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)