Home News Best-In-Breed Systems Deployment – Vendor Interview with Peter Eklund, Sales Manager Apparel, Retail & Footwear Europe for Technia

Best-In-Breed Systems Deployment – Vendor Interview with Peter Eklund, Sales Manager Apparel, Retail & Footwear Europe for Technia

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Following on from his introductory look at the “best in breed” approach, Rob Smith recently met with Peter Eklund, Sales Manager Apparel, Retail & Footwear in Europe for Technia to discuss their thoughts on both methodologies:

Rob Smith: With the recent downturn in global economies, are you finding that your customers (who are primarily multinational organisations working in the retail, footwear and apparel sector) have recovered quicker than some other industries with less resilient product portfolios, and what do you believe are your customers’ key business drivers now moving forward?

Peter Eklund: I have to say that we meet almost daily with companies that are still exhibiting strong growth and have ambitious growth paths and business plans. On the other hand, we also regularly meet with clients who feel they have been affected by the shaky global economic situation, which shows no signs of stabilising – making many companies feel that it is more difficult than usual to predict the future.  Because of that economic pressure, both types of customer we meet have identified a requirement to become more efficient across the board, but particularly when it comes to their product development processes.  There is a recognition now that companies (whatever their size) need to be able to collaborate in a controlled and efficient way in order to remain competitive in a difficult global environment.

Rob Smith: With the recent downturn in global economies, are you finding that your customers (who are primarily multinational organisations working in the retail, footwear and apparel sector) have recovered quicker than some other industries with less resilient product portfolios, and what do you believe are your customers’ key business drivers now moving forward?

Peter Eklund: I believe so, but I should point out that for customers of PLM to weather these changes the platforms their solutions are built on have to be stable enough to last for many years.  Of course, we have seen a rapid improvement in web-based interfaces, and the overall user-friendliness of PLM is much higher today than it was even a few years back, but customers are focused on the short-term ROI potential and long-term viability of their solution.   We are now under pressure to be able to deliver solutions that can achieve an ROI in the first year of implementations.

Rob Smith: Do you think enterprise systems can still deliver a beneficial value over 5 years from go-live in the current market?

Peter Eklund: Yes, but as I explained, the platforms have to be stable.  After the initial ROI pressure, we then work together with our clients to fine tune their solution, adapting the latest techniques to fit their growth path for the future.

Rob Smith: In what regions and / or areas are Technia themselves either forecasting or currently seeing strong demand for PLM and other enterprise level-IT solutions? Why do you suspect the market is buoyant here ahead of other regions?

Peter Eklund: We are seeing a continued strong demand from fast-moving fashion companies, and also from the internal markets of the growth economies that have been focused until now on production for Western brands.

Rob Smith: How are you, Technia, helping to deliver better value for these customers from your enterprise system now, versus how you achieved the same goal in the different market circumstances prior to 2007?

Peter Eklund: At Technia this is where our passion really likes – in our desire to deliver world-class PLM solutions to our customers, whatever it takes! We are being challenged every day by our customers to improve our solutions to meet their needs.  To achieve that we have the pleasure of working with what we consider to be the number one PLM platform in any industry.  In addition to that, we have a very skilled internal R&D team that is focused on developing our own components to enhance the PLM user experience and increase the productivity of our customers’ end users, helping them to derive even more business benefit from their solution.

The consulting teams that handle our implementations also improve their processes, step by step, in every system project that they deliver.  A huge change between the way things were done previously and the way we deliver today is that we are acting more as advisors in roles that go beyond IT matters, challenging our customers and proposing improvements to their processes.

Rob Smith: Without going into the particulars that we will cover, do you think running a best-in-breed systems approach is a better value proposition than running one singular end-to-end system(s) deployment?

Peter Eklund: As recently as a few years ago, the task of integrating best-in-breed systems across an organisation was quite big, mitigating a lot of the superior functionality and cost benefits that this approach can deliver. With the increased maturity of standard integration techniques – techniques like Web Services – this is no longer an issue. The customer is now free (more or less) to pick and choose between systems for product development and production, focusing on the aspects that are most important to them: for example price, level of functionality, scalability etc. This, again, of course relies on those best-in-breed systems being built on a stable platform and using modern techniques.

Rob Smith: Does the best-in-breed approach not mean, for example: two sets of implementation consultants; two sets of bespoke middleware; two sets of software licences; two sets of support contracts; two sets of independently configured reports; two sets of data? And so on…

Peter Eklund: Yes, but keep in mind that for some companies, their internal processes and the level of support they get from their critical IT systems is a matter of life and death in the market. Provided they can rely on their solutions to be the best, customers are happy with this arrangement.

Rob Smith: Speaking cynically: software vendors, of course, have a margin on software sales. Part of the attraction of the single-vendor model is that a client can take advantage of economies of scale in licences, making the solution a more attractive sale. How does a best-in-breed approach deal with this loss of opportunity?

Peter Eklund: My experience is that the best-in-breed systems are developed or sold by smaller companies rather than by the developers of monolithic systems, enabling a more flexible pricing structure and reduced overheads for the margin to cover.

Rob Smith: PLM is an enterprise system and here at WhichPLM we consider it to be one of the most vital backbone components of any IT strategy. In that role, of course, it can have numerous interfaces into the ‘extended PLM’ world. How does your PLM solution deal with these integrations? Do you collaborate with key technology partners (e.g. SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce.com)?

Peter Eklund: At Technia we have active collaborations with most of the key technology providers, and this is true of course of Dassault Systèmes, who work closely with those providers in developing the PLM system and its integrations to key solutions like ERP and EAI.

Rob Smith: With these integrations, are we talking about interfacing three or four different sets of data to the PLM system (SCM, ERP, CRM etc…) or one PLM set of data, living in PLM, that is accessible to the three or four interfacing systems? What in your opinion would be ideal setup here?

Peter Eklund: The most common system integration approach today is to let the various enterprise systems (PLM, ERP, CRM, …) expose services. These services are then orchestrated in system integration workflows, typically initiated by some event in one system. Since the services are using clearly defined interfaces, any system becomes a “pluggable” component, giving the customer freedom to replace it at any time.

Rob Smith: A potential issue could arise when one of the integrated systems releases a new version, and changes made to this version break the existing interface. If you purchased a single-solution/vendor model, this issue would be minimal or non-existent. How do your customers deal with such issues without the need for incurring further development or consultancy fees?

Peter Eklund: As I mentioned previously, this is handled by defining stable interfaces in the systems integration architecture at an early stage.

Rob Smith: Not only are we talking about different sets of data, living in different systems, we are also looking at different platforms and technical deployments. What is the technical strategy for your solution’s development, and what factors have influenced this approach?

Peter Eklund: It has always been our customers’ demands that have defined the platforms we and Dassault Systèmes support and the technologies we use. It is also very important that business critical systems like PLM have stable architectures between releases so that our customers’ IT departments can avoid costly re-training exercises and work with well-established frameworks. The latter is just one of the reasons why our solutions are built using Java.

Rob Smith: Finally (and perhaps crucially), if you had a very immature client who had neither PLM nor ERP, and only had the resources to run one system project, which would you advise to start with and why?

Peter Eklund: PLM of course! A PLM implementation from Technia will help a customer to achieve the vital task of defining the right product for the right market at the right time.  The rest is accounting that you can do just as well in Excel.

Rob Smith Rob Smith is a contributor to WhichPLM. He previously served as Operations Manager to the Product Development Partnership. His expertise range from Fashion/Retail systems to Gaming and his contributions focus on the realities of selecting and implementing PLM and ERP. As a fully qualified commercial solicitor he often writes about the legal and legislative frameworks that affect the way companies in our industry do business. He runs his own consultancy and is editor of a number of iGaming related sites like Return to Player and Lost World Games.