THE installation of advanced project management software has vastly increased management efficiency of Hong Kong-based Esprit de Corp (Far East). In March, Esprit installed the SDM-ProjectMaster from Silvon Software. This highly specialised package is designed for planning and managing software development on IBM AS/400 systems. With the help of this comprehensive project management tool, Esprit made the transition from PC-based software and tapped the potential of its IBM AS/400-based management information systems (MIS). According to Steven Ip, head of the management information services department, the Esprit chain, which has more than 70 outlets in the region, placed great demands on its operations in the territory, and branch offices in China, Taiwan and South Korea. As Esprit's Far East sourcing, purchasing and exporting operations had strengthened, the direct retail business had also expanded, according to Mr Ip. ''To control this expanding network, Esprit has made extensive use of IBM's AS/400 systems, linking in-store personal computers for point-of-sale functions and back-office operations,'' said Mr Ip. ''The software systems for Far East operations were developed in-house at regional headquarters in Hong Kong. ''Core applications are developed and maintained in Hong Kong, however, we make modifications to suit the ground conditions and local circumstances in the other areas of the region.'' Esprit has upgraded its MIS facilities recently and was one of the first firms in the region to computerise operations. ''By regional standards, our operations are highly computerised. The first computers were installed more than 10 years ago,'' said Mr Ip. Esprit was among the earliest companies in the region to use barcodes and scanning devices. But the rapid expansion of Esprit's retail business in the Far East has meant a greater need for more effective MIS management. ''On the one hand, we are seeing changes in the way our purchasing and export business is developing,'' said Mr Ip. ''Meanwhile, we have been experiencing a rapid expansion in our retail operations throughout the region. ''This is where Silvon's SDM ProjectMaster has been of great assistance in improving productivity by easing the demand for applications development. ''To meet the demands of our fast changing business, we have to enhance and modify more than 15 applications software systems. ''ProjectMaster meets our need for more advanced tools to co-ordinate and control this heavy software development work load.'' The ProjectMaster is a more flexible and sophisticated project control tool and will enhance the way in which Esprit's Far East operations develop applications. It will monitor how resources are being utilised by every application development project and will ensure current work meets deadlines. ''Computer resources will be more dynamically allotted to meet software development needs as they arise,'' said Mr Ip. ''With ProjectMaster, Esprit has been able to automate the planning, management, evaluation and re-planning of a series of projects. ''The Esprit system is now in a position to enable its MIS management to undertake cost analysis by evaluating the time and resources allocated to any user or user group in the company. ''We are satisfied with the new enhancements to our AS/400 systems. ''We can share our MIS resources better to fulfil the needs of our various operations in the region and vastly improve our productivity, profitability and, above all, provide better service to customers.'' FACTFILE NAME OF COMPANY: Esprit de Corp Group. TYPE OF BUSINESS: Fashion retailing and exporting. NUMBER OF STAFF: More than 2,000. HARDWARE: Two IBM AS/400 E50.