The implementation of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) mandates that European companies of a particular size must report their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) information.

According to McKinsey, “... while more than 95 percent of S&P 500 companies issue a sustainability report, very few fully integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) into their equity stories…”

ESG can be described as a set of practices (policies, procedures, metrics, etc.) that organisations may use in order to limit the potential negative impact on the environment, society at large, and their organisation from carrying out their business.

Recently ESG has become a hot topic because the first reporting cycle from businesses will be due in 2025, based on data from financial years starting on or after 1 January 2024. 

Investors are also keen to find proof points that the companies that they invest in are delivering on their ESG strategy, generating the desired results or that they are proactively addressing ESG.

As organisations now are starting to really dig into the ESG reporting obligations, this article will help highlight how Master Data Management (MDM) can become an integral part of enabling organisations to meet their ESG reporting needs.

What is MDM?

A Master Data Management or MDM solution can be applied by enterprise organisations to manage their most critical data assets (known as master data) and is often referred to as the “single source of truth”. A single source of truth for collecting data, simplifies decision-making processes, building trust amongst stakeholders because everyone knows they can rely on the same dataset for accurate, reliable information.

An investment in MDM should be regarded as a building block on which subsequent business initiatives can be built, based on access to trustworthy data that facilitates effective business decisions.

The success of an MDM initiative for ESG reporting will hinge on securing commitment and endorsement across your organisation from key stakeholders. And to get the necessary stakeholder buy-in, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate the added value that can be achieved by leveraging MDM to successfully deliver your ESG reporting.

What are the ESG reporting needs that an MDM solution would help address?

MDM as the single source of truth, is an effective mechanism to collect and integrate ESG data from your various internal and external sources. At the same time, its structure can be used to help you define and implement validation rules and data cleansing procedures to identify and rectify errors, inconsistencies, and redundancies in the data before they can impact your reporting.

MDM systems can be an integral part of pulling together processes that ensure compliance with regulatory standards, helping to develop data security protocols and privacy measures to protect sensitive ESG data. 

By harmonising ESG data across the many different sources and systems, organisations can generate comprehensive insights that on reflection will help them to identify emerging trends, and assess performance against their ESG goals and targets.

So - what are the steps that you should be taking to implement an MDM solution?

Step 1 - Planning

The first step to consider when implementing an MDM solution for ESG reporting involves comprehensive planning, to prepare a solid foundation from which the MDM system can be leveraged.

In order to create an effective plan, it's essential to gain a deep understanding of the scope of an organisation's ESG reporting needs and objectives. This entails identifying the specific ESG metrics that need to be tracked, as well as flagging and involving key stakeholders and resources for their input. 

Planning also involves conducting a thorough assessment of existing ESG data sources, understanding the format and structure of the data. By mapping out the existing data ecosystem, organisations can identify potential gaps, inconsistencies, and redundancies that need to be addressed during the MDM implementation process.

Step 2 - Design 

During the design phase, as well as discussing how to make reporting intuitive so that performance can be visualised and analysed effectively - it is also a time to translate an organisation's ESG reporting needs into a structured MDM solution. This includes determining the data model, which defines the types of ESG data to be captured, such as environmental metrics (e.g., carbon emissions, water usage), social indicators (e.g., diversity, labour practices), and governance practices (e.g., corporate policies, board structures).

The design process involves establishing data governance policies and procedures which includes defining data ownership, access controls, and data stewardship roles to ensure the integrity, security, and compliance of ESG data. 

An MDM solution needs to be flexible to be able to adapt to changing business needs and technological advancements and scalable to ensure that the system can accommodate future growth and evolving ESG reporting requirements.

Step 3 - Building

Once the design is complete, organisations transition to the building phase, where they translate the design specifications into tangible components of the MDM solution. 

This phase involves the development and configuration of data integration processes, data cleansing routines, and data enrichment mechanisms to ingest, harmonise, and manage ESG data from diverse internal and external sources. 

Building an MDM solution may also need some customisation or system configuration to address unique organisational requirements and compliance standards in a particular vertical.

Step 4 - Testing

Organisations conduct various levels of testing, including unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing, to identify and rectify any defects or issues. 

Data quality checks, validation rules, and adherence to ESG reporting standards are rigorously evaluated during this phase to ensure the accuracy and consistency of ESG data.

Step 5 - Deployment 

Following successful testing and validation, the MDM solution is ready for deployment into the production environment. Deployment involves executing data migration processes, configuring system settings, and conducting training sessions with users.

After a successful MDM implementation there is also a need to maintain ongoing monitoring, support, and optimisation of the solution with regular updates and assessments of how the system is performing. 

Check out our video series on How To Get Started on Your MDM Journey.

Integrating ESG and MDM, what are the benefits?

By integrating ESG and an MDM solution, it ensures that the ESG data will be governed by consistent quality standards and validated through robust data management processes. 

Plus, by automating data workflows within the MDM framework, it can reduce the manual effort required for tasks and minimises the risk of errors or inconsistencies in ESG reporting. 

Enhanced data quality and integrity come from centralising ESG data within an MDM framework, organisations can then establish their data governance policies, implement their data validation rules, and enforce data quality controls to make sure that their ESG data is accurate and complete.

By establishing a common understanding internally of ESG metrics, organisations can foster collaboration between the various stakeholders, building credibility and trust, that a business is committed to ESG transparency and accountability.

Is ESG part of your corporate strategy?

Integrating ESG considerations into your corporate strategy requires a structured approach that aligns ESG principles with the organisation's overarching goals and values. 

And the main starting point for most organisations is in defining their ESG vision and mission, communicating the organisation's long-term aspirations and values to internal and external stakeholders.

Next Steps

Not all aspects of ESG however, are priorities for all organisations, and it is unrealistic to expect that as a business that you’ll not have to make trade-offs within and among the various ESG dimensions, or that they can be an industry leader on every topic.

So, get in touch to have a conversation about rolling out an MDM solution for your ESG reporting.

Achieving success with your MDM project requires a lot of preparation. There are many things to consider and it can be hard to figure out where to start especially with this new legislation around CSRD.

Book a free consultation call with us today to learn more about how we can help.

STEP Workflows is one of the most powerful tools in the STEP MDM application toolbox.

In my opinion, it’s also one of the most underutilised tools and one that has immense potential for delivering added value to your organisation in more ways than you think.

Ok, so “underutilised” may be a strong word to use here because most organisations running STEP are already using STEP workflows to automate at least a few business processes, but my point here is that many of those organisations seem to settle for just the most obvious use cases.

However, STEP Workflows is a very versatile tool that can be applied in many different situations and help address use cases involving things such as:

In this article, I will highlight seven different areas, where you could consider taking advantage of the automation and streamlining powers of STEP Workflows.

You may already use a couple of them today, but you might just be able to get inspired by this list to go and review your use of STEP Workflows and reconsider how you could this tool to accomplish even more with your STEP system.

The history of the Stibo STEP Workflow tool

Let me start by giving a little background on the workflow tool in STEP.

This goes back more than 20 years ago during the time of the very first releases of STEP, when Stibo Systems recognised the need for having a workflow engine available to help route tasks between users in the system.

The concept of workflows was nothing new and was widely used in other software categories, but the PIM / MDM software industry was still in its infancy and Stibo Systems realised that having a workflow capability as part of the STEP offering would provide a significant competitive advantage.

In the first few STEP releases, Stibo Systems decided to integrate a couple of third-party workflow applications. This ensured that the workflow capabilities could be offered as quickly as possible in the market.

This did indeed allow Stibo Systems to offer workflow capabilities and it quickly became very popular among customers but relying on third-party software to support such a vital aspect of STEP’s core functionality also introduced a large test burden, a bit too many support tickets and issues keeping software versions aligned.

After a few years, Stibo Systems had gathered enough experience with the anatomy of a good and flexible workflow solution for their customer’s needs, so they decided to develop their solution and make it an integral part of the STEP framework.

The results of this effort became the foundation of the STEP Workflow that we know today. A tool that is native to STEP and supports and complements the other parts of the STEP toolbox in a way that a third-party tool could never do.

Although it’s used to some degree by most organisations running STEP, I believe that many of those organisations are not using the STEP workflow tool to its full potential.

So, let’s have a look at seven different ways you can use the STEP workflow tool to increase your organisation’s efficiency.

Manage the product lifecycle

This is probably the most common use of STEP workflows. Many organisations running STEP use already use workflows to introduce new products, maintain them and eventually discontinue them.

A set of workflows are configured in STEP based on a thorough analysis of every stage that a product goes through from a master data point of view.

Each person involved in the workflow is assigned tasks to complete that appear in their task list or a pool of tasks assigned to their group/role.

A good implementation of such workflows is where the full automation potential is fulfilled, meaning that any tasks that require repetitive rule-based input – e.g. a pre-population or transformation of certain values – are automatically managed by the workflow.

Ideally, the workflow should deliver each task “on a silver platter” to the next person in the chain to make sure this person spends his or her time enriching the product (or another type of record) based on the unique skills that he or she brings to the table – and not on time-wasting and non-value adding activities.

Translation of content

Many organisations have chosen to run STEP for its strong language and localisation management capabilities. If your company operates in multiple countries and provides your product content in multiple languages, you are fully aware that it’s a complex task to keep content in sync across languages and regions.

Whether you rely on internal or external translators – or even auto-translation services – STEP Workflows can help to streamline the process of identifying content needing translation, sending it to a translator, receiving the translation back, publishing it to the relevant country's website and managing any necessary approvals along the way.

There are many ways to manage translations and multi-language content in STEP – the best translation set-up for you depends on your specific situation and requirements. But STEP Workflows will likely play a part in your optimal solution.

Automate and streamline production processes

Many STEP customers that I have worked with over the years maintain hundreds of thousands of products – and some even millions of products.

They have most often been one of the leading brands in their industry, where customers have come to expect a high standard of their published product content including a high level of data accuracy and completeness. When you manage product content at this magnitude and are under constant pressure to keep adding more and more products, you need to run a tight ship. At this scale, you probably have a large team consisting of multiple specialised roles of people who need to churn out large volumes of products each day.

You could perhaps even compare the organisation and processes you need to pull this off to a factory. A place of production. Hundreds of small bits of data go into the factory as raw materials and come out as fully enriched products with technical data specifications, marketing texts, pricing information, product images, application and lifestyle photos, technical diagrams, manuals, compliance, and sustainability information and so on.

The process of coordinating all this information and getting all the pieces of the puzzle in place is a complex task. Having well-defined processes to manage this challenge is a must, but having a STEP Workflow to support these processes, will allow you to scale your throughput significantly. As an additional benefit, it also allows you to track the progress of each task, define and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and easily identify bottlenecks in the “production”.

Stibo STEP Workflows on a desktop and laptop photo

Gather and create product images

It’s hard to sell products that do not have an image – regardless of how much data and textual content you have about the product – and many customers I have worked with over the years wouldn’t even consider publishing a product without an image.

The process of provisioning images for the products you sell will be radically different depending on whether you rely on suppliers to deliver images to you or whether you produce the images yourself.

We recently implemented an image workflow based on STEP Workflows for a large department store retailer. Many of their products were fashion items and it was important to them to have images that conveyed a consistent brand feeling and were worn by a model.

And in the fast-paced world of fashion, it was furthermore not always possible to get images from the supplier promptly.

So, our customer had their large photo studio, where many of their fashion items were photographed. Images of other types of products (e.g. home items and cosmetics) were usually available from suppliers and were either delivered directly or made available via an image bank.

We built a STEP Workflow to facilitate the different ways to provision images for their products. Once a new product was created in STEP, it would be entered into a workflow where it would be sent down different paths depending on the supplier and the category.

If a product was to be photographed in-house, the workflow would facilitate the process of ordering a sample in the right size so that it could be available in the studio on the day of the photo shoot. Once the sample arrived at the photo studio, a job tag would get printed automatically including relevant information about the product and a barcode that would be scanned by the photographer to retrieve the workflow task in STEP.

Once photographed, the image would go directly to an image editor who would make the final adjustments before the image would be approved and published to the webstore along with the product information.

Images provided directly by suppliers would take more automated routes through the workflow.

All in all, the STEP Workflow streamlined a very complex process and eliminated many manual steps and coordination efforts.

Automate the creation of PDF output

Outputting your content in PDF format remains a strong way to present your products to customers. Whether the PDF gets printed or only viewed on a screen, PDFs offer a flexible way to communicate various aspects of your products, whether it’s in the shape of a full catalogue or a stand-alone product presentation, datasheet, price label, compliance/environmental facts etc.

PDFs can also be used to gather information using PDFs Forms, which can be used for capturing data such as order information or data capture in the field.

If your company has physical stores, PDFs can also be used as the “middle-layer” to support the printing of content from your STEP systems such as price labels and in-store signage.

STEP has a long history of tight integration to Adobe InDesign Server, which enables the output of content from STEP into PDF / printed format.

Creating printed output such as catalogues, brochures, data sheets etc. has traditionally been perceived (rightly so) by many companies as a very slow, labour-intensive and costly process.

But with the powerful automation features that STEP offers the time, effort, and cost per produced item can be dramatically reduced.

When you throw Stibo STEP Workflows into the mix, you can now accomplish the vision of a fully automated “machine” outputting and distributing sales material, price labels, in-storage signage etc. based on certain triggers in your STEP system (e.g. the approval of a product).

Configuring PDF output from STEP and delivering these solutions require a very good understanding of Adobe InDesign, print publishing requirements and of course the STEP / InDesign integration.

This is not standard knowledge you can expect from your average STEP consultant, but we have many years of experience in this field.

Document compliance and sustainability of your products

Companies are under increasing pressure from government authorities, consumer watchdog organisations and consumers themselves to be able to document that their products are sourced responsibly, environmentally friendly and sustainable, meet regulations and safety requirements and so on.

As a manufacturer, distributor or retailer, each of your product categories and even subcategories may have its own set of compliance requirements that you are expected to meet and be able to document.

Understanding what the requirements are for each category and keeping up with how they develop is a complex task and there are normally only very few people in an organisation, who have this knowledge.

Stibo STEP Workflows can be used to ensure that all new products are always checked and enriched by compliance experts. All the category-specific rules can be captured in the workflow to ensure that the products go to the relevant compliance expert and that the right questions are asked depending on the type of product.

Using the data inheritance features of the STEP Product Structure, each subcategory that has special data and documentation requirements can be configured to reflect all the requirements related to that specific type of product.

The STEP Workflow and the STEP Product Structure in combination can therefore be used to not only ensure that the right people check and ensure compliance but the whole set of compliance requirements across all product categories and subcategories can be documented in your STEP solution, which reduces the risk of this knowledge only living in the heads of very few people in your organisation – or maybe even with external advisors.

Get alerts and take immediate action on business-critical incidents

As the final point in this list of ways to use STEP Workflows, I want to mention the fact that even extremely simple workflows can be of high value.

Imagine that your STEP solution is configured to listen for certain undesirable events or circumstances that will require your immediate attention.

This could be stock-out information or price hikes caught in feeds from suppliers of strategically important products, or maybe poor reviews from your webshop or external marketplaces.

Or maybe the external agency that supplies the images for the upcoming campaign has missed an important deadline or the authorities have issued a recall of a product you are selling.

Whatever is important to you will depend on your industry and type of business, but the point here is that your STEP solution could be configured in a way that allows you to define a set of critical triggers for conditions that you want to know about immediately. This could be configured in a STEP Workflow that may be dormant daily, but once a critical condition is identified by the system, it will notify relevant people in your organisation and may even come up with a plan of action for how to address the issue.

These are just examples of some of the most common uses. The applications for using STEP workflows to improve efficiency in your business are limited only by imagination.

STEP is used by organisations across many different industries and each organisation running STEP may have bespoke master data management challenges and business processes that Stibo STEP workflows could most likely help streamline and automate.

A word of caution

Before you set out to implement those ideas, I do want to warn you that there are many pitfalls to avoid when implementing a workflow.

I have experienced many customers over the years who have seen the great potential for using STEP workflows in their business, but who underestimate the implications those workflows will have for the daily life of the end-users.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of overengineering your workflow to the point, where users feel trapped and wearing a straitjacket to work. That’s when you know that your implementation of a workflow has failed.

We usually advise customers that want to implement complex workflows with strict rules and business logic to start with a simple and more manual business process first.

This is especially the case for organisations that are starting to use STEP for the first time. They have gone through a process of defining how the new system should make their lives better and they are excited about all the possibilities that STEP offers. But at this point, they have never tried to work with the system and have therefore maybe not yet fully encountered the full spectrum of use cases and exceptions that the system should be able to support.

My advice is therefore to only implement fairly simple workflows during the first one or two implementation phases of STEP. Let users gain experience with the new system and accept that some tasks are as automated as they could be.

Then review the experiences after a few months and gather input from users. That way you will gain a much more qualified view of how your workflows can be optimised to their full potential.

Take action

I hope that this article about Stibo STEP workflows has inspired you to investigate and brainstorm new ways that STEP workflows could help deliver improvements to your business.

If you have the relevant STEP qualifications in-house, you can implement workflows yourself. The functionality is included in all versions of STEP and requires no additional licenses.

If you are curious about how STEP workflows could help your business, but need help to take the next step, feel free to reach out to us and let’s have a chat about it.

The modern enterprise must be able to respond to changes in the market and swiftly capitalize on emerging opportunities. This is a challenge considering the average data scientist spends approximately 60% of their time cleaning and organizing data, according to Forbes.

According to Accenture:

Fully 67 percent of those surveyed (who are senior managers or higher) say they are not comfortable accessing or using data from their tools and resources. The proportion is significant even at companies with strong data-driven cultures, where 37 percent of respondents still express discomfort.

The root cause of this problem is an inadequate approach to Master Data Management (MDM). MDM is “an approach that seeks a single point of reference for all master information sets within an organization.

Master Data Management (MDM) is a solution that helps with the management of master data, which is any data that is used across multiple applications in an organization. Master data typically includes things like customer and supplier information, product catalogs, business processes, contracts and agreements, and more.

The goal of MDM is to create a single source of truth for your organization's master information so that it can be easily accessed by people who need it. Stibo STEP Master Data Management solutions can help you manage how master data is created and used throughout your organization—whether that means ensuring that all changes are made consistently or making sure that they're stored in one place so they're easily accessible to everyone who needs them.

According to Gartner MDM can be summarized in four parts: a central hub for data; integration and synchronization between systems; semantic consistency through a common view of definitions; and governance over master data. If your business has not already begun working towards implementing MDM or you feel like your current efforts are failing, here are three signs you need to implement an effective MDM solution:

Your business is experiencing data inconsistencies.

Data inconsistencies are a common problem for businesses, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in operation for years. The most common issues that arise when your business doesn’t have an MDM solution include:

Your business is having trouble managing information as more sources emerge.

If your business is experiencing data inconsistencies, has trouble managing it as more sources emerge and is facing challenges in data governance, then it might be time to consider implementing a Stibo MDM solution. A good MDM solution will help you:

Your business is facing challenges in data governance.

Data governance is the process of establishing a strategy and overseeing its implementation. Data governance is important because it helps to ensure consistency and accuracy of data across your many business systems, which can be used in multiple ways. Having an overall strategy for managing your company's data will help you avoid:

stibo step master data management

If you are experiencing one of the above signs your company may benefit from implementing the Stibo STEP Master Data Management Solution.

MDM is a solution that can help your business solve the above problems, managing information across multiple sources and systems.

Using the Stibo STEP Master Data Management solution can be a great way to improve your company’s information governance, data management and consistency issues. One of the biggest benefits of using this solution is that it will allow you to implement processes that are much more reliable than what has traditionally been done in the past. An MDM solution will also help you establish a set of rules for how all departments within your organization should interact with one another when it comes time to access or modify any sort of information regarding customers or products sold by those departments.

If you need help with swiftly implementing Stibo Step Master Data Management Solution for your business, get in touch with our Unit of Measure experts to get started.