Written by Marielle Pesant, Fashion Industry Consultant and Professor – IED – Westminster University.

Whether you’re investing in new software or replacing your current CAD, there’s a lot to consider, such as ROI, implementation, professional support from industry experts, and software updates. But the software itself is not enough. You can be easily blind-sighted by the initial cost, but the long-term investment and the rewards that follow, matter most. It’s not just the price tag. Implementation should be fast, easy, and hassle-free, complemented with customer support.

The average SMB spends 6.4% of its annual revenue on IT, so choosing the right solution and optimizing it, is vitally important. Implementing a new fashion CAD system can be a real challenge. It’s a companywide project, and the responsibility of a successful implementation and onboarding should not fall solely on the users.

Besides achieving a quick ROI, if you’re considering a new system in-house, ensure that your vendor can provide support and professional services, software updates, an intuitive UI, optimized workflows, and system openness and interoperability. And that’s just for starters.

“Since we started using Optitex, we’ve witnessed tremendous improvements across the board. The team quickly proved to be real partners – supportive, with great customer service, onboarding, and implementation, and training our employees.”  Fabian Muller, CEO, GEFF, Spain

Support and Professional Services

Customer support plays a vital role in the success of any software implementation project. An organization needs support and professional services to optimize their investment. Without a team of experts, who can understand your workflows and manage all the implementation stages, your initial investment, however small, will not be fully -optimized. Industry experts will be able to identify the ‘right users’ for each product, whether it be your designers, garment technologists, or patternmakers, listen to them and guide them on their daily job at the initial stages

New users will inevitably make mistakes as they learn and master the new system. Professional services and user training will help reduce time, resources and costs. Understand your training options and the support provided to your teams, such as onsite, where users learn in their work environment; online, from anywhere, for users to work at their own pace; e-learning, to keep user skills up-to-date; mentoring, 1:1 sessions with an expert, and more. An expert team will also ensure a seamless implementation process.

“Optitex is a long-term, trusted partner. What’s more, they put the customer first, with unparalleled support and service. They’ve helped to change our business processes – and from here, the only way to go is up,” Alex Snyder, CEO, AMS Atelier USA

When surveying the market to select the ‘right’ vendor, ensure you understand their problem-solving processes, and how quickly they can deliver results. A professional services team is trained and equipped to handle user questions, queries, and concerns, and to prioritize support requests in a timely manner. Ultimately, it’s a trusted support team that ensures a close working relationship with its customers. Your new software is powered by the teams who implement the system, train your staff, and support users’ needs. Partnering with its customers is a win-win for the software vendor, and for your business.

Software Updates and Bug Fixing

A forward-thinking software vendor continuously updates their products, and effectively communicates its new product features, by offering educational webinars, and training to its customers. Fashion software vendors that provide end-to-end solutions, from design to production, can offer customers the option of migrating, for example, from a 2D to a 3D design solution, with just a simple software update.

As for bug fixing, it’s a known fact that all software has bugs. When it comes time to selecting the best CAD for your fashion business, you’ll want to know, upfront, how (and how often) your vendor fixes bugs. Because customer feedback is an integral part of the software development process, a trusted and reliable vendor will really listen to their customers, respond to requests for changes and modifications, and if and when it’s a good fit, implement these changes into future releases.

User Interface and Workflows

Ease-of-use and an intuitive UI should never be underestimated. A customizable UI and work area, and simple, straightforward work processes, are a must-have with any new fashion CAD system. Choosing a complex and inflexible solution that requires considerable time to master, will have a negative impact on adoption rates.

“The biggest benefit since switching to Optitex is managing account information better and faster. It’s the ability to save data in a Windows platform so that we can merge pattern design data with our existing account management system without any additional time or effort.” Deb Erickson, CEO, The Line Up, USA

System Openness and Interoperability

The ability to easily import and export files from and to your current system, and plotting and cutting machines, is fundamental. System openness and flexibility means you can take advantage of your company’s key assets, models with grading, markers, and more – all the elements in your current and past collections. Plus, with an open system, you can continue using your hardware, and optimize your past investments, without having to look for new or additional hardware.

“System openness was fundamental in our decision to change vendors. With Optitex, we’re able to exchange data with our production partners across all market standards.” Amedeo Iossa, Product Development Manager, Macron, Italy

Customer Talkback

Last but not least, do your homework. Take a close look at the vendor’s services offering, and customer satisfaction, by reading case studies and product reviews. Gain insights into how other companies, preferably those who are most like yours, use their CAD software, features and functionality they like best, and why they selected one vendor over another.

Integrating a fashion CAD design-to-production solution into your business can be done, right. Once you’re on board, you’ll have the tools and functionality you need for a real competitive edge. You’ll be able to power your processes, win back your ROI, and ultimately, grow your business. Remember, choosing a new software vendor is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership, and you can get it right, from the get-go.