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?
There are many discussions related to PLM. What is actually PLM? Is it A Journey ? Or is it a Vision? An IT-solution? An infrastructure? Or is it Boring or just the Opposite?
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