In the past two years, I have been heavily involved in PLM Proof of Concepts sitting at both sides of the table. Supporting companies in their PLM selection, supporting a vendor explaining their value to the customer and supporting implementers assisting them with industry knowledge, all in the context of a PLM selection process.
The Proof of Concept is crucial in a PLM selection process as it is the moment where the first glimpse of reality comes to the table.
Different size of companies, different consultants all have a different view on the importance of the Proof of Concept. Let me share you my thoughts after a quick recap on the PLM selection process.
The PLM selection process
1. Build a vision
It is important that a company understands what they want to achieve in the next five to ten years, before starting a PLM selection process. Implementing PLM means a business transformation, even if you are a small company. If the management does not understand a vision is required, there is a potential risk upcoming, as PLM without a change in the way people work, will not deliver the expected results.
2. Issue an RFI to potential candidates
Once you have a PLM vision, it is time to get in touch with potential suppliers. The RFI (Request for Information) phase is the phase where you can educate yourself better by challenging the suppliers to work with you on the future solutions.
3. Discuss with selected candidates
From the RFI responses you understand which companies are attractive because they match your vision, your budget or industry. Have a first interaction with the selected companies and let them demo their standard environment targeted to your vision.
In this stage, you check with the preferred companies their ability to deliver and your ability to work together. The POC phase should give you the understanding of the scope for the upcoming PLM project and help you to understand who and how the project can be executed. More details about this step below.
Although some companies start with an RFP before the POC, for me it makes most sense to verify the details after you have a proper understanding of the To-Be solution. The RFP is often the base for the contractual scope and therefore should be as accurate as possible
In the past, I wrote in more detail about the PLM selection process. Two posts: PLM selection: Don’t do this and PLM selection: Do this. Have a read if you want to understand this part in more depth. Now let´s focus on the POC .
- As described before, the target of the Proof of Concept should be to get a better understanding of the potential To-Be processes and obtain an impression of the capabilities of the implementer and the preferred PLM software.
The result should be that you have more realistic expectations of what can be achieved and the challenges your company will face.
- From there, you can evaluate the risks, address them and build an achievable roadmap to implement. It is important that the focus is not just on the cost of the implementation.
- To sell PLM inside your company, you need to realign with the vision and explain, to all people involved,the value of “Why PLM”.
Explaining the value is complex, as not everyone needs the same message. The management will focus on business benefits where users will focus how it impacts their daily life. If you forget to explain the value, the PLM projects, it is considered again as just another software purchase.
Make sure the Proof of Concept is driven by validating future business scenarios, focusing on the To-Be solution. The high-level scenarios should be demonstrated and explained to the business people. In this stage, it is important people realize the benefits and the value of the new processes.
The POC is also an internal sales event. The goal should be to get more enthusiastic and supportive business people in your company for the upcoming PLM project. Identify the champions you will need to lean on during the implementation.
Test the implementer. To my opinion the critical success of a PLM implementation depends on the implementation team, not on the software. Therefore, the POC phase is the best moment to learn if you can work with the implementer. Do they know your business? Do they have experience with your business? The more you are aligned, the higher the chance you will be successful as a team
Show commitment to engage. Often I have seen POC engagements where the company demanded the implementer or vendor a Proof of Concept for free. This creates an unbalanced situation during the Proof of Concept as the vendor or implementer can not invest time and resources in the process as expected without any commitment from the company. By paying a certain fee for the POC, a company can demonstrate to the implementer /vendor that this POC is valuable for you and you can request the same response from them.
The Proof of Concept is not a detailed function/feature check to identify each mouse-click or option in the system. During the implementation, these details might come up. It is important in a Proof of Concept to understand the big picture and not to get lost in the details. As human beings we tend to focus on what does not work, not realizing that probably over eighty-ninety percent works according the needs
Do not expect the ultimate To-Be scenario demonstrated during the Proof of Concept. The Proof of Concept is a learning stage for both the company and the implementer to imagine the best possible scenario. PLM systems are generic and likely they will not provide a similar configuration and functionality matching your environment. At this stage validate if the primary capabilities are there and if there are gaps.
Do not run a POC with a vendor (only). This might be one of the most critical points for a POC. A PLM software vendor’s target is to sell their software and for that reason they often have dedicated presales teams that will show you everything in a smooth manner, overwhelming you with all the beauty of the software. However after the POC this team is gone and you will have to align yourself again with the implementation partner, trying to match again your business needs and their understanding.
Realize – you get what you are asking for. This is more a Do-and-Don’t message packed together. A Proof of Concept phase is a point where companies get to know each other. If you are not focused, do not expect the implementer / vendor to be committed. A PLM implementation is not product. It is a business transformation supported by products and services. Do not treat PLM implementers and vendors in the same way, as your customers treat you (in case you deliver products).
There are still many more thoughts about the Proof of Concept . Ideally you run two POCs in parallel, either with two implementers of the preferred software (if possible) or with two different implementers representing different software.
Ideally, as I know it is a challenge, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, where people are running to keep the business on-going.
Still remember, PLM is a business transformation, targeting to improve your business in the upcoming five to ten years, avoiding you are running out of business.
Your thoughts ?
As a bonus a short anecdote that I posted in 2010 still relevant:
Some time ago a Christian PLM Sales professional died (let’s call him Jack) and according to his believe he faced Saint Peter at the gates of Heaven and Hell.
Saint Peter greeted Jack and said: “Jack, with the PLM Sales you have done good and bad things to the world. For that reason, I cannot decide if you should go to Heaven or to Hell. Therefore, I allow you to make the choice yourself”.
Jack replied: “But Saint Peter, how can I make such an important decision for the rest of my eternal life. It is too difficult!”
Saint Peter replied: “No problem Jack, take a look at Heaven and Hell, take your time and then tell me your decision.”
Jack entered Heaven and he was surprised about the quietness and green atmosphere there. Angels were singing, people were eating from golden plates with the best food ever, people were reading poetry and everything was as peaceful as you could imagine. In the distance, he could see God surrounded by some prophets talking about the long-term future. After some time, Jack had seen it and went to Hell to have a view there.
And when he opened the gates of Hell, he was astonished. Everywhere he looked there were people partying, having fun. It reminded him off these sales kick-offs, he had in the past, exotic places with lots of fun. In the distance, he could see the Devil as DJ playing the latest dance music – or was it DJ Tiësto?
Jack did not hesitate and ran back to Saint Peter, no time to lose. “Saint Peter,” he said “I want to go to Hell, no doubt. And pity I did not know it before”
“So be it, ” said Saint Peter “go for it.”
And then once Jack entered Hell, it was suddenly all fire around him, people were screaming of pain and suffering and also Jack felt the first flames.
“Devil!!” He screamed “what happened to what I have seen before?”
With a sarcastic voice, the devil replied: “That? That was a proof of concept.”