Updated: Jun 22
It is abundantly clear in this time of crisis that our industry has to transition to a new way of working—specifically, to a digital workflow. It is overdue and now made imperative. Many companies have dipped their toe in the water, but few have fully made this shift to a digital product pipeline. Brands will cite many reasons for their hesitance in adopting some of these game-changing tools and processes. So how can companies move beyond feasibility studies, benefits assessments, and single stream pilots? What is needed to get companies to the next level of a sustainable digital product creation model? Ensuring that your company practices these 6 outlined principles can help move your company along the digital journey:
All levels of the product organization need to prioritize and commit to a new future. This future may not be perfectly known and will consist of working models that do not look like those of today. Fear of the unknown is real. Fear of change is real. Take your pilot or study, put it into practice, and then provide the attention and concentrated efforts to smoothing out the wrinkles. Ensure there are strong voices and capable skills invested in defining workable solutions to everyday needs. Ensure there is belief and dedication to provide the resources and time to redefine the new way of working. This journey should be considered to be more than a side job.
Help your teams prioritize the business needs. In terms of units and dollars, which products are volume drivers? Which products are of complex construction or most simple? Which products need outfitting? Which products are difficult to size? Which design challenges cost large time investments? Which products are iconic or are most representative of the brand? This small effort up front will ensure you are tackling the most pressing problems of the business.
Give your teams viable windows of time in which to succeed. Unlimited time or open-ended expectations do not particularly yield results. Prioritize your challenges, test them, solve them, and on to the next. The adage “fail fast” really holds true here. Test your prioritized scenarios and pass on the solution for broader execution. In a nutshell: test, learn, execute and pivot.
Structure is critical to ensure effective methods are in place and that teams are available to test scenarios, to standardize processes and expectations, and to effectively onboard and deploy. Do not get hung up on formalities but do make clear each resource’s responsibility. Be sure to put collaboration at the center of everything, as it is at the heart of great product creation. The right structure will lead to broader input and higher engagement.
Each category or production method may need process variations: one solving for the high volume items and another solving for the high value items. Differentiate between variability and disorder. Practice mindful adaptability which means to adjust and modify as needed—but not only reactively. Be clear on the reasons for variations. Process variations are expected in fashion creation. Not understanding the value and intent of variations can potentially end in chaos. Insist on thoughtful agility.
Lastly, and most importantly, ensure a culture of learning and change. Provide an environment where learning and development not only flourish, but are expected. The professional opportunity for your teams is equal to the digital opportunity for the business. Look to build, monitor, and reward new competencies. Allow for curiosity and exploration. Prioritize questions over answers. Don’t throw out formal learning and development programs but reinforce the culture for the biggest business impact.
A sustainable digital product creation model should permeate the organization. It should incorporate all the enterprise activities in bringing product to market. Design and technical design are the usual entry points but for genuine adoption we must ultimately bring on art, color, fit, calendar, sampling, costing, approvals, presentation, and assortment. Real acceleration will require brands to think about their projects differently and openly embrace new delivery methods and innovations. Accelerated adoption and sustainable digital models can be achieved by committing to these principles for all of your digital development workflows.
What do you think is holding your company back?