This post is a rewrite of an article I wrote on LinkedIn two years ago and modified it to my current understanding. When you are following my blog, in particular, the posts related to the business change needed to transform a company towards a data-driven digital enterprise, one of the characteristics of digital is about the real-time availability of information. This has an impact on everyone working in such an organization. My conversations are in the context of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) however I assume my observations are valid for other domains too.

Real-time visibility is going to be the big differentiator for future businesses, and in particular, in the PLM domain, this requires a change from document-centric processes towards data-driven processes.

Documents have a lot of disadvantages.  Documents lock information in a particular format and document handling results in sequential processes, where one person/one discipline at the time is modifying or adding content. I described the potential change in my blog post: From a linear world to fast and circular?

From a linear world to fast and circular

In that post, I described that a more agile and iterative approach to bring products and new enhancements to the market should have an impact on current organizations. A linear organization, where products are pushed to the market, from concept to delivery, is based on working in silos and will be too slow to compete against future, modern digital enterprises. This because departmental structures with their own hierarchy block fast moving of information, and often these silos perform filtering/deformation of the information.  It becomes hard to have a single version of the truth as every department, and its management will push for their measured truth.

A matching business model related to the digital enterprise is a matrix business model, where multi-disciplinary teams work together to achieve their mission. An approach that is known in the software industry, where parallel and iterative work is crucial to continuous deliver incremental benefits.

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In a few of my projects, I discovered this correlation with software methodology that I wanted to share. One of my clients was in the middle of moving from a document-centric approach toward a digital information backbone, connecting the RFQ phase and conceptual BOM through design, manufacturing definition, and production. The target was to have end-to-end data continuity as much as possible, meanwhile connecting the quality and project tasks combined with issues to this backbone.

The result was that each individual had a direct view of their current activities, which could be a significant quantity for some people engaged in multiple projects.  Just being able to measure these numbers already lead to more insight into an individual’s workload. At the time we discussed with the implementation team the conceptual dashboard for an individual, it lead to questions like: “Can the PLM system escalate tasks and issues to the relevant manager when needed?” and  “Can this escalation be done automatically? “

And here we started the discussion. “Why do you want to escalate to a manager?”  Escalation will only give more disruption and stress for the persons involved. Isn´t the person qualified enough to make a decision what is important?

One of the conclusions of the discussion was that currently, due to lack of visibility of what needs to be done and when and with which urgency, people accept things get overlooked. So the burning issues get most of the attention and the manager’s role is to make things burning to get it done.

When discussing further, it was clear that thanks to the visibility of data, real critical issues will appear at the top of an individual’s dashboard. The relevant person can immediately overlook what can be achieved and if not, take action. Of course, there is the opportunity to work on the easy tasks only and to ignore the tough ones (human behavior) however the dashboard reveals everything that needs to be done – visibility. Therefore if a person learns to manage their priorities, there is no need for a manager to push anymore, saving time and stress.

The ultimate conclusion of our discussion was: Implementing a modern PLM environment brings first of all almost 100 % visibility, the single version of the truth. This new capability breaks down silos, a department cannot hide activities behind their departmental wall anymore. Digital PLM allows horizontal multidisciplinary collaboration without the need going through the management hierarchy.

It would mean Power to People, in case they are stimulated to do so. And this was the message to the management: “ you have to change too, empower your people.”

What do you think – will this happen? This was my question in 2015.  Now two years later I can say some companies have seen the potential of the future and are changing their culture to empower their employees working in multidisciplinary teams. Other companies, most of the time with a long history in business, are keeping their organizational structure with levels of middle management and maintain a culture that consolidates the past.

Conclusion

A digital enterprise empowers individuals allowing companies to become more proactive and agile instead of working within optimized silos. In silos, it appears that middle management does not trust individuals to prioritize their work.  The culture of a company and its ability to change are crucial for the empowerment of individuals The last two years there is progress in understanding the value of empowered multidisciplinary teams.

Is your company already empowering people ? Let us know !

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