Assume that you have been hired to head operations strategy by an early-stage company, FashionMe, which just received a venture capital investment of $10 million to build a pilot operation and establish a live market proof of concept. The company intends to offer individually customized clothing.
The founder’s vision is that, by 2035, each individual customer will upload their measurements, choose fabric content and weight, choose or modify designs (or upload custom designs), choose colors and accessories (e.g. buttons, zippers, etc.), and order 100% personalized clothing. Customers could also access designs by designers (for which they would pay), friends and associates, or their own previously ordered designs, make modifications, and have them produced for their own current measurements.
100% personalization is possible but prohibitively expensive today. However, FashionMe sees the potential to (a) apply and (b) integrate technologies in artificial intelligence and robotics to make personalized clothing as affordable in the future as standard clothing is today. The company cannot wait for all of the technologies to mature to make this future vision possible, because by then it expects that many competitors will be far ahead of it. Besides, the company can develop a lot of useful and proprietary learning over the next 15 years by using existing technologies, workarounds, and data analytics.
Therefore, the company has asked you to prepare the following:
- The company plans to conduct detailed, individualized, ethnographic research to understand customers’ jobs-to-be-done in personalized fashion. However, until that data is available, you have been asked to outline your assumptions about the customer jobs-to-be-done by FashionMe.
- Allow ½ to 1 page for this section
- Explain each job-to-be-done and how your operations strategy will achieve it
- The company recognizes that it cannot serve all the customers it would like to serve immediately. It has to start with a small, manageable market, maximize its learning, and then expand in phases. Just as Amazon.com began selling books and evolved far beyond that, the goal is to choose to serve one customer segment that will enable it to learn and become profitable, then add other customer segments later.
Marketing has suggested the following possible segments for the company to target during its pilot phase of operations. How do these segments serve the purposes of operations strategy and which would you recommend? You may also recommend a different target market, but explain why. Remember that you are developing an operations strategy, not a marketing strategy.
- Outdoor clothing for sustainably minded men (e.g., Patagonia’s “dirtbags” – see Patagonia case study)
- Tall, fashion-conscious men, whom standard sizes (small, medium large, extra large) don’t fit
- Overweight, fashion-conscious women
- Pregnant women
Be sure that you explain your reasons clearly and carefully. There is no correct or incorrect answer – you will be graded on your reasoning.
- Allow ½ to 1 page for this section
- Explain how your choice maximizes learning for operations strategy
- A high-level (not detailed) process technology roadmap (Chapter 6). Note that you do not need to understand A.I. and robotics technologies, just describe how you expect them to work.
Beginning with what is possible today, how will you establish personalized fashion operations in the next six months that will enable the company to learn important things about the customer’s job-to-be-done and how technology can best serve those customer needs? Some or all of your operations may be delivered by manual or traditional processes today, but you should envision how you think technology might evolve to enable the founder’s future vision in three key areas:
- Customer measurements
- Design personalization
- Clothing production
Figure 6.3 in the textbook provides an idea of the elements in a technology roadmap, but you need not follow the format of this figure. Also, you need not answer all of the items listed in this illustration – just include the important ones for FashionMe. You can use any graphic that works best for you, but this section of your assignment should include both text and graphics:
- Allow ½ page of text for each of the three sections (customer measurements, design personalization, and clothing production) and ½ to 1 page for each graphic you produce – your choice to include one comprehensive graphic or three separate graphics (one for each section).