I am writing this post during the Easter weekend in the Netherlands. Easter / Passover / Pascha / are religious festivities that happen around this time, depending on full moons, etc. I am not the expert here, however, what I like about Easter is that is it is an optimistic religious celebration, connecting history, the “dark days,” and the celebration of new life.

Of course, my PLM-twisted brain never stops associating and looking into an analogy, I saw last week a LinkedIn post from Mark Reisig, about Aras ACE 2019 opening with the following statement:

Digital Transformation – it used to be called PLM,” said Aras CEO Peter Schroer, as he opened the conference with some thoughts around attaining sustainable Digital Transformation and owning the lifecycle.

Was this my Easter Egg surprise? I thought we were in the middle of the PLM Renaissance as some other vendors and consultants talk about this era. Have a look at a recent Engineering.com TV-report: Turning PLM on its head

All jokes aside, the speech from Peter Schroer contained some interesting statements and I want to elaborate on them in this post as the space to comment in LinkedIn is not designed for a long answer.

PLM is Digital Transformation?

In the past few years, there has been a discussion if the acronym PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is perhaps outdated. PTC claimed thanks to IoT (Internet of Things) now PLM equals IoT, as you can read in  Mark Taber’s 2018 guest article in Digital Engineering: IoT Equals PLM.
Note: Mark is PTC’s vice president of marketing and go-to-market marketing according to the bio at the bottom of the article. So a lot of marketing words, which  strengthens the believers of the old world, that everything new is probably marketing.

Also during the PDT conferences, we discussed if PLM should be replaced by a new acronym and I participated in that discussion too – my Nov 2018 postWill MBSE be the new PLM instead of IoT? is a reflection of my thoughts at that time.

For me, Digital Transformation is a metamorphosis from a document-driven, sequential processes towards data-driven, iterative processes. The metamorphosis example used a lot at this moment, is the one from Caterpillar towards the Butterfly. This process is not easy when it comes to PLM-related information, as I described in my PI PLMx 2019 London Presentation and blog post: The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem for PLM. The question is even: Will there be a full metamorphosis at the end or will we keep on working in two different modes of operations?

However, Digital Transformation does not change the PLM domain. Even after a successful digital transformation, there will be PLM. The only significant difference in the future – PLM boarders will not be so evident anymore when implementing capabilities in a system or a platform. The upcoming of digital platforms will dissolve or fade the traditional PLM-mapped capabilities.

You can see these differences already by taking an in-depth look at how Oracle, SAP or Propel address PLM. Each of them starts from a core platform with different PLM-flavored extensions, sometimes very different from the traditional PLM Vendors. So Digital transformation is not the replacement of PLM.

Back to Peter Schroer’s rebuttal of some myths. Note: DX stands for Digital Transformation

Myth #1: DX leverages disruptive tech

Peter Schroer:

 It’s easy to get excited about AI, AR, and the 3D visual experience. However, let’s be real. The first step is to get rid of your spreadsheets and paper documentation – to get an accurate product data baseline. We’re not just talking a digital CAD model, but data that includes access to performance data, as-built parts, and previous maintenance work history for everyone from technicians to product managers

Here I am fully aligned with Peter. There are a lot of fancy features discussed by marketing teams, however, when working in the field with companies, the main challenge is to get an organization digital aligned, sharing data accessible along the whole lifecycle with the right quality.

This means you need to have a management team, understanding the need for data governance, data quality and understanding the shift from data ownership to data accountability.  This will only happen with the right mix of vision, strategy and the execution of the strategy – marketing does not make it happen

 

Myth #2: DX results in increased market share, revenue, and profit

Peter Schroer:

Though there’s a lot of talk about it – there isn’t yet any compelling data which proves this to be true. Our goal at Aras is to make our products safer and faster. To support a whole suite of industrial applications to extend your DX strategy quite a bit further.

Here I agree and disagree, depending on the context of this statement. Some companies have gone through a digital transformation and therefore increased their market share, revenue, and profit. If you read books like Leading Transformation or Leading Digital, you will find examples of companies that have gone through successful digital transformations. However, you might also discover that most of these companies haven’t transformed their PLM-domain, but other parts of their businesses.

Also, it is interesting to read a 2017 McKinsey post: The case for digital reinvention, where you will get the confirmation that a lot of digital initiatives did not bring more top-line revenue and most of the times lead to extra costs. Interesting to see where companies focus their digital strategies – picture below:

Where only 2 percent of the respondents were focusing on supply chains, this is, according to the authors of the article, one of the areas with the highest potential ROI. And digital supply chains are closely related to modern PLM – so this is an area with enough work to do by all PLM practitioners– connecting ecosystems (in real-time)

Myth #3: Market leaders are the most successful at DX

Peter Schroer:

If your company is hugely profitable at the moment, it’s highly likely that your organization is NOT focused on Digital Transformation. The lifespan of S&P 500 companies continuing to shrink below 20 years.

How to Attain Sustainable Digital Transformation

– Stop buying disposable systems. It’s about an adaptable platform – it needs to change as your company changes.

– Think incremental. Do not lose momentum. Continuous change is a multi-phase journey. If you are in or completed phase I, then that means there is a phase II, a phase III, and so on.

– Align people & processes.  Mistakes will happen, “the tech side is only 50% of DX” – Aras CEO.

Here I agree with Peter on the business side, be it that some of the current market leaders are already digital. Look at Apple, Google, and Amazon. However, the majority of large enterprises have severe problems with various aspects of a digital transformation as the started in the past before digital technologies became affordable..

Digitization allows information to flow without barriers within an organization, leading to rapid insights and almost direct communication with your customers, your supply chain or other divisions within your company. This drives the need to learn and build new, lean processes and get people aligned to them. Learning to work in a different mode.

And this is extremely difficult for a market leader – as market leader fear for the outside changing world is often not felt. Between the C-level vision and people working in the company, there are several layers of middle management. These layers were created to structure and stabilize the old ways of working.

I wrote about the middle management challenge in my last blog post: The Middle Management dilemma. Almost in the same week there was an article from McKinsey: How companies can help midlevel managers navigate agile transformations.
Conclusion: It is not (only) about technology as some of the tech geeks may think.

Conclusion

Behind the myths addressed by Peter Schroer, there is a complex transformation on-going. Probably not a metamorphosis. With the Easter spirit in mind connected to PLM, I believe digital transformations are possible – Not as a miracle but driven by insights into all aspects. I hope this post gave you some more ideas and please read the connected articles – they are quite relevant if you want to discover what’s below the surface.