After their founding in 1996, Ariba®, a leader in electronic procurement, introduced the Catalog Interchange Format (CIF) as their standardized electronic file format for supplier catalogs. CIF has grown into a de facto standard and is widely used by hundreds of thousands of companies throughout the world.
Catalog Interchange Format
CIF is a hierarchical comma separated variable (CSV) double-quoted format comprised of a file header, line data, and file trailer. The hierarchical format allows parent/child relationships, like with size/color apparel product matrixes, to be represented with relatively minor overhead.
Benefits of a CIF Catalog
The major benefit of an electronic catalog, CIF or otherwise, is that it eliminates the need for buyers to manually enter item information into their procurement system or convert files from one format to another. Through the CIF standard, suppliers can easily publish catalogs and buyers can easily import them. Instead of focusing on mundane catalog management, purchasing departments could allocate more time on spend management.
Limits of a CIF Catalog
The simplicity of the Catalog Interchange Format comes at the price of product configuration. CIF has no direct representation for product specifications, bill of materials, or product configuration rules. CIF can represent simple products or services, but cannot be used solely for items that require configuration. For configurable products, a CIF catalog is used in conjunction with a PunchOut Catalog.