Friday, July 23, 2010

Repost - Data Sync: The Next Coming of Biblio Data - Repost

Originally posted June 22, 2007

A number of years ago while President of Bowker I attended a conference organized by our EDI provider General Electric (GXS) where they discussed the application of a budding industry product information process referred to as data synchronization.

In contrast to the publishing industry most industries do not have standard industry wide product catalogs. Books benefit in this respect from the universal acceptance of the ISBN and few if any industries have a standard numbering system that supports product databases like booksinprint, Nielsen bookdata, titlesource and IPage. Data synchronization represents an attempt to make common, up to date and harmonious, standardized item and location information between trading partners. In English, trading partners have access to the same ‘data pool’ of item information which is continuously up to date and enables harmonization between the data pool and the respective item databases at each trading partner. From the
GS1 site:
Global Data Sync Network is an automated standards based global environment that enables secure and continuous data synchronization which allows partners to have consistent item data across their systems all the time. It ensures that all the parties in the supply chain are working with the same data – allows for simplified change notification and saves time and money for all organizations by eliminating steps to correct inaccurate data.
While my participation at this particular meeting was pooh poohed by my boss at the time it had me worried. The BIP database is licensed to many entities in the publishing industry and if trading partners in the publishing business got together to exchange data a la data synchronization then our business could be in jeopardy. In recent years, a number of companies in the grocery, soft goods and hardware businesses have implemented data synchronization with substantial numbers of their trading partners. The process is complicated and certain standards and formats govern the implementation; however, benefits can be substantial including less re-keying of data, better in-stock positions, better marketing promotions and fill rates and many other benefits which are documented in the following presentations (1,2,3).

While I was worried about the impact the development of a publishing data pool could have on the Bowker business, the irony is that the BIP database is the ultimate data pool - the like of which doesn’t exist in any other industry. No doubt that is the thinking of
BookNet Canada which has embarked on a project that may ultimately result in the creation of a data pool for the North American publishing industry. BookNet Canada has the remit to improve the publishing supply chain in Canada, and Bowker (while I was President) helped them establish an industry EDI service and sales reporting tool. For data synch they are working with Comport Communications the only certified data pool provider in Canada. The successful implementation of data synch in Canada could become a (the) prototype of a subsequent larger implementation in the US and/or UK. Interestingly, the Canadian books in print database is a hybrid of US BIP and UK BIP and which BookNet Canada also look to develop. (Bowker has the current incumbent product).

The implications for BIP products are fundamental but not catastrophic (although I will leave it to them to figure out why) but the larger issue is the potential radical shift in the traditional use of book product information and the ensuing significant improvement in supply chain information. We are a few years off yet but the benefits will come none too soon.

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