Alexandr Orlenko | July 21st, 2023
In today’s technology-driven business landscape, organizations are increasingly adopting e-procurement systems to streamline their purchasing processes. These systems leverage the power of technology to streamline procurement, reduce costs and improve efficiency. A critical component that plays a pivotal role in the success of e-procurement systems is the integration of product catalogs. In this article, we will explore the technical aspects of product catalog integration and its importance in building robust e-procurement systems.
Seamless integration of product catalogs into e-procurement systems offers increased convenience and efficiency for both buyers and suppliers. From a technical perspective, integration involves the development of interfaces and APIs that allow the e-procurement system to communicate with suppliers’ catalog systems. Through these integrations, users gain access to a central repository of products, allowing them to search, browse, and compare items effortlessly. Another important point to emphasize is that each e-procurement company has a dedicated area with the product catalog that contains only the required products at special prices from suppliers that have been approved by procurement specialists.
While the benefits of catalog integration are significant, implementing and managing catalogs within e-procurement systems is not trivial. One major hurdle is ensuring data accuracy and consistency. Product information from different suppliers often follows different data formats and structures, requiring the development of robust data normalization mechanisms. The most common examples are identifiers, classification, and product grouping (bundles, variations, etc.).
In addition, keeping catalogs up-to-date requires efficient synchronization mechanisms. These mechanisms ensure that the catalog remains current and reflects price changes, availability updates, and new product introductions in near real time. The complexity increases when we consider that some vendors operate a huge product catalog, containing tens or even hundreds of millions of products. The market is so dynamic that we need to update data hourly or at least daily. It has to be done very fast. We need to process more than 1k products per second to guarantee the update of at least 100M products per day. So we should be very concerned about performance and all the requirements in the future to avoid its degradation in the lifecycle.
We have to build a place where users can search and buy products. This application is designed to show hundreds of millions of products to hundreds of thousands of users. So it is the most congested place, but the display of products should still take milliseconds. We definitely need a search engine for this, otherwise the system won’t be as responsive as our customers expect. The search engine also needs to be properly configured to show the most relevant results first, which is also a challenge.
We also have to worry about data isolation. We know that products can be managed not only by owners, but also by buyers or marketplaces, and we need to make sure that their changes don’t get mixed up. For example, some additional classifications can be applied to make the product/service search experience more native for your own users. Or data enrichment if the content from sellers is poor.
We have faced all these challenges and successfully solved them along the way. So we are happy to share our experience in these articles. And I understand that this is only a small part and my team and I would love to learn more about other challenges and be involved in finding solutions to them.
I look forward to your reactions and comments!
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