AITech Interview with Neda Nia, Chief Product Officer at Stibo Systems

Learn about pivotal moments from Neda’s journey and insights into Stibo’s mission of better data, better business, better world.

Neda, please share some key milestones and experiences from your professional journey that have shaped your perspective and approach as Chief Product Officer at Stibo Systems.

I have the honor of mentoring a couple of young leaders, and they ask this question a lot. The answer I always give is that I approach each day as an opportunity to learn, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific milestone. However, there have been some crucible moments where I made radical decisions, and I think those moments have influenced my journey. One of them was my shift towards computer science. Despite having a background in linguistics and initially aspiring to be a teacher, I took a complete shift and decided to explore computer science. Programming was initially intimidating for me, and I had always tried to avoid math throughout my student life. I saw myself more as an art and literature person, and that gutsy shift turned out to be a great decision in the long term. The decision was made by me, but it wouldn’t have turned into a success without support from my mentors and leaders – it’s super important to have champions around you to guide you, especially early in your career. 

Another significant moment was when I accepted a consulting job that involved phasing out legacy systems. This required negotiating with users who would lose functionalities they had been using for years. These conversations were often challenging, and I was tempted to quit. However, I made the decision to stay and tackle the problem with a more compassionate approach towards the application users. It was during this time that I truly understood the nature of change management in the product development process. People find it difficult to let go of their routines and what has made them successful. The more successful users are with their apps, the less likely they are to embrace change. However, sometimes solutions become outdated and need to be replaced – plain and simple. The challenge is how to build a changing product while ensuring that users come along. This story applies to Stibo Systems. We have been around for over 100 years and have managed to transform our business. Stibo Systems is a perfect example of how to build lasting products, be open to change and transformation and make sure you aren’t leaving any customers behind.

Could you provide an overview of Stibo Systems’ mission and how it aligns with the concept of “better data, better business, better world”?

Our heritage extends far back, but we are a cutting-edge technology company. We specialize in delivering data management products that empower companies to make informed decisions, resulting in remarkable outcomes. This approach not only contributes to our sustainable growth but also supports our profitability, allowing us to reinvest and expand.

Our mission statement encapsulates our business ethos – one with a strong sense of conscientiousness. Our primary focus revolves around doing what’s right for our customers, employees and the environment. Customer satisfaction is at the forefront of our priorities, evident in our high software license renewal rates, a testament to our commitment to delivering top-notch products and services.

Moreover, we hold a unique position in the market as one of the few major companies headquartered in Europe. Europe is facing increasing pressure to embrace sustainable practices, and we are actively engaged in leading this transformation. Our commitment extends to reducing our environmental footprint while leveraging our tools to assist large-scale customers in sectors such as retail, manufacturing and consumer packaged goods (CPG) in monitoring and sharing sustainability data. Through these efforts, our aim is to contribute to the creation of a better world.

Better Data

What specific strategies does Stibo Systems employ in acquiring and managing data to ensure it meets the requirements of today and tomorrow?

Stibo Systems helps companies manage their data in a well-governed manner. What does that mean? The very high-level explanation is we help companies acquire data from different sources, manage that data, govern it and prepare it for a specific use. Sometimes, the use case is to build a single source of truth that can be leveraged by other analytics or reporting tools. Other times, we become the input layer for recommendation engines, and sometimes the data is used to build contextualized and relevant product detail pages. 

Data domains we manage include:

  • Product data: Think stock keeping unit (SKUs), think digital shelf where customers interact with product data related to price, inventory, color, size – everything that makes a shopper make a purchase decision.
  • Location data: Consider a restaurant that has multiple locations and needs to manage and enrich their location data. This can be super useful for fast food or grocery stores, as physical location plays an important role in customer experience. During Covid, we even saw stores using their retail space as a warehouse; all is possible if you manage your location data in a scalable manner.
  • Supplier data: Retailers deal with thousands of suppliers. Stibo Systems’ solution enables enterprises to manage supplier data in a central way and even have scorecards for each supplier for a better experience for both retailers and suppliers. An example is that some suppliers are providing excellent product data and assets, and therefore you don’t need to do much working with them, but other suppliers’ data may not be prime time ready. You would need to have more processes and approval workflows – we help retailers manage all that data.
  • Sustainability  Sustainability data is becoming a prominent topic for many companies invested in EST and it is a complex topic, as it entails multiple dimensions. We welcome the complexity because our multidomain data management solution provides the foundation to manage sustainability data which can touch; product data, location data, and supplier data. In addition, out of the box functionalities will empower companies to design and deliver sustainability related reporting concerning their products and services

Overall, Stibo Systems Products help companies manage their data and leverage accurate, trustworthy data to make the right business decisions resulting in spectacular results. 

Better Business

Could you share a couple of customer examples where Stibo Systems’ solutions have significantly contributed to their growth and efficiency? How did multi-domain MDM play a role in this?

Stibo Systems has a robust customer base of about 600, and each customer has had results using our solutions. We help with data operations and internal efficiencies around managing data, but more importantly, we help them scale their business and drive business value. Most of our customers are billion-dollar-plus revenue customers – you can imagine they have many employees who touch data, and there are many handovers in the process, leading to high cost of data ops. Using our products help them reduce waste in the process and also reduce data liability. 

Imagine you are a manufacturing company trying to sell a product or service on a digital shelf, whether that digital shelf sits within your own channel or other channels such as Amazon or other marketplaces. Now, imagine the data you published about your product or service is wrong. Besides the embarrassment of having incorrect data, there can be legal consequences, not to mention lost revenue because customers will buy something they were misinformed or misguided on. So, the impact of not having a data management platform can be utterly negative.

Next, picture you are a retailer tasked with increasing your supplier count by 25%, but you don’t have one single headcount to deal with these suppliers. If you are interacting with your suppliers through spreadsheets and emails instead of a solution like Stibo Systems, that will be almost impossible. The same example applies if you are heavily investing in AI, and your machine learning modules are not giving you sufficient results unless you have trustworthy data. Therefore, you will not get the ROI on your data science teams and machine learning applications – recommendations or decision engines all need accurate data. 

Regardless of your industry, Data management is a necessity if you are thinking about scale, efficiency and time to market. And now, with evolving requirements like sustainability and ESG reporting, a data management tool that provides credible data is more important than ever before.  

Better World

What is the foundation story of Stibo Systems, and how does it tie into the company’s commitment to sustainability and ESG goals?

Stibo Systems believes fueling businesses with better data empowers them to make better decisions grounded in accurate data. As an example, we are working with one of the largest connected technical device manufacturers. These folks are amazing at what they do, and they understand the impact they can have on the planet by sharing their carbon footprint with their distributors and taking a collective approach towards reducing carbon footprint in the end-to-end supply chain. We help them manage that data and then share with their distributors at scale. 

Another example is companies that want to share product ingredients with their end customers. We help them with that and also show their customers data depending on their demographics. The keto diet might be a big driver for a certain region, whereas a consumer in the same country but a different zip code may be more interested in buying a whole food ingredient with less carbon footprint.

“Our partnership with Microsoft was in part based on their commitment to having have power purchase agreements for green energy contracted for 100% of carbon-emitting electricity consumed by all Azure datacenters, buildings, and campuses by 2025.”

In summary, Stibo Systems enables companies use their data to support their strategic vision, whether that vision is to become a sustainable company or provide the best digital shelf experience, or have the best experience for your supplier.

Sustainability and MDM

Could you delve into how multi-domain master data management is leveraged to address trending issues, particularly in the realm of sustainability and managing sustainability data?

By 2025, companies operating in the EU will be required to report on their sustainability efforts and progress. This reporting, akin to financial accounting, will encompass aspects like carbon footprint. European companies, as well as multinationals operating in Europe, are actively working to comply with these regulations. However, when we look at regions like Asia or North America, companies that operate within a single region or country might not have the same level of awareness about impending sustainability reporting requirements, primarily because it isn’t yet regulatory there.

Three primary reasons are driving this change. First and foremost is the regulatory aspect. Companies, especially those in the developed world, should proactively prepare to meet these upcoming regulations. Europe is leading the way with its 2025 deadline, and it’s likely that states in the U.S., particularly California, will follow suit. Second, brand reputation is increasingly tied to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Reputation can be influenced by various stakeholders, and companies don’t want to find themselves lagging behind. The impact on the reputation of industries like tobacco and oil due to changing consumer expectations is a stark example.

Last, consumer purchase behavior is evolving. Consumers are becoming more purpose-driven in their choices. While price and product attributes were historically key factors, now, consumers are considering whether a product is good for the planet. They are making choices based on trustworthy information regarding packaging, recyclability, carbon footprint and more.

In essence, we specialize in managing various types of business data, and sustainability data is no exception. Stibo Systems doesn’t generate this data; we make it readily available. As the market shifts towards sustainability-conscious consumer choices and regulatory requirements loom, companies across industries, including grocery retail, will need to consider the carbon footprint of their products and supply chains. This data will play a crucial role in decisionmaking, such as selecting locally grown items with a lower carbon footprint over imported alternatives.

In summary, we focus on consolidating, governing, cleansing, and sharing sustainability data, recognizing the increasing significance of sustainability in today’s business landscape.

Learn more about Stibo Systems’ sustainability data management.

Challenges in Sustainability Reporting

Managing and governing the collection and reporting of sustainability data can be complex and error-prone. How does Stibo Systems approach this challenge and what solutions do you offer to mitigate risks?

Quite frankly, no one has all the answers to this right now. An area we feel we can help is data exchange. At the moment, there are no predefined standards about what attributes are needed or the format that they should be restored in. There’s no metadata dictionary. You might start collecting sustainability data attributes, but you have to keep reissuing them. Certain certifications only last for a year or a fixed period of time before they’re obsolete. And it’s not just capturing a company’s immediate data – it’s their suppliers, who in turn must get data from their suppliers, and so on. 

The key takeaway – sustainability data is more than just an attribute and a value. There’s a context and a lifespan around it. Stibo Systems’ role here is to make it manageable. We help create a formalized process – data controls, guardrails that MDM provides around applying data quality rules, sufficiency scores, business rules, workflows, approval processes and more. Flexibility is a big asset, too. Sustainability data management helps keep you updated as ESG standards change and as new ones come along. You must be agile to compete and win.

Future of MDM and Sustainability

How do you envision the role of multi-domain master data management evolving in the context of sustainability over the next few years? 

More so than ever, businesses are moving beyond sustainability pledges and setting carbon footprint benchmarks and targets. The next phase is about being able to prove the milestones you’ve hit, not only to shareholders and internal stakeholders but to current and future customers. As I said before, nobody has every answer yet – but I feel confident in saying that accurate and transparent data is a big first step toward being able to meet and prove the work that’s being done to lower our carbon footprints and grow sustainably.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add or share with our audience about Stibo Systems’ vision and its impact on businesses and the world at large?

I feel it’s important to point out that Stibo Systems is a business with a conscience. Meeting our sustainability and ESG goals is a realization of our company culture and who we want to be as an organization. We’re taking the same steps as our customers to ensure we are a responsible organization and take actions which are most efficient and beneficial to the surrounding environment and diverse communities. As a symbol of our sustainable growth and development, we plant a tree for every one of our new customers and employees. We are on a journey, and we want to bring our customers along with us. 

Neda Nia

Chief Product Officer at Stibo Systems

As Chief Product Officer at Stibo Systems, Neda Nia is responsible for our Product Organization that consists of Cloud Operations, Product Management, UX, Innovation, and R&D. With over 16 years of global experience spanning technology and commerce, Neda has deep knowledge of our market and has proven to establish product strategies that put the customer first. Before joining Stibo Systems, Neda has been a Managing Director at a global software and technology provider, where she defined a go-to-market strategy in North America, developed partnerships, participated in investment activities, and took part in the company’s global strategy exercises.

Neda holds a degree in Business Administration – Information Technology from Seneca College and has completed a Digital Transformation program from MIT as well as a Business Analysis program from the University of Toronto. As an agile enthusiast, Neda has obtained Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner, and PMI Agile Practitioner certifications. She is a student at heart and continues to learn about emerging technologies to keep up with the fast-evolving market needs.

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