During this summer holiday, I was looking back on recent implementations and sales efforts related to PLM. Some had particular challenges regarding the PLM implementation and the relation to the IT department. The role of the IT-department was crucial, but always in a positive manner ? Judge yourself.
First this statement:
In many mid-market companies the choice for PLM is not that clear.
Let me explain what I mean by a typical mid-market company – it is not based on size or turn-over. For me a mid-market company is a company, not allocating the resources to have an overall strategic department and in addition the IT-department is limited to a team of people with a main focus to keep the company operational – ERP first.
The impact of this situation is twofold:
- From one way new business initiatives will mostly come from departments, either sales, marketing, engineering, production, service or IT. Companywide business initiatives are not likely to come from a separate department as each department is working on their own issues.
- Secondly IT often has a tendency to ‘standardize’ on certain environments. Some quotes:
“We love/hate Microsoft”
“SharePoint is our standard”
“If it is not Linux it is not reliable”
“Our ERP provider has also a PLM module, so this is going to be the standard”
And this standardization is often at the end the business killer
So where does PLM come from in a mid-market company ?
Example 1: The IT-department in company XYZ had the opinion there was a need to provide a company infrastructure for document management – people complained about not being able to find the right information. Related to the CAD system in use, it often became a kind of PDM implementation with extended document management. The IT-department provided the infrastructure (we need Oracle / SQL /DB2 – based on their standards) and engineering was allowed on top of that infrastructure to define their PDM environment.
As most of the people involved in this project were very familiar with computers, the implemented system was highly customized, due to specific actions the engineers wanted and what IT envisioned users would require. The overall thought was that other users would automatically get enthusiastic when seeing this implementation
In contrary: the regular users refused to work with the new PDM system – too complex, it takes too much time to fill in information and in situations of heavy customization some users became afraid of the system. Making one mistake was hard to undo and could have a chain reaction of events further down in the organization. They preferred the traditional method of sending documents or Excels to the other departments and getting face-to-face feedback. Of course in case of missing information or a mistake this could be clarified easily too.
Conclusion from all the PLM pessimists: PLM is too complex, PLM is hard to implement.
My intermediate conclusion: Good will to improve the company’s business is important, however you need business people to define and lead the implementation.
Example2: IT in a company ABC developed a custom PLM infrastructure for their users and everyone was happy, till …… business changed. Where several years ago, the users decided that the standard PLM software was not good enough as some details were not supported and the standard system PLM system was able to do too much, IT generously decided to build a complete, nice user environment for their company.
Everybody happy for three years, till recently, due to acquisitions, outsourced contracting (engineering and manufacturing), the IT-department has to hire more people to support more and more custom connections and data exchange. Now in an overheated state they are looking for ways to use PLM standard software instead, however IT does not want to write off the previous investments that easy, the users are not aware of the problems in changing business and the future PLM decision is again driven by IT and not by business,
Internal conclusion: The IT-department was very helpful for the end users, who appreciated the simple to-the-point interface – whispering: Therefore never a change process took place anticipating strategic changes upcoming. The result a kind of dead end.
My intermediate conclusion: If you are a mid-market company and you are not in software development, stay out of it. It is always a temporary and people dependent (who can/will leave at some time).
Just two examples out of many, typically for mid-market companies. I think also larger enterprises sometimes demonstrate the same problematic. Good IT-people and IT-department are crucial for every company. The challenge is to keep the balance between business and IT. The risk is that due to the fact that there is a lack of business strategy resources, the IT-department becomes the business standard.
Conclusion: PLM is about business change and PLM is not an IT-tool. However a PLM implementation requires good and intensive support from IT. The challenge for every company is that the IT-department often has the most skilled people for a company-wide implementation, however the business drivers and strategy should come from outside.
Your thoughts ???