distributors have the information needed for dealers to order product, and in many cases have dimensions, descriptions, etc. But even distributors struggle with keeping their catalogs and pricing up to date. It is a universal problem with no easy fix.
So we have focused the majority of our product and development resources on making this process better, creating new tools for both our internal teams and soon our manufacturer partners and customers to better manage data – which will in turn flow to even more streamlined workflow. We will be documenting our data process and plans in future posts in the coming weeks. We will be asking for your help in order to help us better understand what you need, if our data is accurate, what’s missing, and how we should prioritize. We want to hear directly from you – it is the only way we will be able to move the needle and ensure that we’re delivering relevant product data.