Product data management (PDM) refers to the method by which software securely manages organizational data and process information. Most often, an organization will use a central information management system to upload, organize, share, and provide access to data as members of the entity create it. Managing this data is a primary duty of a product manager or a PDM team, most often related to the information technology division of a company. However, there can be multiple approved users associated with PDM throughout an organizational structure.
The PDM system will need to do the following:
- Manage who owns files
- Control the versions of files during revisions
- Check files in and out
- Manage the release of updates
The data that is included in a product data management system is related to the type of industry, the products used or created, and the information generated for business purposes. Data may take several forms.
Business documents include client or employee records, such as:
- Social security numbers
- Vendor tax identification numbers
- Pricing structures
- Billing or payroll information
- Work details as they relate to an information product like an employee records management system or a customer management system
Project Files and Documentation
In a technical or software firm, product data may include files and records of all formats, such as product specs, design documents, computer codes, and business analysis records.
All companies generate financial information throughout product life cycles. Examples of data controlled and secured by a PDM may include (but aren't limited to):
- Tax forms
- State and federal tax identification numbers
- Billing schedules and terms
- Interest and income tax fees
- Invoices and statements
Utilizing PDM Information
In any setting, there can be a number of users who will access and manipulate data within the PDM. Generally, there are multiple layers of administration functionality that protect the data according to the approved level of use.
Central File Administrator
This is a lead person in charge of administering all projects relating to one division of an organization, with sub-administrator permissions set for project team leads. This controls access to project data and prevents confusion across functional teams.
Technical Team Users
Many users fall in this category, including:
- Product directors
- Project managers
- Design managers
- Software engineers
- Content managers
- Sales professionals
- Division leaders
- Quality assurance testers
- Team members
Administrators can assign access for anyone who needs entry to specific data sets to complete business-relevant tasks.
In some cases, businesses may provide customers access to file sharing capabilities for their individual projects. This is mainly to ensure communication and collaboration takes place at every opportunity of the project.
A PDM setup can enable a company to create, manage, and carry out a limitless number of automated workflows specific to the projects that are in process. This is especially useful in an agile project environment where constant changes and updates occur. A PDM supports the best practices of change planning and execution of certain steps. It can also ensure communication occurs at all levels of the team, both internally and externally.
PDM methods enable companies to:
- Maximize productivity and team member resources for the entire product life cycle
- Ensure strict compliance with government regulations and business requirements
- Provide fast access to current information for making accurate decisions
- Prevent costly development errors and delays by holding multiple users accountable
If an organization requires a PDM and needs to set one up, it's relatively simple to do.
- The project leads must determine the type of PDM needed to achieve the goals of the current and future projects.
- They must also understand any potential limitations that may be present in any of the PDM systems evaluated.
- Since many members of a work team will use a PDM, businesses must purchase and assign a number of user licenses, and the system needs to be secure.
- A smaller business on a budget may want to choose a cloud-based PDM, which is handled via a secure sign-on process and hosted on another company's server.
- A larger company with more resources may choose to purchase a PDM product that's customized and hosted on the company's own internal server network.
Worth the Effort
Implementing a PDM takes time and will require some education and adjustment from other methods of managing projects. Keep in mind the main goals of a PDM are to protect data, control versioning, and provide a central location for project efficiency.