Bamboo Rose Blog | Backbone HQ

Why Spreadsheets are Hindering Your Apparel Brand’s Growth

At a Glance:

Dynamic Product Database vs. Spreadsheets

Lack of Collaboration

Finding & Sharing Information

Lack of Visual Content


We love a good spreadsheet. Hey, honestly who doesn’t? They’re flexible, inexpensive, and effective to handle simple calculations and house data for many apparel companies. Over time (like in just a few weeks) these spreadsheets seem to grow in size and quantity, and that is where the trouble lies. Spreadsheet software like Excel was never made to manage product development, especially amongst dispersed and growing apparel brands.

Here are four reasons why using spreadsheets for product development will hinder your business’ growth and result in lots of wasted time, money, and frustrations.

Dynamic Product Database vs. Spreadsheets

So what is the difference between a dynamic product database and spreadsheets and why does it matter? Spreadsheets are what is referred to as static data. Static data is fixed data and does not update after it has been entered. In order to make updates, it must manually be updated in all areas where the data lives.  

A database on the other hand, connects data together and updates instantly and automatically updating information across all related product entries and data tables. This is an enormous time saver and reduces the chance of errors significantly. Not to mention, will create happier teams by reducing these mundane tasks.

As your apparel brand continues to grow and scale these siloed spreadsheets create an unworkable situation, especially as teams are dispersed today. Product data is quickly mismanaged and not kept up to date and finding information in a timely manner is completely gone. 

Thankfully, Backbone’s centralized libraries put dynamic data within reach for designers to save time uploading sketch files, sharing feedback, and developing new product ranges. When teams are free to tap into their full creative potential and work at digital speed, it allows your organization to make more informed decisions on material costs, design changes, and timelines to safeguard revenue and cut down on waste.

Through a series of interconnected libraries, Backbone allows brands to build tech packs with greater speed, efficiency, and ease than manual devices. Because all product specs link through Backbone’s system, users can intuitively build products without the friction of static documents.

“Backbone updates ridiculously mundane items like the date, on its own (unlike excel).” – Owner at Western Rise

Related Article: Tech Packs: Static vs Dynamic Data

Lack of Collaboration

Another problem with spreadsheet software such as Excel is the lack of collaboration that can take place. Collaboration across different departments is essential for day-to-day tasks to be achieved.  With spreadsheets, there is no easy way to share product information with your vendors and suppliers either.

When using spreadsheets, the fastest way to exchange relevant data is typically through email. This method is subject to duplication or even flawed data. With so many files being sent around, it is difficult for team members to keep track of them all. Eventually, mistakes will happen.

With Backbone’s centralized product records, teams can reduce manual data entry by up to 40% and make product details available to everyone in your organization.

Team members can communicate directly through the system and inform manufacturers of the latest changes. But the best part is design teams can access and update product files without worrying about whether they have the current version. Changes sync seamlessly, taking the pain out of product revisions for your whole team.

Teams can utilize Backbone’s shareable folders to design and share tech packs with factories in minutes, reducing sampling with fewer errors and improving quality control. Backbone’s centralized system of record helps you manage information across teams and move at digital speed to standardize size specifications and fit across core and carryover styles. Eliminate duplicative work with reusable, dynamically editable graded rules and measurements, so vendors can access the exact specifications they need. 

“Simply put, Backbone allows our product team that is located on different sides of the country to work collaboratively on garments in a really meaningful way, and ultimately produce a tech pack that looks really tight.” – Owner at Immersion Research

Related Article: Traditional vs Fashion PLM

Finding & Sharing Information

Spreadsheets like Excel make it extremely difficult to find and share information. Data is extracted from different departments and is consolidated to provide an overview. When using spreadsheets, this process is very time-consuming as it can take several days to compile a report. Oftentimes, the data in the report is obsolete by the time it reaches your desk. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to engage in the rapid-fire decision-making necessary to keep up in a dynamic marketplace.

If product data is inaccessible or impossible to share, it will slow teams down during crucial development phases. Without a centralized platform to store vital product detail, it will eventually become lost in a scattered mess of spreadsheets and email threads. If you’re lucky, you’ll only waste a few hours each day tracking product specs, but as this daily burden continues to take away from valuable working hours, you will potentially extend your time to market and face a significant financial setback.

When product specs constantly bounce back and forth between departments, the data becomes static, and it is much harder for design and development teams to maintain quality assurance. With a unified vision, teams are left to guess if data is accurate, and they risk sending faulty designs to suppliers. It is possible someone will record past data or track the same work twice, leading to errors and possibly duplicate product orders. 

Everyone on your team needs real-time access to current product data to maintain order and clarity during product development. Fashion PLM software does this effortlessly. Backbone’s Item Views feature allows teams to create flexible views and filter real-time data associated with your products, including lead times, sample tracking, and factory allocation. Visual Line Sheet Reports compile product data for greater visibility as you collaborate with internal and external partners, allowing you to summarize and review products by season, collection, type, and more.

“This has been huge for our business to get us out of spreadsheets and old PDF’s, and into an organized system for our products. It’s made tech pack creation and updates super efficient, and enabled accurate COGS tracking.” – Designer at ADAY

Related Article: Factory Communication and Tech Pack Sharing

Lack of Visual Content

When apparel brands try to leverage spreadsheets for product development they quickly struggle with the visual limitations of them. Excel, for instance, is not designed to support high-resolution images. This leads to creating a process that is very non-visual when product development is all about imagery, color, designs, sketches, etc. As this historical data is accessed at a later date, it can be hard to decipher and digest these text-based spreadsheets as well. 

With Backbone, the process is visual first. As you navigate through the application you will quickly see how images are a first thought. The product library consists of large cards displaying the product image and these dynamic images get updated throughout the application as they change. All reports also include high-resolution images such as the Line Sheet report. These images give clear context as to what the user is viewing so they can quickly understand what they are looking at. 

With a visual first approach, Backbone creates an intuitive and inviting experience that your team will actually want to work in. 

“I literally decided to take this position because they were using Backbone…​​It is so intuitive I only needed to sit with a coworker for 10 minutes to be ready to use [it].” – Designer at Girlfriend Collective

Related Article: How Does PLM Tech Pack Creation Save Time & Money

Ditch the spreadsheets and find a better way with Backbone.

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