As a fashion consultant, it’s Natalie Westman’s job to match the technology to its users within the fashion industry. In her projects she has observed that the importance of people is often overlooked in a world where technology is key.
There is a new generation of consumers out there, and they all want something different. Meaning, there is a rapidly increasing demand for more complex products, even allowing each customer to configure exactly what they want, rather than buying something pre-defined. This is where Project Lifecycle Management (PLM) intertwines with today’s highly competitive and consumer-driven marketplace.
Photo: Natalie Westman, Fashion Consultant at Columbus.
“Fashion companies are under enormous pressure to create exciting new products at a moment’s notice. By providing a central repository for storing and accessing design and development information, Infor PLM for Fashion can help businesses meet this need for speed, while also making sure new styles and collections are delivered with consistent quality—at the right time and right price”, says Natalie.
Natalie’s background in the textile industry is matched by an impressive career: “I’ve been working with Infor’s products for around 18 years, starting my carrier at H&M customer order department for mail orders."
Working for Columbus felt like a natural step for Natalie. She says, “having worked in the supply chain process with purchase and procurement I wanted to continue focusing on ERP & PLM, using my expertise towards other companies, developing, and implementing new or improved ways of working. This made it fairly easy for me to say ‘yes’ when I got offered the job."
When it was first introduced, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) represented an enormous technological advantage. In an increasingly digitized environment, Natalie means that it’s taken on a different role.
“As the world goes more and more digital, PLM no longer stands for competitive advantage, but rather a necessity to be part of the fashion race. It’s like building a house, you need good foundations first. In the same way, you need to digitize your core data and processes before you can fully leverage things like IoT, or AR/VR”, says Natalie Westman.
People are by nature reluctant to change
It is safe to say that every PLM implementation is different – no matter how similar they might appear. Natalie says, “customers’ within fashion typically see themselves and their business as something unique. To a degree that’s true, but still the best, mutually beneficial, solutions are often close to best practice. So, the core is the same; but the final touch, the edge, is customer specific.”
People are by nature reluctant to change. Being able to tackle these challenges and sell the solution is, according to Natalie, the core of business consulting. The start of any good implementation is understanding what people really need, rather than what they are asking for.
“My work with PLM helps many customers to stay in the global competition. And these companies are a foundation to moving in the direction of the demand. It’s very important to find the actual need behind a customer’s request. As a fashion consultant, I find myself between the technical solution and the people. So being able to catch the root need from the people and transfer that into the solution is a key quality.”
Finding the right balance
Natalie’s final lesson is to think about the actual need behind what is stated and secondly; the importance of predicting what is about to come, the next barrier. Having these lessons in mind allows better solution creation and offers more flexibility in the future. She believes that there must be enough given to respond to changing demands.
“Problem solving, technical skills and having a ‘people first’ mindset are all important. But in my experience, people management is often underrated. On one hand, we have the expertise and knowledge about proven solutions for the fashion industry, but it’s also part of the puzzle to navigate customers towards robust solutions and providing them with the right tool set for adapting to change.”