If you’ve been around e-Procurement for as long as we have you may remember when there were just a handful of hosted catalog formats like Ariba CIF files.  Creating a file was a matter of downloading the Excel template, populating the data and re-uploading it to the portal.  In a few days you’d have an approved catalog with new pricing.  These days it’s become a bit more challenging with over 100 e-Procurement platforms.  Each e-Procurement platform has its own twist on the catalog format and what product information is required.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult to support all of these formats internally with a manual process.

Having to do all of this manipulation in Excel is doable, but it’s time-consuming even for an Excel wizard.  The one-time process that maps the customer template to your product data is the easy part.  Transforming one column to a different UNSPSC version via an Excel pivot table is cumbersome at best.  Then your customer wants updates at least quarterly if not monthly so you get to do it again and again.

So how do you streamline this process?

The first step to implementing a hosted catalog is retrieving the proper template from your customer or their platform.  Many customers rely on their catalog management platform’s resources to manage the process, so don’t be surprised if you’re working directly with the catalog platform such as Perfect Commerce, Meplato or Proactis.

Once you have the customer template you’ll need to identify what product information you have and what information you don’t.  It sounds simple, but many catalogs require specific UNSPSC versions so you may have to do a crosswalk to match your products to the specific UNSPSC.  You may consider default values for those products you don’t have.  For example, using 41100000 for your laboratory and scientific equipment may work for defaults, but if your customer wants you to identify specific laboratory beakers as 41121803 you may have to do more specific mapping.  It’s at this point you’ll want to ask what specific versions your customer may require.

Now that you have all that data mapped, we need to ask if are there any specific business rules that need to be applied such as restricted shipping items.  Let’s say you sell a particular chemical that can only be shipped to a facility that has cold-storage available.  That item may need to have specific columns added to the file to identify it as such or may need to be removed from the catalog file entirely.

Also consider items that cannot be exported due to licensing or product restrictions.  If this is the case you again may have to remove these items from certain GSA or Federal catalog uploads.  Let’s also consider any product data clean up.  If your master product data is missing product prices for items that are quote to order only, we need to ensure those files are excluded from the hosted catalog file.

Now let’s talk about the frequency of updating this catalog file.  Your team has just spent days or weeks working on this single catalog file and it’s perfectly formatted and uploads without issue.  Your customer is requesting monthly or even quarterly updates with new product information.  So now you get to do it all over again and hope that all the documentation is correct the next time you need to create the hosted catalog file.

When our team manages hosted catalogs we not only document the entire process, but the file generation is created by our catalog platform, not a manual process so the next time you need to create that same file with just new product data or pricing you can simple request the file be re-generated.  We recommend building all that business logic, UNSPSC logic and any other specific rules into your catalog creation process to avoid potential issues going forward.  This way even if you lose a staff member that had all that business knowledge, your catalogs can still be created and you don’t have to start from square one.