Once you have selected the right PLM solution for your small fashion business, the next phase is to implement it into your work routine. We developed a guide that consists of 7 steps for small to medium size businesses on how to implement a new PLM.

Fashion PLM implementation process: a Seven step plan for success
Fashion PLM implementation process: a Seven step plan for success

Step 1. Identify the right team for the project.

Identifying the right team for the project is a crucial part of the PLM implementation process. And the entire journey depends on this stage. Start by preparing a list of stakeholders who will be a part of the implementation process. In the future, they will work closely with the PLM team.

A list of stakeholders may include the following positions:

  • PLM lead - a person who can own the entire implementation project and be the eyes and ears for all the communication that happens throughout the process. They can track the implementation progress as well as make sure that the system is being utilized in the correct direction and as envisioned. This person could be the spokesperson for all the crucial communication.
  • Key users - prepare the list of initial key users who would be actively involved in the meetings and training. They could be from various departments. For example, you can have the product manager represent the design aspect of the business, the merchandiser takes care of the communication with the manufacturer, the technical person involved in all the tasks related to operations, etc. This will ensure that each department’s stakeholders are on the same page while the entire transition takes place.
  • End users - Having a list of end users along with all their details handy is always a great idea to avoid any delays in the process and make sure that the department owners or key users are aware of their team.
  • IT manager - identify the right personnel from the IT department to be a part of the initial set-up process and make sure they are well trained on all the aspects for future troubleshooting if required.
  • Account manager - it can be a good idea to include your concerned account manager or portfolio manager to ensure there is transparency in the expectations and the results.

Step 2. Align the new system’s potential with your goals.

The first kick-off call is that golden opportunity where you discover the best potential of the system and align it with your goals, ensuring that the further plan goes as per the vision and intention.

The agenda of the kick-off call can be structured as below:

  • Current process outline - Discuss and explain everything about your current process with the PLM team and mention all the possible required details.
  • Current challenges - Outline the challenges in the current process or system. For example, in the current system, the tracking of progress through the stages of product development is not transparent. The last update/progress is made by whom and when is not trackable by all.
  • Short-term and long-term goals - there is always an end goal while implementing any PLM, but it can be more efficient if you divide your end-term goals into 2 parts:
  1. Short-term goals - the immediate priority goals for the new PLM and the relevance of achieving those in the current process.
  2. Long-term goals - the long envisioned and ultimate goal for the new PLM that you want to achieve after about 6-8 months of using the system. For example, as a brand, your end-term goals could be to in-house all the product development information in the tool and direct all the communication with your manufacturers via the tool. But this is the end goal that will take months to achieve, as a learning curve always comes with any new system. Here, the short-term goal could be to in-house the current running season’s data into the system on priority and as soon as possible and communicate only with manufacturers X and Y who are involved in the current season’s styles. The long-term goal could be to gradually shift all the seasons and the previous season’s records into the system and train all the manufacturers on the system. This way it becomes easier and faster to incorporate a new product without delaying any current progress.
  • Discuss the date required- clearly underline all the requirements and the information that is needed for the PLM account set-up and initial rollout.

Step 3. Provide all the required documents and data.

Try to provide all the required data for the account set-up and data in-house. For example:

  • The users' list
  • The organization chart
  • The current product development data
  • The current format of communication with manufacturers
  • The historic data to be in-housed

Step 4. Set up accounts and integrations.

After understanding the PLM system well and the scope of the new system, it is always a good idea to define the settings and customizations required for the initial set-up. For example:

  • Default settings for the organization
  • User roles and permissions
  • Admin settings
  • Customizations required
  • Integrations required
  • Data to be in-housed or migrated

It is highly possible that you might need to pen down all the requirements that will be needed in the future after the system is implemented. Discuss this with the PLM team beforehand and ensure the right approach to incorporate those in the future. For example, you need to integrate your inventory management platform with the PLM to create a live inventory in the system. But that is something that is a future requirement as you would like to do that only when the PLM is fully adopted by your team. Discuss the roadmap for the same beforehand and keep all the requirements handy.

Step 5. Internally test the PLM setup.

Once the set-up has been done and the current process has been mapped in the PLM, make sure your PLM lead tests it internally and gives the go-ahead for the further roll-out. You need to make sure that all your product development stakeholders and the end users will be able to use the system without any failure and the least amount of friction.

For example, you can check if:

  • The users' profiles and their information are set-up correctly, along with the respective roles and permissions.
  • The company's information is housed correctly.
  • A pilot run of the flow is set-up in the new system.

Step 6. Train the users and go-live.

After all the set-up is finalized and approved, roll it out to your users and demonstrate the entire PLM system and their roles in the new system. Train them well for their respective roles and make sure to help them if they are facing any difficulty in understanding or learning. And guide them to reach out to the concerned person from the PLM team to raise any query, or if any future help is required.

Step 7. Track the users' adoption.

It’s not only about getting your users trained and rolling out the system to the team. The next milestone is to ensure product adoption by your team and the smooth incorporation of the change into the existing process. Some of the ways you can track the progress are:

  • Track login frequency
  • The time spent on the platform or views on the page
  • The data input into the system by each user
  • Track and analyze the reports generated by the PLM
  • Track KPIs and milestones within the platform. For example, reducing the time of inputting the designs of the product, streamlining the communication channel within the team, reducing input errors and increasing accuracy with the inputs, etc.
  • Keep a weekly or bi-weekly meeting between your key point of contact or the PLM Lead and the PLM team to make sure you are closing the loop.

Product adoption takes time and it has a learning curve, so set realistic expectations with the end users and the system. The tracking of their progress will help avoid any long-term issues, and the blockers can be nipped in the bud if known at the right time, hence aligned with the smooth transition.

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