This time it is hard to write my blog post. First of all, because tomorrow there will be the soccer final between Holland and Spain and as a Virtual Dutchman I still dream of a real cup for the Dutch team.
Beside that I had several discussions around PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), CM (Configuration Management) and ALM (Asset Lifecycle Management), where all insiders agreed that it is hard to explain and sell the value and best practices, because it is boring, because it is not sexy, etc, etc.
So why am I still doing this job…..
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
Dassault Systemes introduced in 2006 3DLive as the 3D collaboration layer for all users with the capability to provide in a 3D manner (see what you mean) on-line role specific information, coming from different information sources. Recently Siemens introduced their HD PLM, which as far as I understood, brings decision making capabilities (and fun) to the user.
Both user interfaces are focusing on providing information in a user-friendly and natural way – this is sexy to demonstrate, but a question never asked: “Where does the information come from ? “
And this is the boring but required part of PLM. Without data stored or connected to the PLM system, there is no way these sexy dashboards can provide the right information. The challenge for PLM systems will be to extract this information from various applications and from users to have the discipline to enter the needed data.
Those software vendors, who find an invisible way to capture the required information hold the key to success. Will it be through a more social collaboration with a lot of fun, I am afraid not. The main issue is that the people who need to enter the data are not rewarded for doing it. It is downstream the organization, in the product lifecycle, that other people benefit from the complete information. And I even suspect in some organizations that there are people who do not want share data to assure being required in the organization – see also Some users do not like the single version of the truth.
So who can reward these users and make them feel important. I believe this is a management job and no sexy (3D) environment will help here
Configuration Management (CM)
Although it is considered a part of PLM, I added configuration management to my post as a separate bullet. Two weeks ago, I attended the second day of the CMII Europe conference in Amsterdam. What I learned from this event was that the members of the CMII community are a group of enthusiastic people with somehow the same vision as PLM missionaries.
Quoting the organization: “CMII is about changing faster and documenting better. It is about accommodating change and keeping requirements clear, concise and valid.”
And it was interesting to listen to speeches of the members. Like with PLM, everyone is convinced configuration management brings a lot of value to a company, they are also fighting for acknowledgement. Not sexy is what I learned here and also here those people who are responsible for data accuracy are not necessary the ones that benefit (the most).
Like PLM, but even more in Configuration Management, the cultural change should not be neglected. Companies are used to have a certain level of “configuration management”, often based on manual processes, not always as efficient, clear and understood and satisfactory for the management, till something happens due to incorrect information.
Of course the impact of an error differentiates per industry, a problem occurring due to wrong information for an airplane is something different compared to a problem with a sound system.
So the investment in configuration management pays of for complex products with critical behaviors and in countries where labor costs are high. It was interesting to learn that a CM maturity assessment showed that most companies score below average when it comes to management support and that they score above average when talking about the tools they have in place.
This demonstrates for me that also for configuration management, companies believe tools will implement the change without a continuous management push. I remember that in several PLM selection processes, prospects were asking for all kind of complex configuration management capabilities, like complex filtering of a product structure. Perhaps pushed by a competitor, as at the end it was never implemented :(
Asset Lifecycle Management (ALM)
In some previous posts, I wrote about the benefits a PLM system can bring, when used as the core system for all asset related information. For nuclear plants, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) recommends to use configuration management best practices and I have met an owner/operator of a nuclear plant who recognized that a PLM system brings the right infrastructure, instead of SAP for example, which has more focus on operational data.
Also I had a meeting with another owner/operator, who was used to manage their asset data in a classical manner – documents in an as-built environment and changes of documents in various projects environments.
When discussing the ALM best practices based on a PLM system, it was clear all the benefits it could bring, but also we realized that implementing these concepts would require a conceptual revolution. People would need to start thinking asset centric (with lifecycle behavior) instead of document centric with only revisions.
This kind of change requires a management vision, clear explanation of the benefits and a lot of attention for the user. Only then when these changes have been implemented, and data is available in a single repository, only then the fun and sexy environments become available for use.
PLM, CM and ALM are not sexy especially for the users who need to provide the data. But they provide the base for sexy applications where users have instant access to complete information to make the right decisions. To get there a cultural change is required. The management needs to realize that the company changes into becoming proactive (avoiding errors) instead of being reactive (trying to contain errors); investing upfront and never be able to know what the losses would be in case an error occurred.
Not sexy, however the benefits this approach can bring allow employees and companies to continue to do their work for a secure future
And now … time to close as the final is near