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Jordan Alliance Group: Optimizing Fashion Retail Supply Chain Management

CIO Applications Editor

Dec 31, 2020

Ilka Jordan, Founder and CEO
When it comes to the fashion retail industry, companies are relentless in their pursuit to build an efficient and sustainable supply chain that can work at full steam to keep pace with the growing demand of consumers. To do so, fashion brands today are blending the power of "digital" in the supply chain to streamline operations and implement a pragmatic approach to brand building. It has become crucial for fashion retailers to embrace the digital path to facilitating adaptability, transparency, and flexibility at the core of their sustainable and efficient supply chair operations.

To help companies embark on this journey toward optimized E2E supply chain management, Jordan Alliance Group (JAG), a Black-owned, women-led boutique management consulting firm, provides strategic, transformative and sustainable solutions to improve operational efficiencies across the product development and retail supply chain.

In a conversation with the editorial team at CIO Applications, Ilka Jordan, Founder and CEO of Jordan Alliance Group, discusses how her company has been delivering immense value to clients by helping them operationalize sustainable retail strategies. Ilka holds extensive experience of over 25 years in the fashion retail industry and is known for her exceptional record of accomplishments leading major corporate sustainability initiatives that significantly reduced waste and improved supply chain transparency, accountability, and governance.

Could you describe how Jordan Alliance Group came into existence and its journey over the years?

I started JAG back in 1999 when the fashion industry started using technology to automate product development operations. During that time, I worked with a renowned brand that owned advanced technologies to automate historically manual processes like sketching, pattern making, grading, and the management of product development information. When that brand closed its doors in 1999, I had the opportunity to purchase their technology, which laid the very foundation of JAG. Leveraging this state-of-the-art technology, I founded JAG to provide product development services to the fashion industry. Soon after, observed that our clients were transitioning to purchasing their own software to do the work in-house instead of outsourcing it. This drove us to expand our business model to include consulting, providing our clients expert guidance on vendor selection, implementation, and enabling data migration between their existing systems. In the early 2000s, more companies were acquiring software and systems, but these systems lacked the capability to talk to one another. That's when we started developing our customized proprietary user interfaces. We would pull information from one system, arrange it to make it presentable for a seamless user experience, and then push it to another system.

By 2003, I started working exclusively for a large, well-known women's specialty retailer. collaborated with internal teams and system developers to build and manage the company's first home-grown PLM system, capable of aggregating data from different functional areas, like design, color, materials, and trend, ensuring that business processes and functional roles and responsibilities were well defined and could be supported by the system. Between 2003 and 2010, I worked with this company and successfully built and implemented a raw material management system, color management system, and sample management reporting that integrated with the existing system. This resulted in the efficient, digital management of all product development information from concept to consumers.

“JAG is at the forefront of the sustainability movement in fashion, sharing our expertise to help our clients achieve operational efficiency and sustainability goals by connecting purpose with profitability”

From 2010 to 2017, I served exclusively as the head of business process and established an enterprise Business Process Management organization for a multi-brand specialty retailer. At that time, the company operated four brands, and they were prepared to kick off a large technology investment. My team operated as an internal consulting group in charge of operationalizing cost-saving strategic initiatives including product lifecycle cadence, process efficiency technology, and change management. Standardizing processes and systems capabilities across the enterprise helped the company save millions of dollars. This exceptional success made me realize that I wanted to get back into consulting and share this success with even more companies.

I returned to focusing on JAG in 2017, or as we like to call it, Jordan Alliance Group 2.0. We decided to focus our work on the fashion retail supply chain, from concept to consumer, working with clients seeking operational efficiency, strong external and internal communications, and a thorough implementation of emerging technology. Today, companies are beginning to adopt socially and environmentally conscious practices to facilitate a truly sustainable supply chain. JAG is at the forefront of the sustainability movement in fashion, sharing our expertise to help our clients achieve operational efficiency and sustainability goals by connecting purpose with profitability.

How would you describe your client base? What segment of the industry do you cater to, and segment of the industry do you cater to, and what are the challenges faced by your clients today?

We primarily cater to companies in the fashion retail industry. Our client base is mostly comprised of specialty retail and global brands who not only design their own products but also work with vendors and mills to produce and sell their products. For any retailer, the main objective is to be profitable while enhancing customer satisfaction. To do so, their core operations need to be a well-oiled machine that saves time and reduces waste and cost.

We work with our clients to solve the challenges they face in a holistic way, whereby everything- from people, processes to technology are involved and work in tandem with one another to create an efficient and sustainable business model. Instead of focusing only on specific areas, we help our clients identify areas along the supply chain that if done differently would improve the company's upstream or downstream operations. Our skilled consultants are steeped in industry knowledge, enabling them to provide customized solutions and offer quality support services. All our holistic approaches include change management. We want to ensure that a governance framework is in place so our clients can sustain the new way of working when we leave.

Could you cite an example where you enabled your client to overcome the challenges they faced and attain the desired outcome?

We have worked with renowned specialty retailers operating multiple brands. These companies often look to build synergies between their brands. Although each brand's thought process is independent, there are certain services and strategies that can be shared. For instance, a specialty retailer with multiple brands need not have a different human resource or technology organization.

One of the initiatives we worked on was to use economies of scale to help a multi-branded specialty retailer capitalize on discounts when purchasing raw materials. After analyzing the type of core raw materials purchased every season, we identified a similar material that was used across all brands, but purchased from different mills at different prices. Some of the larger brands would buy in bulk and would avail more discounts. We worked with the company on a business process that enabled the brands to come together every season to select and align on a material quality from a single mill. As a result, the material price went down significantly because of the bulk purchase discounts which helped them realize millions of dollars in savings each season.

What does the future hold for JAG?

Our next big step is to extend our services beyond reshaping internal business models for our clients, but also provide insights into other companies they can partner with. Fashion brands are pushing to be more sustainable, and they are trying to take the burden on all by themselves. This is a daunting task. To this end, partnering with companies that offer innovative business models can help them achieve their sustainability goals. We are sharing insights with our clients to help them build sustainable synergies and partnerships.

This is enlightening for our clients, especially the more traditional companies. We also aim to work with startups and smaller firms to help them achieve their goals without big budgets. This will allow these companies to take steps toward building an efficient and sustainable modern supply chain, leveraging expert advice at a reasonable price.

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