Next Level Consulting mit forbeyond

Interview with Kersten Wirth

After having to postpone our priint:days until June 2021, we used the extra time to talk to our sponsors and partners. How have you experienced the last weeks and what has changed? What are the impacts and influences on the priint:day and the lectures?

In today's interview we talked to Kersten Wirth from forbeyond (formerly PIM-Consult) who provided her experienced feedback and clued us in on the latest news.

Thank you for taking the time for the interview. We have noticed that you are very familiar with lists! Consulting and Product Connect. How did this come about?

We have been friends for years and have known the other managing directors since 2010, from our time at OTTO. We worked together on the PIM project there. During this time we have learned to appreciate each other.

When Corona started, we started discussions and jointly considered which synergies would result for our companies and how we could come out of the situation stronger.

Although we were competitors in the market and offered bids against each other from time to time, we treated each other very fairly. The merger of PIM-Consult and Listen! Consulting only worked out because we have the same standards for our work, this is especially true for our independence and neutrality. The consulting approach and the way we act with our clients is very comparable.

Our position in the market is now even stronger with a brand portfolio of over 107 customer brands and more than 40 employees we are a very relevant player in the market.

PIM-Consult was classically oriented towards fashion & lifestyle, retail and industry. Lists! Consulting on the other hand, in the group environment, DIY market segment and with industrial customers on the road. This was certainly also an important argument.

The merger happened during the Corona era. Did that present you with challenges?

It was, of course, a special situation, as such decisions are not made exclusively via video conferencing. Strategic planning and contract negotiations with masks and distance are definitely a special situation. After all, we were also talking about the future of our employees, so we had to meet in person.

You had indicated in the preliminary discussion that the market was changing. Do Corona and digitization have an impact on the market?

We are noticing that more customers are asking us and now want to start with the projects that have already communicated with us in the past.

All in all, we have noticed that industrial customers in particular contact us. Here, the effect of Corona on the sales organisation is massive, as the lack of personal contact with the customer has an even more dramatic effect on the processes. There is a lack of digital tools, apps and processes to support customer contact. The paper catalog sometimes does not help when all contact persons are in the home office.

This has massively intensified the existing challenges of the digital transformation!

This is even more dramatic in the B2C segment, as sales collapse at various manufacturers in closed stationary retail outlets and previously neglected digital initiatives have been pushed forward with "turbochargers". But not only digitalization, but also print has become more relevant again, as the customer can be addressed differently in the home office.

We see similar challenges for our own business - we work largely from the home office and our projects are almost entirely remote. The first series of 100% remote projects prove that this construct can work very well.

This situation would change the role of traditional distribution in the future, wouldn't it?

Yes, I think so. A large part of my day consists of sales and project work. Before Corona, I spent 3-4 days a week with customers or at events - Since Corona, I have only spent 5 days in total. We now carry out a large part of our sales processes online or by telephone, which creates new challenges - for both sides.

There is a lack of direct, personal contact, which I find particularly painful in the absence of trade fairs and congresses.

That sounds familiar. Many fairs were cancelled and we had to postpone the priint:day. The digital events are becoming more and more popular and first forecasts also say that they will stay. We are already thinking about next year and wonder whether there will be more or fewer events.

DMEXCO was recently completely designed as an online event. A virtual exhibition stand was supposed to make contact possible here, but unfortunately many exhibitors did not show up. Master classes and webinars, on the other hand, work very well because there is still a need for information!

When I look at our friends from the Fashion Cloud, a data pool for fashion, they have made excellent use of the opportunity and launched a digital Fashion Week. All fashion manufacturers must present their new collections. The solution was very successful, with video streams, pre-produced videos and live catwalks from the showrooms, a lot is possible.

In contrast, the Prokom Data Days, which I moderate, took place this year with only 50 people and under high security conditions. On the one hand, a strange feeling under the sign of Corona, but on the other hand, the participants were very happy to be able to talk and exchange ideas with experts and like-minded people once again.

I believe that the familiar, large event formats will not return in the familiar form. Hybrid events are more likely in my view.

We have heard from Prokom that it went well. How did it work there with all the measures, including face-to-face talks?

As we had a lot of space, it was easy to keep the distance rules. We were also lucky with the weather, the participants could use the outdoor areas and the constantly open windows were even more pleasant than air conditioning. In parts, PROKOM was a hybrid event, the speaker from Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte was connected via video. A "lecture without a speaker" is a bit unusual - but it works.

Conversations at a distance and mouthguards are (unfortunately) now the norm.

Despite the lower number of participants, the event was nevertheless interesting for the providers. Whoever comes to Prokom during Corona has a specific reason. The percentage of visitors who are actively looking for a solution was accordingly higher than at a "normal" event.

I personally found the event a great success and would like to take this opportunity to thank the exhibitors and the German Congress for their courage in organizing it in this way.

We plan to hold our priint:day live next year. What is the special thing about priint:day for you? Why should you participate in priint:day? Also with regard to your company merger, what can we look forward to?

People should go to priint:day because the format is extremely exciting. You have united such a large number of PIM providers / implementers as partners and there you have the chance to see many relevant "players" live within a very short time.

Horst's lectures are definitely worth a visit!

It's similar to the PROKOM Data Days: you can compare the individual manufacturer integration for print production within a very short time. The constant is your solution, the Comet.

The combination of PIM systems, integrators, consultants (such as forbeyond) and flanking systems makes the priint:day a really attractive event.

We will also be playing an active part in next year's event, and I am pleased that Horst addressed us here.

To the last question, participants can look forward to our holistic approach to consulting and services. Forbeyond has a much larger service spectrum than the former PIM-Consult. We were a classic PIM consultancy with the modules analysis, concepts, vendor selection and implementation support. Through forbeyond connect we offer our customers an additional benefit, as we can now map the entire value chain. In addition to content modelling, classification structure, data maintenance and content creation, we support the automation of texts and photo processes.

In the past, we have built up great PIM ecosystems with our customers and restructured processes, data models and responsibilities. The actual creation and migration of data was in the hands of the customer. Now we have the opportunity to reflect this through our own teams based here in Germany and create added value for our customers.

So a chain extension, from the offer to the customer?

It is a really good synergy. Our customers are grateful because we have a lot of experience and often the detailed knowledge from the project. We know how companies think when we work on projects and we know the people involved.

With forbeyond we can access an even greater wealth of experience, with our own enterprise architects, classification specialists, data analysts and of course significantly more consultants. Although I myself have been active in this market since 2002, I do learn new approaches from our colleagues.

During Corona we have also noticed changes in communication internally, both within the team and externally. Formats have also changed, what are your experiences?

We have now completely adapted to the digital workshop formats. There are really great tools (e.g. Miro and of course teams) with which we can work very well. We have also noticed that online workshops can be more efficient than on-site meetings.

However, I myself have noticed a negative effect - the usual scheduling of clients and contacts has changed. It is much more common for appointments to be scheduled from 12-13 pm. Lunchtime is no longer felt to be "sacred".

Finally, the question of all questions: Is there anything else you want to get rid of?

Our distinguishing feature from many of our competitors is, even in the new constellation as forbeyond, our independence from software providers. From our point of view this is a great advantage for our customers, as we act in their interest and select the most suitable solution. It is worth taking a closer look here. There are hardly any truly independent consultants on the market.

Our message: If someone is looking for a neutral consultant, we are the right ones.

Is this the only way that will be crowned with long-term success?

It is the hardest way of all but the most sustainable, as we act exclusively in the interest of the customer. This is very important to us and I personally am glad that I can look in the mirror in the morning because we (from our point of view) are doing the right thing.

Thank you very much for the time and the insights and we are looking forward to the lecture next year.

About forbeyond

forbeyond is the result of a merger of successful consultancies (Listen! Consulting, PIM-Consult, Product! Connect) for digitisation and business transformation. We are united by our passion for product data.

With our expertise, experience, processes and tools, combined with our independence from the software industry, we offer a unique portfolio of services to retailers, manufacturers and organisations.

In everything we do, we follow our heritage and mission: "Product stories well told!

With a team of almost 40 specialists in Hamburg, Kiel, Munich and Stuttgart, forbeyond offers research, strategy, conception, system selection and process optimisation in the product data environment as well as operative content management and marketplace connection.

Customers of the merged companies include well-known brands such as Audi, Breuninger, 3M, Drogerie Müller, Hornbach, Marc O' Polo, Mytoys Group, OTTO and Uvex.