With this guest article, Delogue begins a short series with us. Delogue integrates communication, product data, and project management in one platform for both suppliers and designers. Rikke Biehl, CEO of Delogue, explores three trends found in the lifestyle sector for her first article with WhichPLM.
During the past year we have met with more than 200 companies in the lifestyle industry – companies in the apparel, footwear, jewellery, and interior sectors – and even though their products and business models vary, we see a pattern in the challenges they are facing, and in their priorities. Three in particular.
[quote]“Do what you do well – co-source the rest”[/quote]
The lifestyle industry was one of the first to outsource production to other countries.
They are now building closer relationships to their suppliers. Instead of talking about outsourcing, they actually talk about ‘co-sourcing’. This is where they build strategic partnerships focusing on archiving the same goal. Customer data and sales prices no longer have to be secret from the suppliers (they will know when they add stickers to the hangtags anyway). The shared information can be used to achieve better results – together.
Production is not the only thing that can be co-sourced. More and more companies are co-sourcing other business functions like logistics, online marketing, design or purchase. You can actually run a fashion company without a single employee – all you need is a strong brand strategy and the right partnerships.
Co-sourcing of course brings benefits. Even though you may be a small company you can team up with specialized people, who have the exact skills you are looking for. With online solutions your team member can sit in three different continents and collaborate without any trouble.
Secondly, your cost structure goes from fixed to variable and by that your business becomes more agile.
One of the challenges with co-sourcing, however, is with how to collect and manage your company knowledge and intellectual properties to ensure that the value of the business will grow. A great deal of information is stored on individual computers and might not be accessible after ending the cooperation with a co-source partner. It is crucial to find a solution where all information is stored and accessible, to eliminate this risk. And at the same time to be able to shut down access when the partnership comes to an end.
2. Single source of truth
[quote]“No one likes to type things twice. No one likes to type things twice.”[/quote]
With new ways of collaborating from different locations comes a need to have one central place to find and store the information. After all, your colleague may not sit across from you , ready to answer any questions you may have then and there.
It seems that Excel is still the most broadly used IT-solution, where a lot of important product information is saved and shared – in multiple versions of any given Excel-sheet. We have found that companies, on average, have 10-12 different Excel-sheets for any one product – price lists, product data, status reports and costs – maintained manually. This, of course, raises some questions around where to find the truth, and around the risk of having invalid data.
The need to have one system to collect all of this product information is therefore more relevant than it has been before. This can either be PIM (Product Information Management), a PDM (Product Data Management) tool or PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), depending on the needs of the business.
[quote]“Make the business fit the solution – not the other way around”[/quote]
Customized IT solutions were seen as a differentiator some years go – as a way to beat the competitors by having the best better solution. Companies in the Lifestyle sectors soon realized that the investment, unfortunately, never gave the expected return. Instead they got stocked with a customized solution, which they could not afford to maintain.
As consumers we are getting more used to having apps – they fit our needs and when something new comes along, we can easily switch to it. This is actually also the case when we talk about business solutions. And a lot of standard solutions have appeared to manage online stores, stock, financials, product information etc.
This way of thinking – building apps into IT business strategy – allows you to collect the best tools for each of your business units and then integrate them to ensure valid data. The standard solutions might not fit your business processes completely, but instead of changing the system, it is only small adjustments to the processes that have to be made.
This will give you the ability to change a single application (if something better comes up) without changing the entire solution.
So what we can learn from this?
- Find out what you do well, focus on this and let someone else take care of the rest.
- Make sure that your intellectual properties are safe with your business – it might be of value in the future.
- Find standard IT solutions that fits to your business – then you might have to make small adjustments to make your processes fit…