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Mechanising Function Product Development Time and Action Calender

July 2009

1.1. What does Merchandising mean?

The word MERCHANDISING evolves from Merchandise (meaning: the commodities and goods that are bought and sold in business) Hence merchandising is a function resulting in sale and purchase of goods at the agreed price, at the agreed date and of the agreed quality. Merchandising function involves all activities directly or indirectly linked with procuring and selling of goods, planning and monitoring. 1.2.

What is a Merchandiser expected to do?

A merchandiser is expected to perform the following roles and responsibilities. All communication, information flow throughout the order cycle (with buyers & with departments within the company and vendors) from receipt of order to final shipping of goods. Costing negotiations (with buyers and vendors). Detailed production planning and monitoring (i.e. preparing Time & Action calendar closure of T&A with buyer and vendor). Approvals on fabrics and accessories. Order tracking and monitoring ON TIME shipment status Monitoring material utilization for every order. Ensuring all products meet the specified testing parameters as laid down by the buyer / customer. Approval on fabric quality, color, shade banding and also approval on trims. Coordination between various departments (such as fabrics, sampling, purchase, production, quality assurance and logistics) for smooth execution and timely delivery of orders. Capacity planning for the season (in coordination with the production departments) In some cases merchandisers are expected to supervise design and development activities as part of the account management of strategic customers.


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P OUT N R D C IO R C IV D S N E E E E IG IN IC T N F O D A IO S R M B Y R (s lin & U E S ty g fa ric ) b s PA N G L N IN












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2.1. Introduction
The apparel industry is dominated by numerous small to medium sized businesses and product development is vital to the survival and success of any business whatever its size or type of production. The future of textiles & apparel depends on companies adding value to their products and/or services. Companies need to understand the product development process and to control quality and costs. Larger organizations may have departments devoted to the research and development of products or design departments who are constantly producing new products and ranges. However the product development process is just as important for smaller organizations and SMEs.

How can this section help?

You will gain a full understanding of the product development process You will be able to plan a development process suitable for your company needs You will be able to strengthen your teams awareness and understanding of other department needs You will be aware of ways of reducing development and company costs You will become aware of ways of improving customer service You will find ways of minimizing risk factors and quality issues

2.2 Product development cycle

The owner/manager or the technician often carry out the development or design process. Innovation and creativity are necessary for any business to move forward and take advantage of prevailing market conditions. The increasing use of computer aided design and manufacturing has helped all types of businesses to speed up the process of product development and to do this more cost effectively. The process of product development varies from textile context. The development process covers a wide range of diverse products from new fibers, fiber blends, new yarns, fabric structures, finishes and surface effects and all types of made up


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products such as knitwear, hosiery, cut and sewn garments, household products and technical and medical products.

Despite the diversity of textile products the development process is similar for all and the process has been transformed by the increasing use of CAD/CAM, computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing. These enable new ideas and effects to be reproduced on computer and tried and tested in a most cost effective and visually acceptable way. The product development process can be splits into three main phases. Phase 1 - Covers the development of the initial concept or design idea through to its approval by the customer and full review / risk analysis by the development and production teams. Phase 2 - Covers the process following acceptance of the first prototype sample and includes the functions of sourcing and ordering components, testing the product and carrying out trials. Phase 3 - Once the finalized product specification has been drawn up, the third and final phase commences. This includes a range of activities that are carried out before large scale or bulk production can begin. This final stage includes sourcing production capacity outside the home producer/developer where this is applicable.


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2.3 Product development process flow Initial Product Development and Design Final Product Development

Manufacturing package

Research & review market trends

Create line by brand, color, theme & store set

Communicate range/color/ theme palate

Product Engineering Inputs Execute design concepts Review/ approve raw material options from vendors


Ensure product alignment between target consumer, brand strategies

Concepts & materials approved

Design labeling and packaging samples

Product raw material, specs and initial costing sheets

Receive & discuss Discuss corporate strategic information

Develop financial line plans and reconcile with corporate plan

Communicate all product all product line line selections

Yes Yes

Determine /select bill of materials

Pre-cost product

Product / line assortment report Report

Research & develop raw materials

Select & consolidate common raw materials across divisions

Develop initial product specifications

Determine item information, retail price & sizes, target costs, units, required delivery dates

Send product specification/ pack to vendors

Research new vendors to support corporate sourcing strategy

Investigate preliminary sourcing options

Help provide raw material options from vendors

Identify target vendors based on research, prior performance and sourcing strategy

Decide how & where products should be sourced

Vendor report and database Product Engineering concepts


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Initial product development and design

Research & review market trends

Create line by brand, color, theme & store set

Communicate range/color/ theme palate

Receive & discuss corporate strategic information

Develop financial line plans and reconcile with corporate plan

Communica te all product line selections

Product / line assortment report

Activity Research and review market trends Create line by brand, color, theme, store set Communicate range/color/ theme palate Receive & discuss corporate strategic information Develop financial line plans and reconcile with corporate plan Communicate all product line selections

Performed By Designer Designer Designer, Merchandiser Executive Director, Business Manager Executive Director, Business Manager Business Manager, Product Manager, Operations Manager

Output Fashion and Color Forecasting Season Line Skeleton Range Planning and Identification Seasonal Targets and Goals Investments and Dividends analysis along with product strategy Product line Identification and assortment


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Final product development process

No Product Engineering Inputs

Execute design concepts

Review/ approve raw material options from vendors

Ensure product alignment between target consumers, brand strategies

Concepts & Materials Approved


Research & develop raw materials

Select & consolidate common raw materials across divisions

Develop initial product specifications

Research new vendors to support corporate sourcing strategy

Investigate preliminary sourcing options

Help provide raw material options from vendors

Vendor report and database


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Activity Product Engineering Inputs Execute design concepts Review/approve raw material options from suppliers Ensure product alignment between target consumer, brand strategies Research & develop raw materials

Performed By Product Technologist Designer, CAD, Product Technologist Product Manager, Merchandiser, Designer, Product Technologist

Output Manufacturing cost and time reduction Providing outline to design concepts Decision on the raw material sourcing options developed

Executive Director, Business Manager, Product Manager, Retail & Sales Manager

Final product identification

Merchandiser, Sourcing Executive

Development of raw material and supplier database


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Manufacturing Package

Design labeling and packaging samples

Product raw material, Specs and initial Costing sheets

Pre-cost Product Determine /select bill of materials

Determine item information, price tickets & sizes, target costs, units, required delivery dates

Send product specification/ pack to vendors

Identify target vendors based on research, prior performance and sourcing strategy

Decide how & where products should be sourced

Product engineering concepts


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Activity Design labelling and packaging samples

Performed By Product Manager, Merchandisers, Product Technologist Merchandiser Business Manager, Retail & Sales Manager, Product Manager, Merchandiser, Commercial Manager Product Manager, Operations Manager, Commercial Manager, Sourcing Executive, Merchandiser


Product presentation decision

Determine bills of material

Product specific raw material details

Determine item information, retail price, target costs, units, sizes, delivery dates Identify target vendors based on research, past performance and sourcing strategy

Complete product sales information

Shortlist vendors for the identified product

Product Engineering concepts

Product Technologist

Details on garment construction specifications and manufacturing requirements

Pre cost Product


Estimated Product costing

Decide how & where to source products

Merchandiser, Sourcing Executive

Decision on order placement


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2.4 Market Research

Before product development can start it is essential to carry out market research to find out what the market wants. There are both internal and external factors to be considered which will affect potential markets and products. Social, economic and political environments can all have an influence. Factors closer to home such as competitor activities and company policy may also have an effect. Market information gathered from trade shows, trade journals and market reports is also important. Salesman samples are also one of modes to carry out research to understand market pattern. Every business decision made by the company is affected by a no of factors. The below chart is a representative of the various factors.











2.5 Calendar for planning activities

The entire year can be divided into 4 basic seasons. The duration, no of seasons and the names of the season differ from customer to customer, however pre-dominantly there are four seasons in a year as stated below. Spring Summer Fall Holiday

The shipping calendar months for each of the seasons work out to be as follows. Spring shipping in the month of October, November & December and thus sale of goods in January, February & March. Summer - shipping in the month of January, February & March and thus sale of goods in April, May & June. Fall - shipping in the month of April, May & June and thus sale of goods in July, August & September. Holiday - shipping in the month of July, August & September and thus sale of goods in October, November & December.

The development calendar starts approximately 45 60 days prior to the order confirmation. The lead times vary from buyer to buyer depending upon the nature of product being sourced. For Example a ladies fashion garment (with beading & embroidery) will have a higher lead-time than a mens solid shirt. The key activities performed during product development calendar are as below Concept Visualization - Receive design indications from buyer. Indication on trends, future fashion forecast, colors etc are received. The Product development team also puts together a design collection by themselves based on their experience and forecast. Design Presentation - Design presentation is made to buyer. In this presentation new sourced fabric, designs, colors, garment (for new styling) are presented to buyer. Generally the garments presented are called as TAILORING SAMPLES. The basis of selection of styles and fabric qualities / colors is based on an indication of product required for a particular season.


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Buyers pick up designs and style allocation is done. Meaning to say that all designs picked up are now associated with a style.

Desk looms, prints, blankets, sample yardages and lab dips are developed with the mill based on buyers advice. In most of the cases buyer sends across a pitch sheet depicting the color combinations required. Pitch Sheet this is a document which provides all information regarding the print / design. In case of a print this sheet provides the print size, repeat pattern, and the colors being used for each individual design on the print. The color can either be specified by Pantone color shade numbers or by small fabric swatches. In case of a yarn dyed fabric the pitch sheet details the design repeat size and the colors being used in warp and weft. The lab dips, desk looms, blankets, sample yardages are sent to buyer for approval. This process may take 1 round or more based on the design & color accuracy of the submissions. Garment and fabric performance tests are also done as specified by buyer. Standard setting of sample yardage is a very important procedure. Whenever there is a new fabric being developed, the defect standards as apparent on the sample yardage should be logged with the buyer. There are certain characteristics of all fabric and certain defects that cannot be avoided; such defects should be logged with buyer. Development Spec Package - While the fabrics are being developed and reviewed by buyer for approvals, simultaneously spec packages for the garment styling are received from buyer. These spec packages have the garment sketch, measurements, construction details, trim details and specific requirement (if any). The spec packages are forwarded to factories for development of samples. Initially a rough proto is made on a substitute fabric (fabric with similar count, construction and weight) to evaluate the fit, construction and workmanship on the garment. These rough proto samples are generally approved by the buying office quality auditors and are sent to customers only when there is specific request for the same. Once the rough proto sample is approved, a Proto sample is made on actual fabric and trims. Page 13 of 25


The Proto sample is accompanied by a T&A and Costing T&A (Time and action calendar) - the T&A sent to buyer at this stage is a general T&A developed for one season. Since each of the seasons has 3 months, this T&A states the delivery schedule considering 1st week of each month, and hence is a general T&A for the season.

The costing advised has to be very accurate as this is the costing at which the order is confirmed. Only in case of a drastic change in styling or fabric is the costing revised at a later stage. Line Building And Line Review this is the date on which the buyer decides on all the styles that are to be selected for a season. On this date the buyer reviews samples from all sourcing countries along with T&A and costing and the final assortment for the season is planned. The final assortment has all details style, fabric details, garment cost, delivery schedule, order quantity, sourcing country and factory. This assortment sheet is sent out to all vendors to confirm the orders. Once the actual delivery dates and costing are confirmed with the buyer and the vendor, a Fabric commitment / Purchase order is received from buyer. FC (fabric commitment or Purchase order) is a legal document confirming the order. Handover To Production Merchandising on receipt of a fabric commitment the style is handed over to the production merchandising team.

2.6 Fabric development procedure

Fabric development procedure is the key activity in the product development cycle. The fabric development procedure involves the following steps. Sourcing of new fabric designs / prints and qualities based on the indications for the season. The product development team does this activity. The team studies forecast, trends, and indications as received from buyer to develop a design range for presentation to buyer. The prints and designs as selected by buyer are then sent to mill, to accommodate the changes requested (if any). The details are sent to mill in the form of a Pitch Sheet which has the design artwork and the color details.


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The mill submits lab dips (for solid fabrics), desk looms for prints and yarn dyed fabrics along with sample yardage. Lab dips and desk looms are required for approval on color and design. Sample yardage is required to log with the customer any potential problems that are foreseen in bulk production of the fabric. The sample yardage is also used for testing purpose and for making the PROTO samples for line review.

While developing the lab dips, desk looms, sample yardage the product development team has to work closely with the mill and set up a T&A to follow up the activities with the mill. The lab dips and desk looms and sample yardage as submitted by mill are reviewed by the product development team for color matching, print registration, design layout and repeat and hand feel before sending the same to buyer for approval. This is a very critical activity as a lot of time is lost is achieving the desired color & print or design pattern as required by the buyer and hence requires active follow up and monitoring. Testing of fabric is also a very important activity. The product development team should make sure that the fabric adheres to all the testing requirements as laid down by the buyer. In case the fabric does not adhere some of the testing requirements, this should be made apparent to the buyer. While doing so the product development team should make sure that similar substitutes or options which pass the testing standards are presented to buyer so that there is a choice available for selection of fabric / design etc. All limitations with regards to fabric quality print and color should also be conveyed to buyer along with options. This enables buyers to take a rational decision while doing the Line Building and Line Review for the season.

2.7 Vendor - Buyer Interaction

During the product development cycle the interaction between vendor and buyer is a very important since lot of information regarding the design, color, fabric quality, garment styling, T&A and costing are exchanged. This information is very crucial as it is the basis on which fabric and style developments are done. Hence the communication should be crisp and precise. It is observed that communication in the form of charts and formats is easy to understand and record rather that lengthy e-mails or telephonic-conversations. Some tools that can be effectively used to communicate information are as follows Development track report Lab dip / desk loom submission forms UNDP Page 15 of 25

Time & Action calendar Cost sheets

Development track report this report provides a detail on style, fabric, sample yardage / lab dip/ desk loom exit and approval due dates, trim and sample status, Costing advised and remarks. The remarks column should list down the fabric and sample limitations if any. A Development Track Report is available in the Annexure. This report covers all the above stated details however; the report may differ from buyer to buyer considering the information that the buyer wishes to review. Weekly updates of this report should be sent to buyer to communicate the status instead of lengthy e-mails. Lab dip / desk loom submission form this is a form which should be used while sending out the lab dips / desk looms for approval. This Form is available in the Annexure. This form has details of Buyer, Season, Design name, Fabric details (count, construction, GSM, cuttable width, fabric price, submission date, approval due date, comments column (to be filled by the colorist who has reviewed the color / design) Colorist a colorist is a person who is trained to review colors under different light sources. To become a colorist, one has to pass a Munsel Test.

Product Costing
Product costing is a very important activity and utmost care should be taken while advising the costs to the buyer. The costs advised should be very accurate so as to fit into buyer targets also should provide the vendor with adequate profit realizations. A sample cost sheet is available in the Annexure, which presents the components that should be taken care while costing a product. CM cost this should be calculated based on operating costs / SAM (Standard Allowed Minutes). SAM of garments are derived by Industrial Engineering department

2.8 Performance monitoring tools


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Performance of the product development department / team should be monitored on the following parameters. Design selection Efficiency (for a season) total new designs selected expressed as percentage of total new designs developed. Design development lead time (for a season) lead time taken for strike offs / desk looms development Lead-time performance number of designs developed ON TIME expressed as percentage of total number of designs developed. = Total new designs selected in the season X 100 Total designs developed

Design selection efficiency (%)

Lead Time efficiency (%)

No of designs developed on time X 100 Total designs developed


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4.3.3. Time and Action Calendar

A Time and Action Calendar, or T&A in short, is something that captures several work steps, the deadlines for completing the work steps and the actual time when the steps were completed. Hence it is a tool for monitoring all work steps within the order cycle time. Since the T&A also captures the actual date of completion of work steps, it is also used to calculate the delays in work steps and analyze their subsequent effects. The work steps are mentioned in the sequence in which they are expected to be completed. In short, the T&A captures 2 main concerns of buyers, merchandisers in buying offices and manufacturers: Are we on time? Are all work steps happening the way they should? Building a Time & Action Calendar

Some of the key points that one should analyzed before building a Time and Action calendar as below. These points are very critical, as they will ascertain the effectiveness of the T&A. Identifying critical path there are multiple steps involved in execution of an order, from order receipt to the final shipment. It is essential that out of these multiple steps, the critical path be identified. The activities within the critical path are crucial in the sense that a delay in any of the critical activities will delay the whole process (perhaps missing the delivery date). On the other hand a delay in non-critical activities may not impact the delivery. Identifying activities that can be overlapped it is important to know the activities, which can be, performed parallel to each other (overlapped). A very simple example is Fabric and Trim sourcing. These two activities can be preformed in parallel to each other. The important thing here is to ascertain the activity, which takes the longer time, as this now becomes the critical path.


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Networking - it is often assumed that T&A is like a linear chain, however the actual calendar is a network with diverging and converging tasks. This means that one task can trigger multiple parallel tasks and completion of multiple tasks can lead to one task. Hence it is important to chart out the network of activities to be able to determine the critical path and the critical activities. Setting due dates for the activities it is a common practice to set the duration of each activity in number of days. There is a problem area here:Firstly, it is often not clarified whether those days are working days or calendar days. Secondly, apart from the weekend there are numerous other holidays, which do not get accounted. Hence it is prudent to create ones own calendar with holidays built-in and then generate realistic due dates in time & action calendar.

Case 4
Let us now analyze the above points by means of an example. Some of the critical activities involved in execution of an order are taken into consideration in this example. Also the time and action calendar has been worked backwards from the delivery date and lead time for each of these activities has been assumed as per the chart given below:

Activity A B

Description Delivery date Production start


30 days prior to delivery date


Fabric in-house date Trim in-house date Fabric Order date Trim order date Fit approval date Fitting start

5 days prior to Production start 5 days prior to Production start 60 days prior to Fabric in-house 45 days prior to trim in-house 20 days prior to Production start 30 days prior to fit approval

Dependency Determined by buyer Order qty, production capacity per day & factory capacity. Production start date Production start date Fabric lead time & approval Trim lead time & approval Production start date Fit approval date


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Order confirmation

2 days prior to fabric order date

Let us now give dates to the above activities to be able to visualize the Time & Action calendar and draw the critical path. A 30th Dec 2009 B 30th Nov 2009 C 25th Nov 2009 D 25th Nov 2009 E 25th Sep 2009 F 10th Oct 2009 G 10th Nov 2009 H 10th Oct 2009 I 23rd Sep 2009

The above illustration clearly defines the critical path and also enables us to ascertain the activities, which can be performed in parallel. The below analysis can be done from the illustration. Activity E falls in the critical path since fabric lead-time is the largest. Activity F & H can start simultaneously but are not in the critical path. This does not mean that they are not important OR with out completion of these activities (represented by D & G) the goods can be produced, BUT it only means that a small delay in these activities will not impact the delivery date. NOTE in case activities D & G are delayed beyond C, the delivery date will be impacted. As per the above example all activities D, C & G need to be completed in order to proceed to B. Similar to the above example a detailed Time & Action calendar can be developed which includes all activities that are preformed during the entire order cycle. As explained above, it is important to ascertain the critical path (especially when the T&A has numerous activities). Also, by creating a critical path chart we are able to know the dependency between activities. A copy of T&A calendar is available in the Annexure.


Page 20 of 25 Types of T&A Planning

Broadly speaking, there can be 2 ways in which a T&A can be planned Backward planning this is the most common approach. Here the delivery date is fixed (as specified by the customer) and all other activities are backward planned from the delivery date. By doing so we can ascertain the date by which order confirmation is required, to be able to meet the required delivery date. Hence, by planning the T&A in this manner, we ascertain the deadline date for completion of each activity so as to make the shipment on time. Forward planning in this case the entire time line is forward planned from the date of receipt of the order. Let us go back to the earlier example to understand the difference between the two methods of planning. Backward planning A 30th Dec 2009 B 30th Nov 2009 C 25th Nov 2009 D 25th Nov 2009 E 25th Sep 2009 F 10th Oct 2009 G 10th Nov 2009 H 10th Oct 2009 I 23rd Sep 2009 Forward planning A 30th Dec 2009 B 30th Nov 2009 C 25th Nov 2009 D 10th Nov 2009 E 25th Sep 2009 F 25th Sep 2009 G 23rd Oct 2009 H 23rd Sep 2009 I 23rd Sep 2009

As you can see from the above, there is no difference in the critical path of the T&A. However dates for some other activities have changed. In all the highlighted cases the activities have got advanced in the forward planning as compared to backward planning. The backward plan provides the last date / deadline date by which the task needs to be completed in order to be able to maintain delivery. Hence the backward plan help monitoring the order, as the user is always aware of the deadlines that are to be met. The task could be started earlier and could be completed earlier, as long as it is completed before the deadline date the delivery is intact. This method of monitoring the order serves a very handy tool especially if there are large no of orders to be executed, since it is more important to know the deadline dates which will impact the order delivery. Use of software to create a Time & Action calendar


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More and more companies are using moving towards use of software in order management. Here are some of the features and benefits that good software should offer. Consistent fundamental principals the software should be based on logic and mathematics that does not change from person to person and is constant in its functioning. This eliminates the possibility of individual variations and errors. Automatic analysis if timelines in case of several activities being delayed the software should automatically calculate the total delay and should also be able to throw an alert on the activities that will be impacted due to these delays. Hence the software should be able to highlight the potential future delays & problems well in advance so that adequate action can be taken rather that firefighting once the delay has already occurred. Automated messaging and reminders of activities to the people involved in the order the software should automatically fire off reminders and warnings about specific activities to the concerned people. Not only that, based on rules that are defined in advance the reminders should start getting generated earlier that the actual due date of the activity. Say for example; the reminder should start getting generated 3 days prior to the due date of the activity. Also once the due date for an activity has passed and the task has not been completed (which means it is delayed) the software should be equipped enough to send out messages to concerned superiors, thereby ensuring pressure o complete the task. Clearly defined responsibilities the software should be programmed in a manner that the responsibility of each activity is clearly defined right from the start. This rules out any ambiguity of who is to do the task and hence the entire process becomes much more transparent. Real time information and reporting working on software would mean access to real time information for all people involved. This means that, at any given point of time the software would enable the concerned people to know the exact situation of the order. Further since the software captures all that data that is fed, in terms of the actual dates on which the activities are preformed, the system should be able to generate numerous reports such as - % of on time shipments, % of delayed activities, order status (qty, PO no , shipment dates etc). All these reports can be generated for multiple vendors / factories thus enabling comparison between them. Easy access since most of such systems are being designed either to be internet-based or internet compatible, it is possible to log in from any location and updated status as well as keep track of the events in the orders that one is working with. Improved effectiveness and higher productivity due to its automated reminders, clearly defined responsibilities, the software should improve the effectiveness and productivity of people using it. Easy access to information also reduces the time that is wasted otherwise in getting the information.

A copy of a software-generated T&A is available in the Annexure. UNDP Page 22 of 25 Challenges in Implementation of software

In the adoption of a computer aided T&A tool, the weakest link is human. No matter how well the system is programmed to respond to alerts etc, it is the people who feed in information into it and use the information produced by it. In case the people using the software lack commitment to update the system or lack understanding of how to use the information that system is generating, the effectiveness of the system is lost. Hence, before implementation of a system the management should have clarity of how it has to be implemented and what can be done with it. Implementation of software may require a change in the work culture, and the management should be aware of the same before going ahead with it. Another weak link is processes. It is often observed that most organizations do not have a well laid down process for execution of orders. Even two people catering to the same customer may be working in their own ways. Hence standardization of processes is very important before implementation of software.


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