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The last month I haven’t been able to publish much of my experiences as I have been in the middle of several PLM selection processes for various industries. Now in a quiet moment looking back, I understand it is difficult for a company to choose a PLM solution for the future.
I hope this post will generate some clarity and may lead to some further discussion with other experts in the audience. I wrote about the do’s and don’ts of PLM selection in 2010, and most of it is still actual; however, there is more. Some of the topics explained:
Do you really need PLM ?
This is where it starts. PLM is not Haarlemerolie, an old Dutch medicine that was a cure for everything since the 17th century. The first step is that you need to know what you want to achieve and how you are aiming to achieve it. Just because a competitor has a PLM system installed, does not mean they use it properly or that your company should do it too. If you do not know why your company needs PLM, stop reading and start investigating.
If you are still reading this, you are part of the happy few, as justifying the need for PLM is not easy. Numerous of companies have purchased a PLM system just because they think they needed PLM. Or there was someone convinced that this software would bring PLM.
Most of these cases there was the confusion with PDM. Simply stating: PDM is more a departmental tool (engineering – multidisciplinary) where PLM is a mix of software, infrastructure to connect all departments in a company and support the product through its entire lifecycle.
Implementing “real” PLM is a business change, as people have to start sharing data instead of pushing documents from department to department. And this business transformation is a journey. It is not a fun journey, nicely characterized in Ed Lopategui’s blog post, the PLM Trail.
Although I believe it is not always that dramatic, Ed set the expectations right. Be well prepared before you start.
Why do companies still want PLM, while it is so difficult to implement?
The main reason is to remain competitive. If margins are under pressure, you can try to be more efficient, get better and faster tools. But by working in the old way, you can only be a little better.
Moving from a sequential, information pushing approach towards an on-line, global information sharing manner is a change in business processes. It is interaction between all stakeholders. Doing things different requires courage, understanding and trust you made the right choice. When it goes wrong, there are enough people around you to point fingers at why it went wrong – hindsight is so easy.
Doing nothing and becoming less and less competitive is easier (the boiling frog again) as in that case the outside world will be blamed, and there is nobody to point fingers at (although if you understand the issue you should make the organization aware the future is at stake)
Why is PLM so expensive?
Assuming you are still reading, and you and your management are aligned there is a need for PLM, a first investigation into possible solutions will reveal that PLM is not cheap.
When you calculate the overall investment required in PLM, the management often gets discouraged by the estimated costs. Yes, the benefits are much higher, but to realize these benefits, you need to have a clear understanding of your own business and a realistic idea how the future would look like. The benefits are not in efficiency. The main benefits come from capabilities that allow you to respond better and faster than by just optimizing your departments. I read a clarifying post recently, which is addressing this issue: Why PLM should be on every Executive’s agenda !
From my experience with PLM projects, it is surprising to learn that companies do not object to spend 5 to 20 times more money for an ERP implementation. It is related to the topic: management by results or management by means.
PLM is not expensive compared to other enterprise systems. It can become expensive (like ERP implementations) if you lose control. Software vendors have a business in selling software modules, like car resellers have a business in selling you all the comfort beyond the basics.
The same for implementation partners, they have a business in selling services to your company, and they need to find the balance between making money and delivering explainable value. Squeezing your implementation partner will cause a poor delivery. But giving them an open check means that, at a certain moment, someone will stand up and shutdown the money drain as the results are no longer justifiable. Often I meet companies in this stage, the spirit has gone. It is all about the balance between costs and benefits.
This happens in all enterprise software projects, and the only cure is investing in your own people. Give your employees time and priority to work in a PLM project. People with knowledge of the business are essential, and you need IT resources to implement. Do not make the mistake to leave business uncommitted to the PLM implementation. Management and middle management does not take the time to understand PLM as they are too busy or not educated / interested.
Make business owners accountable for the PLM implementation – you will see stress (it is not their daily job – they are busy), but in the longer time you will see understanding and readiness of the organization to achieve the expected results.
We are the largest – why select the largest ?
When your assignment is to select a new enterprise system, life could be easy for you. Select a product or service from the largest business and your career is saved. Nobody gets blamed for selecting the largest vendor, although if you work for a small mid-sized company, you might think twice.
Many vendors and implementers start their message with:
“…. Market leader in ABC, though leader in XYZ, recognized by 123”
The only thing you should learn from this message is that this company probably has delivered a trustworthy solution in the past. Looking at the past you get an impression of its readiness and robustness for the future. Many promising companies have been absorbed by the larger ones and disappeared. As Clayton Christensen wrote in The Innovators Dilemma:
“What goes up does not go down”.
Meaning these large companies focus on their largest clients and will focus less on the base of the business pyramid (where the majority is), making them vulnerable for disruptive innovation.
Related to this issue there is an interesting post (and its comments), written by Oleg Shilovitsky recently: How many PLM vendors disappear in disruption predicted by Gartner.
Still when selecting a PLM vendor it is essential to know if they have the scale to support you in the future and if they have the vision to guide you into the future.
The future of PLM is towards managing data in a connected manner, not necessary coming from a single database, not necessary using only structured data. If your PLM vendor or implementer is pushing you to realize document and file management, they are years late and not the best for your future.
PLM is a big elephant
PLM is considered as a big elephant, and I agree if you address everything in one shot that PLM can do. PLM has multiple directions to start from – I wrote about it: PLM at risk – it does not have a single job
PLM has a huge advantage compared to a transactional system like ERP and probably CRM. You can implement a PLM infrastructure and its functionality step by step in the organization, start with areas that are essential and produce clear benefits for the organization. That is the main reason that PLM implementations can take 2 – 3 years. You give the organization time to learn, to adapt and to extend.
We lose our flexibility ?
Nobody in an organization likes to be pushed in a cooperate way of working, which by definition is not as enjoyable and as flexible as they way you currently work. It is still an area where PLM implementations can improve: provide the user with an environment that is not too rigid and does not feel like a rigid system. You seen this problem with old traditional large PLM implementations for example with automotive OEMs. For them, it is almost impossible to switch to a new PLM implementation as everything has been built and connected in such a proprietary way, almost impossible to move to more standard systems and technologies. Late PLM implementations should learn from these lessons learned.
PLM vendor A says PLM vendor B will be out of business
One of the things I personally dislike is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It has become a common practice in politics and I have seen PLM vendors and implementers using the same tactics. The problem with FUD is that it works. Even if the message is not verifiable, the company looking for a PLM system might think there must be some truth in this statement.
My recommendation to a company that gets involved in FUD during a PLM selection process, they should be worried about the company spreading the FUD. Apparently they have no stronger arguments to explain to you why they are the perfect solution; instead they tell you indirectly we are the less worst.
Is the future in the cloud ?
I think there are two different worlds. There is the world of smaller businesses that do not want to invest in an IT-infrastructure and will try anything that looks promising – often tools oriented. This is one of my generalizations of how US businesses work – sorry for that. They will start working with cloud based systems and not be scared by performance, scalability and security. As long all is easy and does not disturb the business too much.
Larger organizations, especially with a domicile in Europe, are not embracing cloud solutions at this moment. They think more in private or on-premise environments. Less in cloud solutions as security of information is still an issue. The NSA revelations prove that there is no moral limit for information in the sake of security – combined with the fear of IP theft from Asia, I think European companies have a natural resistance for storing data outside of their control.
For sure you will see cloud advocates, primarily coming from the US, claiming this is the future (and they are right), but there is still work to do and confidence to be built.
PLM selection often has a focus on checking hundreds of requirements coming from different departments. They want a dream system. I hope this post will convince you that there are so many other thoughts relevant to a PLM selection you should take into account. And yes you still need requirements (and a vision).
Your thoughts ?
- CIMdata Publishes PLM Geography Report (detroit.cbslocal.com)
When you are in a peaceful holiday accommodation close to the sea, it is about swimming, reading sleeping and food. I read two books this time Profit Beyond Measure from H. Thomas Johnson (2000) and Fast Future from David Burnstein (2013).
In a earlier post, PLM Statistics, I already referred to Johnson´s book. Now I had the time to read the whole book. Johnson is an advocate for MBM (Manage By Means) as compared to the most practiced MBM (Manage By Results) approach.
In Fast Future, Burnstein explains why his generation of Millennials (Generation Y) is not lazy and egocentric (etc. etc.) but different and ready for the future. Different from the Boomers, generation X and
These two books on two different topics have nothing in common you might think. But all you need is a PLM twisted brain, and it will be connected.
Let’s start with Profit Beyond Measure
Johnson in his introduction explains how manufacturing companies were gradually pushed into a MBR approach (Manage By Results). The Second World War was the moment that companies started to use accounting information to plan business activities. The growing presence of accountants in business started due to more regulations and financial regulations. Corporate executives were educated by professors of accounting and finance how to use their accounting information to plan and control business activities.
The result (quoting Johnson):
“..teaching a new generation of managers to put aside understanding the concrete particulars of how business organizes work. They taught them instead to focus exclusively on abstract quantitative generalizations about financial results”
And as he writes a little later:
“The unique feature of the multidivisional organization was the introduction of a level of managers that had not existed before. Managers at this level ran what appeared to be self-standing, fully articulated multifunctional companies known as divisions. The manager of a division, however, reported to a top management group that represented in effect, the market for capital and the market for managers”
The PLM-twisted brain understands that Johnson is describing one of the major inhibitors for PLM. PLM requires departments and individuals TO SHARE and work CONCURRENT on information. Meanwhile, department and division leaders are trained, pushed and measured to optimize their silo businesses to deliver the right financial results. Executives above the management monitor the consolidated numbers and have the slightest understanding of the real business challenges PLM can solve. Here, innovative ways of working are not discussed; numbers (costs /ROI) are discussed.
To proceed with Johnson, he believes in MBM (Manage by Means). Manage by Means could be compared with the way an organic life system is behaving. Johnson describes it as:
“Every entity is focusing on doing work, not on manipulating quantitative abstractions about work. In a company this would mean every person’s activity will embody that most fundamental condition of natural life systems – namely that all knowing is doing and that all doing is knowing”
Although Johnson is focusing on manufacturing companies (Toyota and Scania as two major examples of MBM), the PLM-twisted mind reads this as a concept that matches the PLM vision.
Everything and everyone is connected to the process and having the understanding how to interpret the data and what do to. This is how I imagine PLM implementations. Provide the right information to every person not matter where this person is in the lifecycle of the product. Too much automation prevents the system to be flexible and adapt to changes an in addition, it does not challenge the user anymore to think.
Enough about Profit Beyond Measure, ending with a quote about Manage by Means:
“…. which will bring a change in thinking for the next generation of managers more revolutionary than that which every previous generation has ever experienced”
Now the Fast Future
In Fast Future, David Burnstein talks about his generation, the Millennials, and how they are different. The Millennials are people who are now between 20 and 35. They grew up with one foot in the old analogue world and came to full wisdom in a digital, social connected manner during several shocking crises that formed their personality and behavior ( 9/11 – financial crisis – globalization – huge unemployment) according to Burnstein. People also referred to them as Generation Y.
In the context of this post we have the need to imagine four generations:
- The Pré-boomers, who build up the economy after the second world war, and as we learned from Johnson who introduced the mechanical thinking for business (MBR – management by results)
- The Boomers (my generation) who had the luxury to study and discuss the ultimate change for the world (make love not war), idealistic to change the world, but now most of us working in an MBR mode
- Generation X, they introduced punk, skeptics. They are supposed to be cynical, very ego-centric and materialistic. I am sure they also have positive points, but I haven’t read a book about them and you do not meet Generation X in the context of a particular change to something new (yet)
- Generation Y, the Millennials, who considered by the Boomers, is another lazy generation, all the time surfing the internet, not committing to significant causes, but seem to enjoy themselves. Burnstein in his book changes the picture as we will see below.
According to Burnstein the Millennials are forced to behave different as the traditional society is falling apart due to different crises and globalization. They have to invent a new purpose. And as they are so natural with all the digital media they can connect to anyone or any group to launch ideas, initiatives and build companies. The high unemployment numbers in their generation force them to take action and to become an entrepreneur, not always for profit but also for social or sustainable reasons.
They understand they will have to live with uncertainty and change all their lives. No guaranteed job after education, no certain pension later and much more uncertainty. This creates a different attitude. You embrace change, and you do not go for a single dream anymore like many of the boomers did.
Choosing the areas that are essential for you and where you think you can make a significant impact become important. Burnstein points to several examples of his generation and the impact they already have on society. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook founder is a Millennial, many modern social apps are developed by Millennials, Obama won the elections twice, due to the impact and connectivity of the Millennials generation, the Facebook revolutions in the Middle East (Tunisia / Egypt/Libya) al lead by desperate Millennials that want to make a change.
When reading these statements, I wondered:
Would there also be Millennials in Germany?
As in Germany the impact of 9/11, the financial crisis and unemployment numbers did not touch that much. Are they for that reason the same as generation X? Perhaps a German reader in the millennial age can provide an answer here?
What I liked about the attitude described by Burnstein is that the Millennials network together for a better cause, a meaningful life. This could be by developing products, offer different types of services all through a modern digital means. The activities all in the context of social responsibility and sustainability, not necessary to become rich.
As noticed, they think different, they work different and here Johnson’s quote came to my mind:
“…. which will bring a change in thinking for the next generation of managers more revolutionary than that which every previous generation has ever experienced”
And the PLM-twisted brain started drifting
Is this the generation of the Millennials Johnson is hoping for? The high-level concept of Management by Means is based on the goal to have every entity directly linked to the cause – a customer order, flexibility, ability to change when needed. Not working with abstract mechanical models. I think the Millennials should be able to understand and lead these businesses.
This culture change and a different business approach to my opinion are about modern PLM. For me, modern PLM focuses on connecting the data, instead of building automated processes with a lot of structured data.
Current the modern PLM system as I described is does not exist (or I haven’t seen it yet). Also I have not worked with Millennials in a leading role in a company. Therefore, I kept on dreaming during my holiday – everything is possible if you believe it –even standing on the water:
And although after reading these books and seeing the connection, you can have the feeling that you are able to walk on the water. There are also potential pitfalls (a minute later) ahead to be considered as you can see below:
My PLM-twisted mind as you noticed combines everything.
What do you think?
Did I hallucinate or is there a modern future for business and PLM.
I am looking forward to learning your dreams.
Some weeks ago PLMJEN asked me my opinion on Peter Schroer´s post and invitation to an ARAS webinar called: Change Management: One Size Will Never Fit All. Change Management is actually a compelling topic, and I realized I had never written a dedicated post to such an essential topic. The introduction from Peter was excellent:
Change management is the toughest thing inside of PLM. It’s also the most important.
For the rest, the post elaborated further into software capabilities and the value of having templates processes for various industry practices. I share that opinion when talking to companies that are starting to establish their processes. It is extremely rare that an existing company will change its processes towards more standard processes delivered by the PLM system when implementing a new system. The rule of thumb is People, Processes and Tools. This all is nicely explained by Stephen Porter in his latest blog post Beware the quick fix successful plm deployment strategies. As I was not able to attend the webinar, here are my more general thoughts related to change management and why it is essential for PLM.
Change Management has always been there
It is not that PLM has invented change management. Before companies started to use ERP and PDM systems, every company had to deal with managing changes. At that time, their business was mostly local and compared with today slow. “Time to market” was more a “Time to Region” issue. Engineering and Manufacturing were operating from the same location. Change management was a personal responsibility supported by (paper) documents and individuals. Only with the growing complexity of products, growing and global customer demands and increasing regulatory constraints it became impossible to manage change in an unstructured manner.
Survival of the fittest change organization
I have worked with several companies where change management was a running Excel business. Running can be interpreted in two ways. The current operation could not stop and step back and look into an improvement cycle, and a lot of people were running to collect, check and validate information in order to make change estimates and make decisions based on the collected data.
When a lot of people are running, it means your business is at risk. A lot of people means costs for data (re)search and handling are higher than the competition if this can be done automatically. Also in countries of low labor costs, a lot of people running becomes a threat at a certain moment. In addition, running people can make mistakes or provide insufficient information, which leads to the wrong decisions.
Wrong decisions can be costly. Your product may become too expensive; your project may delay significant as information was based on conflicting information between disciplines or suppliers. Additional iterations to fix these issues lead to a longer time to market. Late discoveries can lead to severe high costs. For certain, when the product has been released to the market the cost might be tremendous.
From the other side if making changes becomes difficult because the data has to be collected from various sources through human intervention, organizations might try to avoid making changes.
Somehow this is also an indirect death penalty. The future is for companies that are able to react quickly at any time and implement changes.
The analogy is with a commercial aircraft and a fighter plane. Let’s take the Airbus 380 in mind and a modern fighter jet the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The Airbus 380 brings you comfortable from A to B as long as A and B are well prepared places to land. The flight is comfortable as the plane is extremely stable. It is a well planned trip with an aversion to change of the trajectory.
The JSF airplane by definition is an unstable plane. It is only by its computer steering control that the plane behaves stable in the air. The built-in instability makes it possible to react as quickly as possible to unforeseen situations, preferable faster than the competition. This is a solution designed for change.
Based on your business you all should admire the JSF concept and try to understand where it is needed in your organization.
Why is change management integrated in PLM so important?
If we consider where changes appear the most, it is evident in the early lifecycle of the product most of the changes occur. And as long as they are in the virtual world with uncommitted costs to the product they are relative cheap. To my surprise many engineering companies and engineering departments work only with change management outside their own environment. Historically because outside their environment connected to prototyping or production costs of change are the highest. And our existing ERP system has an Engineering Change process – so let’s use that.
Meanwhile, engineering is used to work with the best so far information. At any moment, every discipline stores their data in a central repository. This could be a directory structure or PDM systems. Everyone is looking to the latest data. Files are overwritten with the latest versions. Data in the PDM system shows the latest version to all users. Hallelujah
And this is the place where it goes wrong. A mechanical engineer has overlooked a requirement in the specification that has been changed. Yes, the latest version of the 20 page document is there. An electrical engineer has defined a new control system for the engine, but has not noticed that the operating parameters of the motor have been changed. Typical examples where a best so far environments creates the visibility, but the individual user cannot understand the impact of a change anymore (especially when additional sites perform the engineering work)
Here comes the value of change management in PLM. Change Management in PLM can be light weighted in the early design phases, providing checks on changes (baselines) and notifications to disciplines involved. Approval processes are more agreements to changes to implement and their impact on all disciplines.
PLM supports the product definition through the whole product lifecycle, change management at each stage can have its particular behavior. In the early stages a focus on notifications and visibility of change, later checking the impact based on the maturity of the various disciplines and finally when running into production and materials commitment towards a strict and organized change mechanism. It is only in a PLM system where the gradual flow can be supported seamless
Change Management and ERP
As mentioned before, most manufacturing companies have implemented change management in ERP as the costs of change are the highest when the product capabilities are committed. However, the ERP system is not the place to explore and iterate for further improved solutions. The ERP system can be the trigger for a change process based on production issues. However the full implementation of the change requires a change in the product definition, the area where PLM is strong.
NOTE: on purpose I am not mentioning a change in the engineering definition as in some cases the engineering definition might remain the same, but only the manufacturing process or materials need to be adapted. PLM supports iterations, not an ERP execution matter.
Change Management and Configuration Management
So far we have been discussing how the manufacturing system would be able to offer products based on the right engineering definition. As each specific product might not have an individual definition checked at any time, there is the need for configuration management (CM). Proper implemented configuration management assures there is a consistent relationship between how the product is specified and defined and the way it is produced. Read a refined and precise explanation on wiki
In one of my following posts I will focus on configuration management practices and why PLM systems and Configuration Management are like a Siamese twins
Storing your data in a (PLM) system has only value if you are able to keep the actual status of the information and its context. Only then a person can make the right decisions immediately and with the right accuracy. The more systems or manual data handling, the less completive your company will be. Integrated and lean change management means survival !
Do you know the expression: “You have lies, damned lies and statistics”? Pointing to the fact that statistics are often abused to “prove” statements. A typical example from Hans Rosling, the Swedish statistics guru and entertainer: “In Sweden most of the people have an above average amount of legs!”
The proof: the Swedish average is 1.999 and as most of the people in Sweden have 2 legs, thus above average. Now it is time to share some statistics with you.
Last time, I asked readers of this blog to participate in a small survey about their PLM thoughts and experiences. Although many people have read the post, perhaps, not till the end, there are only 22 responses so far at this time. If you haven’t participated yet, please do so by answering: 6 questions – the result will be published in July. There are no rewards to win. The only thing we all will gain is the statistical insight of people who have read this blog and apparently are PLM minded.
What does it mean to be PLM-minded?
It is hard to tell what the purpose is of PLM really without some numbers to guide you. And when it comes to PLM decisions, I noticed that most of the companies, I am working with, believe they make decisions based on numbers and statistics. Personally I believe in our current society it is more the emotional side that drives our decisions, not pure the rational and numbers. This is another discussion.
We always find a way to interpret the numbers. For the outside world, we pretend we make decisions based on pure, objective criteria. This would mean you can capture an organization in numbers and decide from there what’s best for the organization. An utopia we will see after some small statistics.
In the past year I spent most of my time in eight PLM-related discussions, most of them still on-going. Here, some of the statistics
Four of them are large enterprises, where the power is inside the business unit. They act as one company, (one logo) but actually every business unit is focused on their own business profit and loss. They are not genuinely motivated to think about synergy with other businesses in cases it affects their work. Sometime IT believes they can bring the synergy by defining the common tools.
The other four companies are more centralized enterprises; some of them are large, with a centralized management and a single target to deliver to the market. Therefore, for a PLM project, they are easier to work with as you have more a single voice, instead of an opinion with a lot of conditions.
All eight companies are not in traditional PLM industries. They are either project centric industries, where every delivery is supposed to be unique, or they are an owner/operator of a collection of assets to be managed during a long lifecycle. The reason: since 2008 I am personally interested and driven to demonstrate PLM practices and capabilities are valid for other industries too.
All eight companies involved expressed in the current engagement that PLM is essential for their future.
The need for PLM comes from a vision. I believe you should start always with the vision. Before acting, you need to know what your goal is. And a goal does not mean you know what your pain is. Understanding the pains does not solve the future; it is a first step to help you shape a future with no more pains. A typical example that they are different can be found in the current economic crisis. Everyone experiences the pains and understands there is a need for change. But all we have a different opinion about that is the required change. There is no single vision?
From the eight companies, only two of them could express a clear vision where they want to be in the future. This means six of them either have not clarified their vision yet (still in work) or even do not believe there is a way to define the vision. They are more focused on solving a pain than creating a vision.
In three companies, the PLM project is considered to be a game changer. It was not about just fixing actual pains. The target is to be different from the competition and achieve a competitive advantage. Game changers are the most complex projects. The company needs to have a clear vision. It needs to have a trust in the fact that changing the game is indeed possible. And finally game changing contains the word CHANGE, which most companies try to avoid (evolution no revolution). But game changers, when successful, have the dominant companies for several years before others catch up.
In relation to change, two of the eight companies believe will be impossible to change the game. Although individual persons in the organization believe it is required, their ERP implementation and its related implementation scope have already taken part of the logical PLM space. This is blocking any serious PLM initiative making the implementation a PDM implementation, which has less value.
Four companies stated upfront IT-constraints that could not be discussed. This introduced a lot of complexity. Some of the IT-constraints were emotional (we just decided a year ago to standardize on software xyz – we cannot afford to change to something else now, perhaps in the future). Other constraints were quite irrational and were based on (IT) decisions to standardize on a technology or solution, irrelevant or counterproductive to the business needs.
Only three of the eight companies require an ROI estimate to convince the management. As mentioned before, everyone is looking for reliable numbers to support a decision. Still decisions are made emotionally, and ROI numbers might be based on statistics. These three companies believe that the ROI numbers will lead to the right decision.
Another three out of this eight companies did not need an ROI estimate. They think that what they will select as future solution is always justified: they just need PLM. The difficulty will come when they have to compare RFPs (Request for Proposal) from different vendors. Each vendor is focusing on its unique features, and from there the RFP review becomes an apples and pears comparison. Probably again the emotional decision will be made at the end. Most likely the cheapest to be sure nobody can be blamed.
PLM = PLM?
I believe the small amount of statistics provided in this post demonstrate that it is not easy to get a hundred percent common understanding of what PLM is about. Imagine what you would give as advice to one of these eight companies. This makes PLM difficult as a discipline as it is not just a collection of tools to implement. If you are selling hammers everything might look like a nail. Be aware of hammer PLM.
In addition to what is PLM, the majority of companies that claim to have implemented a PLM system do not necessary use PLM in all its capabilities. Often it is still more automation of the way the company worked before. Something you understand when attending PLM user conferences, like the product innovation conferences.
Innovation and disruption needed
I believe that in order to benefit in an optimal manner from PLM, a company needs to switch their mindset from being a departmental measured and triggered company into a customer centric company, where information flows and is shared with all relevant roles in the organization.
Sharing data, instead of owning data, is a big game changer. It requires companies to work different. In the past when you did not need to share data, you could store it anywhere and in any way you prefer to do this. It was your duty and job security to control the data. Now when an experienced person retires or leaves the company, we struggle to get this information back (or we lose it and recreate it later when needed again). Search engines become popular technology to find back data – if possible! I believe Search engines can help to connect the past to the future infrastructure, but there is more.
Sharing data does not mean storing data in the cloud. The cloud makes it easier to share data as the company can focus more on the business side of the solution instead of the IT-side where and how to store it at what cost. It is the awareness of the content (“Do I search for something that exists”) and the quality (“Can I trust what I have found”) that we share that needs to get the focus.
For data sharing a disruptive change is needed, which does not happen in the classical PLM environments. There we think too much in departments and a sequential (or concurrent) way of working.
Aiming for sharing is disruptive. The fact that engineers need to provide more accurate data is seen as a productivity loss instead of a gain through the whole organization – see an old post: “Where is my PLM ROI “?. Organizations normally do not like disruptions. Individuals do. If they find a cheaper and easier way to get their work done, they will grab this opportunity and not do anything more. However companies have the tendency and need to keep things more complex as it is not a single task the focus on. It is a complex network of interactions.
I had the chance to read two interesting topics in this context recently. First a relative new blog related to disruptive innovation: the Off-White papers. Although it is not about PLM, it describes the challenges related to disruptive innovation, and if you have a twisted PLM-brain you will get the message.
The same for a book I have been reading from H. Thomas Johnson called Profit Beyond Measure . Johnson describes in his book, based on cases from Toyota and Scania, a different business model focused on customer delivery instead of internal departmental optimization. Again my twisted PLM-brain got triggered by the customer centric business model. A favorite quote:
A continuously linked and balanced organization that “works to customer order” reflects a very different management style (and organization JV) than does a decoupled and discontinuous organization that “works to schedule”
It is the difference between managing by results (MBR) and managing by means (MBM). And I believe this is the target of modern PLM too.
Even with some small statistics I hope it is clear that PLM is not a simple activity as there are many constraints that can influence a project. Having an understanding about these constraints and being able to remove the blocking constraints is what I believe is the job of a PLM consultant.
Do you agree? Is there an easier world? I am looking forward to your feedback through the comments or through a response in the small survey: PLM, your opinion
It was Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, living around 500 BC, who told the Greek people that change is the only constant: Τα πάντα ρεί – the title of this blog post. Apparently he was not a popular philosopher and telling people there will be change during a comfortable period of time in their society does not make you loved.
As I am personally passionate about Greece in my personal life, I have also some business activities in Greece. From these experiences, I wish Heraclitus would be their leading guru. Greece at this moment is stuck in their inability to change. Old habits and private interests prevent new initiatives, and the blame for their current situation goes to the outside world: Europe.
This trick has been used over and over again by politicians when a country needs to restructure or reorganize. Create an external enemy and the majority of people swallow their distressing situation. The outside world is to blame and thanks to the external focus nothing changes internally as the population focuses on the enemy first. Where Heraclitus implies there is always change, which could be evolution, it seems that the Greek need a revolution to change their old habits and patterns in order to adapt to the new global society.
But are the Greek the only ones that need to change?
Τα πάντα ρεί also came in my mind when I read Chad Jackson’s blog post: PLM requires Business Transformation ? Bollocks for the first time. I envy Chad’s powerful writing style, which calls for action, a BLOGFIGHT among the PLM community. Unfortunate due to the word Bollocks some of the younger PLM consultants (do they exist?) might not be able to participate to this blog fight as their parental filter on the computer has blocked the page.
My first impression from Chad’s post was that he claims we just need to go to for global centralized data management and build processes digital and automated. And as he calls a PLM journey bollocks, I suppose in Chad’s ideal world all would be done in a single step or focused project. A new Big Bang! The last known successful Big Bang was approx 13.798 billion years ago. All other Big Bangs failed.
Τα πάντα ρεί
However my first impression was not 100 % correct and after rereading the post and the related comments a more elaborated picture comes up. The few other PLM consultants that participated in the BLOGFIGHT demonstrated there are many viewpoints often based on the consultant’s background. Often PLM is associated with “The single source of the Truth”, it is precisely on that point where PLM as a concept is struggling. There is no single opinion for PLM.
I am glad that we (Chad and I) agreed there is a need for change. This axiom (another Greek word known from Euclid’s Elements) is to my opinion the first starting point to consider for any PLM implementation. If you do not expect change, you will be probably forced to customize the new system the way your company worked before, maybe a little faster, leaving the organization structure as-is. And by building automation similar to the as-is organization you actually make your organization less flexible to adapt for new concepts.
Why do most of the large automotive companies have a problem with their PDM / PLM platforms? Because they have automated and customized their environments year after year. For sure there was ROI (Return On Investment) at that time, but gradually it also created an inability to change. And change is happing faster and faster. Globalization has come up so fast that most large PLM implementations seem to be too rigid to change. What to do? Change their CAD system?
Τα πάντα ρεί !
Knowing that there will be always change, companies should anticipate for change. And this is what I mean by the PLM journey. If implementing PLM is a onetime shot, you might be shooting in your own foot. And if you do not change, you end up with the same problem that Greece is currently facing: revolution or bankruptcy. Revolution is something nobody sane wants, neither bankruptcy.
Evolution is the only way to go even if this is against the way we humans in general behave: we want things to stay the same.
Now combining all ancient Greek wisdom with modern PLM wisdom, I would like to post my five axioms for PLM.
- There will be always change – build your vision for the upcoming 5 – 10 years with the anticipation there will be change – do not try to consolidate the now.
- Look for the latest best practices, not your current best practices
- Implement systems (PLM / PDM / ERP) as much as possible Out-Of-The-Box again avoiding to become dependent on specific releases or fixed environments
- Focus on areas where there is direct visible ROI or long term strategic advantage. As there will be always change, identify where to improve or alter moving towards the big picture brings visible comfort (business wise / users wise)
- Focus on a clear and business oriented data model – it is easier to maintain data through a long lifecycle when their definition is clear. This is a call for open data standards (STEP / ISO) as they bring you long term flexibility.
Concluding notes and call for action:
- If you are a respected PLM consultant, feel motivated to continue the blog fight and share your thoughts here related to this post or related to Chad’s post.
- If you are a respected PLM consultant or PLM enthusiast, please take a moment to answer six questions in the following anonymous survey to share your opinion and background. The survey closes on July 1st 2013: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PYSMBJ9
I will publish the results in July.
- PLM is a journey (virtualdutchman.com)
WordPress indicated that this is my hundredth blog post since I started in 2008. A notorious PLM blogger would say: “Why did it take you so long to reach 100 posts? “ PLM blogging has been a journey for me, but in this post I want to focus on how PLM implementations should be perceived by companies: As a journey.
My previous posts might suggest that I am cynical about PLM because titles as “How come PLM is boring?” and “PLM at risk. It does not have a clear job” might give the impression that PLM is at the end of its lifecycle.
Let me be clear, I think it is not. We, PLM passionate people, are still trying to find the right method to promote the value of PLM to the minds of the management in companies. You would assume that the value PLM brings would make it a no-brainer. However for successful implementing PLM there is no standard approach (and definition). Often people believe PLM is an IT-solution. And the common sense is that you buy an IT-solution, you implement it and continue working in a better mode. That’s where the implementation fails as PLM is different. So let’s start our journey
A journey starts with a reason / target
Once you have decided you are going to make a journey there are several things to consider and some of them are obvious.
- Where do you start from ? The easiest part, but crucial.
- Where do you want to go? This is sometimes more difficult to achieve than the previous point, especially in cases when you only have an idea of the target.
- How do you travel? In which way do you want to reach your target? A fast and direct connection is expensive and considers the trip as a waste of time. An alternative is that you want to travel towards the target, meanwhile spending some money along the road and even make money from the experiences gained along the road? In that case, time spent is less an issue. It is the combination of having the target in mind, move forward in the right direction and simultaneously gain experience and benefits.
The fast approach
The fast approach is for many IT-systems a must. If you implement an ERP system, you know its exact purpose; it supports the scheduling and transactions through the organization. You cannot afford to have an old system and a new system work in parallel. And because these transactions are related to the financial state of the company, the management will always prioritize investments in ERP.
Another reason why ERP implementations can be reasonable fast is that you are not going to reinvent the way information is handled. It is more an improvement process than an innovation process. Although to be fair, moving towards multiple manufacturing locations and different costs centers can be considered as complex topics.
Why no fast approach for PLM ?
For PLM, there is no fast approach as there are so many areas that you can address? Too many jobs – remember my previous post? In addition, the exact meaning of all these jobs is not clear from the start.You have to prepare for a journey. And here is the main challenge. Management will not easily fund your journey as you cannot explain it specific results in comprehensible words to them. Management might be excited by the proposed value of PLM. Who does not need to be more competitive and innovative in the future? This message resonates particularly well among members of the board and shareholders.
But when it comes to implementation, there is usually only one cross-disciplines unit that can accomplish this assignment: the IT-department. And here is the crucial mistake discovered time after time where PLM implementations fail. PLM is a business transformation, not an IT-system implementation.
Business should lead this transformation, but it is very rare you find the right people that have the full overview, skills and availability to implement this transformation across departments. People from the business side will be primarily focused on their (small) part of the full process, leaving at the end the project to be done to IT.
But as the financial transactions are already taking care of in other systems, the company does not appear at risk. Accountant will never push for PLM as a life saver. Slow reducing margin, slowly diminishing market share often do not alert people in the board room. It requires a deep-dive from the management into these symptoms, which they do not wish to do – it takes time to learn and understand.
Autodesk and Aras somehow dream to have solved this issue by claiming their PLM tools are easy to implement, easy to configure. They are somehow stating: “Don’t worry about the IT-side, build what you need”. It is a bottom-up approach likely to fail as I learned from many SmarTeam implementations that never reached the enterprise level due to inconsistency and misunderstanding at management level.
The journey approach
There is only one strategy that works for PLM, which is starting from a clear vision from the top (the target/destination) and the belief that the target needs to be reached by business people supported by IT.
And in order to keep the business alive we will try to get closer and closer to the target, year by year: the journey approach. During the journey, various business needs and changes will be addressed as isolated but connected stages. Each stage should have its business targets and benefits. The advantage is that it is a learning experience where in every stage different business people are leading the subject. IT is always involved as the integrator of all stages. More on that in later posts.
There is a vital role required in the journey approach: The Guide(s). As implementing PLM is usually not a typical job for a company, it is something that you need to experience in order to do it right. And there are two types of guides:
- The travel agencies – companies that have collected the experiences from people around the world identified the places to go and often have done some local research to confirm the promises. In the PLM landscape, this is a company like CIMdata with their focus on PLM. There are also more specialized travel agencies that might focus on DIY trips (they provide infrastructure and support) or cruises (no escape). Here, I will not mention names, but there is always a demand for cruises.
- The local guides – this are usually individuals that have years of experience in the space they have been working. They know in detail where the dirt is and how to avoid swamps. In the PLM landscape, this is the PLM consultant with a focus on a particular product or on a certain part of PLM. The quality of a local guide varies a lot, and you need to examine their track record but I think they are required. Do not leave it to the travel agencies only.
To conclude after 100 posts. I am sure PLM is a journey. If you don’t know me by now, watch the movie below and browse through the top 10 most read individual posts to get an opinion.
- PLM at risk – it does not have a single, clear job ! (virtualdutchman.com)
Last year, I read Clayton Christensen’s book “The Innovator’s dilemma – When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail “. I was intrigued how his theory also applies to PLM and wrote about it in a blog posts last year.
Recently, I attended an HBR Webinar “Innovating over the Horizon: How to Survive Disruption and Thrive” , which raises serious implications for PLM. As presented by Clayton Christensen and Max Wessel, both professors in the Harvard Business School, I foresaw numerous consequences demanding attention.
I’d like to highlight some observations for you:
- Disruptive innovation will hit any domain – so also the PLM domain
- You are less impacted if your products/services are targeting a job to be done
- ERP has a well defined job – so not much discussion there
- PLM does not have a clear job – so vulnerable for disruption
- Will PLM disappear?
The above diagram explains it all. Often products come into the market with a performance below customer expectations. The product will improve in time, and at a certain moment it will reach that expectation level. Through sustaining innovation, the company keeps improving their product(s) to attract more customers, and start delivering more than a single customer is asking for.
This is for sure the case in PLM. All the PLM vendors are now able to deliver a lot of functionality around global collaboration, covering the whole product lifecycle. Companies that implement PLM, just implement a fraction of these capabilities and still have additional demands. Still the known PLM vendors nearly always win when a company is searching for a new PLM solution.
Disruption comes from other technologies and products. In the beginning, they are not even considered by companies in that product space as a possible solution. As these products improve in time at a certain moment, they reach that level of functionality and performance, a potential customer can use these products to address their demands.
At this stage, the disrupters will nearly always win the battle. The reason is that they are more close to what the customer wants than the incumbents. Their product performance and price point are most likely to be more attractive than the incumbents´ portfolio.
Translating this to PLM it would mean: “Do not look for PLM systems as they already provide too much functionality, way above the line of customer desire”
As a PLM consultant, I need to provide some second thoughts to keep my job. There is much more behind Prof. Christensen’s theory, and I recommend before agreeing with what I write, read his books ! And although there is a horizontal time axis where the disruptive technology comes in, it does not indicate it will be this year or next year.
If you are aware that disruption can kill your business, how likely is it that it will happen in your business and when?
Professor Christensen makes two key points:
- Disruption will always happen, but this does not mean it is going to be fast and totally overtaking the old products. It might be a slower process as expected and incomplete. Here, I was thinking about disruptive cloud technology, which came in fast on the consumer level, but will it reach the business level too, in the same manner that it overrules the classical PLM platforms ? I am not sure about that (yet)
- If your company’s value is on delivering products, instead of delivering means to get the job done for your customer, you are extremely vulnerable for disruption.
As companies are looking to get their job done in the most efficient manner, they will switch at any time to new solutions that provide a better way to get the job done, often with a better performance and at a lower price point.
ERP has a well defined job
I realized that this is one of the big differences between PLM and ERP. Why is there such a discussion around the need for PLM and I do not catch the same messages from the ERP domain ? Maybe because I am a PLM consultant?
ERP has a clear mission: “To get the job done – deliver a product as efficient and fast as possible to the customer”. ERP is an execution system. Although ERP vendors as well are delivering more than their individual customers ask for, the job is more clear defined.
PLM does not have a clear job
For PLM, it becomes fuzzy. What is the job that PLM does ? Here, we get a lot of different answers. Have a look at these definitions from some vendors
CIMdata calls PLM “the most effective investment you can make to achieve product leadership.” AMR Research says “Companies committed to time to value in product innovation certainly cannot succeed without a sound PLM foundation.”
Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM, is a driver of successful product development, and a strategic contributor to business value across the enterprise. PLM helps product manufacturers manage complex, cross-functional processes, coordinating the efforts of distributed teams to consistently and efficiently create the best possible products
For companies of any size, Autodesk PLM 360 helps to streamline your business processes for more efficient product development, improved profitability, and higher product quality.
I also reviewed the websites from the other PLM vendors, and I can confirm: None of them is talking in a clear way which job needs to be done. All PLM solutions are around technology and products.
Companies want to get the job done
And here I come back to the webinar’s conclusion. If you want to secure your future as a company, you need to focus on the job to be done. And even better, focus on the experience to do the job and the best integration of these experiences in a total framework. See the slide below:
My interpretation is that PLM has not even reached level 1. Still many companies are struggling to understand the fundamental need(s) for PLM.
Interesting to see is that Dassault Systemes in their messaging and approach is already targeting level 2 – the experiences. If potential customers will embrace the experience approach without passing level 1, is something to observe.
Will PLM disappear ?
In my December 2008 blog post PLM in 2050 and recently in The Innovator’s dilemma and PLM, I wrote that I believe PLM as it is currently defined, will disappear. Perhaps made redundant by a collection of disruptive technologies. Main reason is that PLM does not do a single, clear job.
One of these disruptive candidates to my opinion is Kenesto. They deliver “social business enterprise software to empower teams” as stated on their website. Kenesto is not considered as a competitor of classic PLM, starting on a different trajectory. For sure there will be more disruptive candidates aiming at different pieces of the PLM scope.
What do you think:
- Does PLM have too many jobs ?
- Will PLM survive disruption ?
Last week I attended the Product Innovation Conference in Berlin, an event that revitalized the discussions and information exchange around PLM.
I have been blogging about this event since it started in London 2011, the year after in Munich and Atlanta and now in Berlin. The event has grown in size, both for the amount of speakers and participants. There were many parallel sessions per interest stream, and for that reason I cannot give a full overview of the event as I did in my previous blog posts.
This time I will describe only my personal highlights, being aware there was much more to learn. A nice service to the more than 350 attendees is that they will be able to see all sessions online soon as they were all recorded.
Some of my personal highlights
The first keynote speaker was Steve Wozniak and for me one of the guys that changed my professional life. The Apple IIe was my first personal affordable computer to explore a new world of automation, the peeks and pokes, the analog/digital converter, programming and application software, like Visicalc. I somehow feel the same excitement with 3D printing. How is this going to affect our future life?
The Apple IIe was an innovation and Steve Wozniak led us through the successes and failures he experienced within Apple. Steve´s presentation was a clear motivation for all of us to think different, to have your goals in mind. Do not focus on the common sense or be part of the organization. There will be failure but also success if you are clear about your goals. Engineers should follow their creativity and be original, instead of copying books. Creativity and Innovation are like humor (some have it and some will never have it). It was a good inspiring start for the two days, and these themes came back several times.
During the rest of the day, I learned about The Human Factor and Managing Cultural Change by Dagmar Heinrich, which can lead to damaged bike or car.
Stan Przybylinski provided interesting statistics and insights about investments in discrete manufacturing related software around the world (US, Japan, Germany, India, China) demonstrating there is still an enormous gap between the traditional economies in the west and the emerging countries.
An excellent presentation was given by Caterpillar – Beth Hinchee representing the PLM / business side, John Berg representing the IT/Infrastructure side, combined with Accenture Rüdiger Stern – Innovation and Product Development Lead.
Their presentation was a blueprint how large PLM implementations should be executed, and it was a confirmation of what I am preaching.
As a PLM implementation is always about changing the way a company works, you need to make sure you have a strong involvement from both business and IT. Without a third party that brings in the best practices, the coaching and moderation between the two disciplines it often fails due to different viewpoints and a different focus. The role of the consultancy partner is to be the glue, the motivator and source of bringing outside experience from other implementations into the discussion. As normally a company might have experience with one or two PLM implementations, a consultancy firm should be able to bring in much more experiences from all their customer engagements.
In the afternoon Michael Grieves, author of Virtually Perfect: Driving Innovative and Lean Products through Product Lifecycle Management talked about the value of innovating starting from virtual products, and how they contribute to faster mature, better validated products, benefitting from a lower overall investment for innovation. He also stated it is more important to focus on practices instead of standardized processes inside PLM.
This matched perfectly with my presentation; Innovation loves PLM, explaining the huge value that PLM brings for Innovation in relation to the company’s culture and approach towards open innovation.
The two closing keynotes sessions from the afternoon were interesting. Peter Bilello from CIMdata talked about The Future of PLM: Enabling Radical Collaboration. For me the first time I saw such a change from CIMdata, now looking forward to the upcoming generation instead of presenting more common, consolidated PLM wisdom. My blog buddy Oleg wrote about it in more detail in his recent blog post: Product Development as we have known it is dying.
The last session of the day was from Marc Chapman: Designing the World Land Speed Record. It was inspiring for all of us, demonstrating the beauty and challenges of engineering when trying to break the world land speed record. See more at bloodhoundssc.com. Not so much PLM related, but full of challenges and a need for innovative approaches.
And after a network session with drinks and a short night
The next day started with an inspiring speech, please pay extra attention to this topic. Massoud Hassani, born in Afghanistan, is striving for awareness of the global land-mine problem through his innovative decommissioning device Mine Kafon. Traditional mine discovery and detonation programs are expensive. Affected countries and the UN are not spending significant money to solve the problem as an exploding mine is no longer world news (unless it is a famous person).
Still people get injured or killed by these mines – forgotten victims. Have a look at Massoud´s project on kickstarter.com and get inspired where you can contribute. Massoud’s initial design was based on his childhood experiences, knowledge gained at the design academy and now looking for engineering support to optimize his extreme low cost, but innovative solution.
Some other sessions from the second day: The lessons learned from previous failed PLM projects by Andritz: When Things Go Wrong: How to Put Them Right. They decided not to follow the common approach that many companies try to make: one size (type of PLM) fits all, learning from their failed PLM project now rolling out several PDM systems.
This presentation somehow has a connection to what Marc Halpern from Gartner mentioned. One of my favorite opening statements he made about PLM upgrades was:
“Upgrading your PLM system, is like rewiring the house with the electricity on”.
As Gartner’s focus is more on the IT-side of the business, he explained that current PLM implementations cannot be maintained in the long term future as they become too expensive and complex to maintain. He mentioned the risk when selecting one provider for PLM, you would suffer probably from being locked-in by the vendor. This made me think what about if you would implement SAP PLM ? The SAP message is clear: one single platform for PLM and Execution!
The counter approach from this vendor lock-in is the approach to work towards open standards. Here, I attended the session EUROSTEP: Achieving business benefits by using PLM standards such as STEP and PLCS.
Currently I am involved in several projects where standardization of data for the long term and efficient data exchange between various systems is important. It is somehow a battle against all odds. Standardization is making small steps forward, but it requires companies to have a long-term vision and most of the time they chose for the short-term proprietary data formats from their software vendors. As time and less complexity is money – the problem will come later for the next generation of managers and software.
Of course this always has to be considered in the context of the dynamics of your industry – the longevity of data plays an important role.
Second last keynote speaker of the day was Prof. Martin Eigner, a long term visionary and icon when it comes to PLM. Prof. Eigner provoked the audience again that almost no company actually has implemented PLM.
Most companies are stuck with a form of PDM combined with complex customizations. They do not keep it simple – PLM is for Product Development and definition and ERP is only for execution. Companies tend to invest in their expensive ERP systems which have less impact on the future business as PLM and Innovation have.
Companies should invest much more in the design process as here it is where almost 70 % of the costs are defined and innovative products are born. To innovate better we should add Model Based engineering which includes the steps of systems engineering into the design process. Mr. Eigner was talking about a new term for PLM: sysLM. His speech was consistent and logical for all of us. But why do companies not adopt this vision?
I will come back to that in my conclusion.
The last keynote speech was from Doug McCuistion, program manager from the NASA Curiosity Mars Exploration mission. Doug guided us through all the challenges the mission went through. He shared with us the reasons for the mission, the complexity and challenges of the landing procedure and the upcoming discoveries expected. It was the last session of the congress and I feel sorry for those who had to leave earlier for their travels as it was the most inspiring session of the congress. Going for the almost impossible and such a contrast to the “boring” world of PLM.
And here comes the link between NASA´s Curiosity project and Prof Eigner´s PLM presentation.
The Curiosity project is a challenge, not on this planet, it is on the edge of what is possible and has no competition (or it must be budget cuts by the government). For most other companies, the challenge lies on this earth, and they want to stay ahead of the competition. Here it is about being able to fund your innovation and assure future funding by introducing innovative products to the market that generate enough margin to invest in the future. PLM presentations seem to be “boring” as the business value is not clear for the management (the do not attend PLM conferences), they get more enthusiastic from short-term financial figures.
One of the (younger) attendees told me that it was impressive to see so many PLM icons at this conference, but where is the new generation of PLM to-be icons ?
Fixing this disconnect is probably related to the magic we need to find to bring Innovation and PLM to the next generations.
Who starts ???
- The conference has become a “must” for companies looking for experiences related to PLM. Why and how PLM contributes to your business
- Companies are looking for their second PLM implementation trail. Learning from their previous mistakes they learned it is not an IT-only project, business should be leading, cloud becomes an option.
- The awareness of a new upcoming generation of workers. Everyone is aware of it, still at PLM conferences we are waiting for the first thought leaders of this generation to speak.
- Excitement comes from innovations that seem to be unachievable. Some go extremely fast, some detonate mines and some go to Mars, the rest has to be achieved in a competitive and global market.
Innovation loves PLM.
PLM is a popular discussion topic in various blogs, LinkedIn discussion groups, PLM Vendor web sites and for the upcoming Product Innovation congress in Berlin. I look forward to the event to meet and discuss with attendees their experience and struggle to improve their businesses using PLM.
From the other side talking about pure PLM becomes boring. Sometimes it looks like PLM is a monotheistic topic:
- “What is the right definition of PLM ?” (I will give you the right one)
- “We are the leading PLM vendor” (and they all are)
- A PLM system should be using technology XYZ (etc, etc)
Some meetings with customers in the past three weeks and two different blog posts I read recently made me aware of this ambiguity between boring and fun.
PLM dictating Business is boring
Oleg Shilovitsky´s sequence of posts (and comments) starting with A single bill of materials in 6 steps was an example of the boring part. (Sorry Oleg, as you publish so many posts, there are many that I like and some I can use as an example). When reading the BOM-related posts, I noticed they are a typical example of an IT- or Academic view on PLM, in particular on the BOM topic.
Will these posts help you after reading them ? Do they apply to your business ? Or do you feel more confused as a prolific PLM blogger makes you aware of all the different options and makes you think you should use a single bill of materials ?
I learned from my customers and coaching and mediating hundreds of PLM implementations, that the single BOM discussion is one of the most confusing and complex topics. And for sure if you address it from the IT-perspective
The customer might say:
“Our BOM is already in ERP – so if it is a single BOM you know where it is – goodbye !”.
A different approach is to start looking for the optimal process for this customer, addressing the bottlenecks and pains they currently face. It will be no surprise that PLM best practices and technology are often the building blocks for the considered solution. If it will be a single BOM or a collection of structures evolving through time, this depends on the situation, not on the ultimate PLM system.
Business dictating PLM is fun
Therefore I was happy to read Stephen Porter´s opinion and comments in: The PLM state: Pennywise Pound Foolish Pricing and PLM where he passes a similar message as mine, from a different starting point, the pricing models of PLM Vendors. My favorite part is in his conclusion:
A PLM decision is typically a long term choice so make sure the vendor and partners have the staying power to grow with your company. Also make sure you are identifying the value drivers that are necessary for your company’s success and do not allow yourself to be swayed by the trendy short term technology
Management in companies can be confused by starting to think they just need PLM because they hear from the analysts, that it improves business. They need to think first to solve their business challenges and change the way they currently work in order to improve. And next look for the way to implement this change.
Changing the way to work is the problem, not PLM.
It is not the friendly user-interface of PLM system XYZ or the advanced technical capabilities of PLM system ABC, that will make a PLM implementation easier. Nothing is solved on the cloud or by using a mobile device. If there is no change when implementing PLM, why implement and build a system to lock yourself in even more?
This is what Thomas Schmidt (VP Head of Operational Excellence and IS at ABB’s Power Products Division) told last year at PLM Innovation 2012 in Munich. He was one of the keynote speakers and surprised the audience by stating he did not need PLM !
He explained this by describing the business challenges ABB has to solve: Being a global company but acting around the world as a local company. He needed product simplification, part reduction among product lines around the world, compliance and more.
Another customer in a total different industry mentioned they were looking for improving global instant collaboration as the current information exchange is too slow and error prone. In addition they want to capitalize on the work done and make it accessible and reusable in the future, authoring tool independent. But they do not call it PLM as in their business nobody uses PLM !
Both cases should make a PLM reseller´s mouths water (watertanden in Dutch), as these companies are looking for key capabilities available in most of the PLM systems. But none of these companies asked for a single BOM or a service oriented architecture. They wanted to solve their business issues. And for sure it will lead into implementing PLM capabilities when business and IT-people together define and decide on the right balance.
Management take responsibility
And here lies the management responsibility of these companies. It is crucial that a business issue (or a new strategy) is the driving force for a PLM implementation.
In too many situations, the management decides that a new strategy is required. One or more bright business leaders decide they need PLM (note -the strategy has now changed towards buying and implementing a system). Together with IT and after an extensive selection process is done, the selected PLM system (disconnected from the strategy) will be implemented.
- why PLM projects are difficult
- why it is unclear what PLM does.
PLM Vendors and Implementers are not connected anymore at this stage to the strategy or business. They implement technology and do what the customer project team tells them to do (or what they think is best for their business model).
Successful implementations are those where the business and management are actively involved during the whole process and the change. And this requires a significant contribution from their side, often delegated to business and change consultants.
PLM Implementations usually lead to a crisis at some moment in time, when the business is not leading and the focus is on IT and User Acceptance. In the optimal situation business is driving IT. However in most cases due to lack of time and priorities from the business people, they delegate this activity to IT and the implementation team. And here it is a matter of luck if they will be successful:
- how experienced is the team ?
- Will they really implement a new business strategy or just automate and implement they way the customer worked before, but now in a digital manner ?
- Do we blame the software when the people do not change ?
Back to fun
I would not be so passionate about PLM if it was boring. However looking back the fun and enthusiasm does not come from PLM. The fun comes from a pro-active business approach knowing that first the motivating the people and preparing the change are defined, before implementing PLM practices
I believe the future success for PLM technologies is when we know to speak and address real business value and only then use (PLM) technologies to solve them.
PLM becomes is a logical result not the start.
And don´t underestimate: change is required.
What do you think – is it a dream ?
First of all happy new year to all of you. As there is no “End of the World” risk anymore in the near future , we can start looking forward and set our goals for the next 5 years or is it a 7-years plan Oleg ?.
Christmas, the moment the light returns on the Northern hemisphere, plus the food , cycling and the preparations for the next Product Innovation conference in Berlin were the drivers for this blog post.
The title might give you the impression that it is an IQ-quiz: “Which word does not fit in this sequence”? Well, It’s not, they are all related. Let’s put them in a chronological order.
Frogs existed first, and were exploring the world before us humans. Paleontologists assume they had no notion of what was global. In their world it was probably a few ponds in size. For certain, they did not have anything to do with innovation. At that time, survival depended on the slow process of evolution.
Millions of years later, the first Homos appeared on the earth surface; Homo Sapiens, Homo Erectus, Homo Ludens and perhaps more. They all had something in common: Instead of waiting for the evolution which was ongoing, they started in parallel to innovate. First by walking upright, using a more advanced language to communicate and learning to have tools to achieve more. Their world was still within a reasonable walking distance and probably they started to eat frogs.
This evolution continued for thousands of years. Human beings started to spread around the world and in waves they brought innovation. They built stone temples, learned to sail, discovered gunpowder, electricity, the universe, the internet and more. It is interesting to see that every time a major innovation was born, these innovators enriched their region in wealth and culture, using their innovation as a competitive advantage to dominate their neighbors.
In many cases 1000 years later, this innovation became a commodity and other civilizations stood up with their innovation and dominated their regional environment which became bigger and bigger in size. Where possible they made use of the cheap resources (modern word for what was initially called slaves) to enrich their civilization. For certain, the most civilized were eating frogs!
Market expansion – innovation pace
During the last century, the pace of innovation went faster and faster. New ways of communication and transportation became available and affordable, which made it impossible for innovations to stay within a specific civilization. Innovation became available for everyone around the world and the domination shifted towards companies and markets.
Companies with a strategy to innovate, discovered that there were new ways needed to respond faster than before to market opportunities. This was the driving force behind PDM, as an first attempt to get a better grip and understanding of their fast evolving, more complex products, that require more and more global collaboration between design teams.
PDM is now accepted as critical by all manufacturing companies around the world, to guarantee quality and efficiency. Customer focus became the next demand from the market and interestingly enough, the demand for frogs decreased.
However this wave of innovation was followed by a wave with even greater impact on the global society. New technologies, the availability of internet and social media, suddenly changed society. Combined with the financial crisis in the US and Europe, it became clear that the way we worked in the past is no longer the way to survive in the future.
Faster and global
PLM was introduced early this century as a new strategy to become more customer-centric, being able to respond faster and better to market demands by bringing innovation to the market before the competition. PLM requires a different approach by companies to work internally and interact with the (global) outside world. The need to implement the PLM vision requires change and as it cannot be considered as an evolutionary process over several generations, it will be a business change. However, in general, human beings do not like rapid change. Here the frogs come back into the picture, now as the boiling frog metaphor.
It is based on 19th century anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually. This metaphor is very applicable for the classical approach companies bring their products to the market, where innovation is more a lucky coincidence than a result of a strategy.
Here it all comes together again.
Innovation is the only way for companies to avoid becoming a commodity – not able to differentiate for your potential customers. Now the title of this post should be clear: “Do not be a boiling frog, use PLM to support your innovation and become available for the global market”
As the new year has started and it is still time to extend your good intentions, add Innovation, PLM and Change to your survival list.
I look forward to your comments and hope to discuss with you the relation between PLM and Innovation during the upcoming Product Innovation event in Berlin, where I present a session with the title: “PLM loves Innovation ?”
(when you know me, you know the answer, but there are always surprises)
- Are we as dumb as “Slowly Boiling Brainless Frogs”? (1) (blogs.redding.com)