Adopting PLM as a cloud service can provide a foundation for the further digitalisation of product design and development processes, enable greater innovation, drive more value from the business and support business growth, says Andrew Dalziel, senior director, Industry Strategy, Infor.

Even amidst the current global economic situation, fashion remains one of the most innovative industries. Whilst we might have postponed collections and styles on the catwalks of New York, Paris and Milan, there is still work going on.

Yet fashion companies are often slow to deploy new technology internally to support, automate and differentiate their business processes. For their business software applications, part of this lies at the door of the software firms who often had long cycles between new releases, but there is also the associated pain of planning and budgeting for a major upgrade. Not to mention the need to redirect valuable working capital from collections and omni-channel towards upgrades, then squeeze ‘go lives’ between new collection launches.

An initial PLM (product lifecycle management) software deployment normally goes well, but then things often stagnate over time. As user needs evolve, it becomes difficult to update the solution and adopt new technology and functional capabilities without a major upgrade project.

It is the promise – and premise – of cloud that businesses receive new capabilities on a frequent basis and are easily accessed. For example, if some key new functionality for working with 2D turntable or 3D images becomes available, this should be ready with no need for a major upgrade. Companies simply try the functionality out and add it to processes if they are happy with it. Technology becomes a value driver for business versus a cost of doing business.

A true cloud service for PLM offers:

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  • A secure infrastructure and low total cost of ownership.
  • A resilient environment to minimise the risk of any unplanned downtime affecting the productivity of the design and development team.
  • Security at an affordable cost to reduce the risk of IP theft in today’s world of cyber-attacks.
  • The ability to work anywhere, any time, on any device – PC, Mac, tablet, iPad or smart phone – as long as users have an internet connection.
  • And perhaps most important, easy access to the latest functional and technology innovations to deliver competitive advantage.

Various flavours of cloud

Cloud is the underlying technology that can help address these challenges for fashion businesses by opening the door for greater digitalisation. However, there are various flavours of cloud from the simple hosting of legacy systems in the cloud to a true cloud service delivered on a subscription basis and with single version software. While hosting may allow businesses to outsource the responsibility for keeping a system running, it’s a true cloud service that can really deliver transformation.

The concept of PLM implies everyone is using the same data repository. However, on-premise and hybrid cloud solutions often end up with different server instances, as well as local client software installs that lend themselves to each location or team evolving their own data and processes. With a true cloud native PLM solution, everyone is accessing the same solution, leveraging the same up-to-date data and using common standardised processes and the same task-driven approach. 

In addition, leading cloud PLM solutions have a modern user experience and impressive collaboration capabilities that enable much easier sharing of information with colleagues and partners wherever they are in the world. They can also embed information from other systems within the user interface for better decision making.

The objective is to enable the creative team to focus on shortening time to market, creating more innovative new styles, driving greater efficiency and minimising costly mistakes during the product design and development phase.  

Cloud offers the advantages of performance, reliability, stability, security of data, and disaster recovery, while subscription means no upfront payments, so capital is preserved within your business.

Growth ambitions

Almost every fashion brand has growth ambitions. Whether the company is an emerging young brand undergoing organic growth or a well-established brand, any fashion business is constantly evolving. Achieving and maintaining growth in today’s business environment often means that strategy evolves faster than the IT department.

A true PLM cloud service can support product innovation and offers a level of scalability that would be very difficult to achieve with an on-premise solution. A PLM cloud service can scale to support everyone from an emerging fashion brand to a large, global fashion enterprise. Computer processing power is available on tap whenever needed and as the organisation grows. Another benefit is the flexibility and speed at which you can roll out a cloud solution to new users, as the business grows and expands geographically.

Let’s assume you open a new design office or acquire a company in a different country. You don’t need to worry about additional hardware, local configuration or support resources. All your users need is an internet connection and a browser. Your new users can get up-and-running in a very short space of time with a modern, consumer grade and intuitive user interface. Everyone works on the same standard, repeatable, and well-documented processes and has access to a central data repository.

Cloud can transform a fashion IT team from being a necessary cost of doing business to a value driver where technology keeps up with the speed of change and focus on delivering new capabilities and valuable management information, even during periods of rapid growth. This means more resources are focused on primary business goals, such as shortening time to market, improving efficiency and increasing product quality.

Thus, adopting PLM as a cloud service can provide the foundation for the further digitalisation of product design and development processes, enable greater innovation, drive more value from the business and support business growth.