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On March 22 this year, I wrote Time to Think (and act differently) in de middle of a changing world. We were entering a lockdown in the Netherlands due to the COVID-19 virus. As it was such a disruptive change, it was an opportunity to adapt their current ways of working.

The reason for that post was my experience when discussing PLM-initiatives with companies. Often they have no time to sit down, discuss and plan their PLM targets as needed. Crucial people are too busy, leading to an implementation of a system that, in the best case, creates (some) benefits.

The well-known cartoon says it all. We are often too busy doing business as usual, making us feel comfortable. Only when it is too late, people are forced to act.  As the second COVID-19 wave seems to start in the Netherlands, I want to look back on what has happened so far in my eco-system.

Virtual Conferences

As people could not travel anymore, traditional PLM-conferences could not be organized anymore. What was going to be the new future for conferences? TECHNIA, apparently clairvoyant, organized their virtual PLM Innovation Forum as one of the first, end of April.

A more sustainable type of PLM-conference was already a part of their plans, given the carbon footprint a traditional conference induces.  The virtual conference showed that being prepared for a virtual conference pays off during a pandemic with over 1000 participants.

Being first does not always mean being the best,  as we have to learn. While preparing my session for the conference, I felt the same excitement as for a traditional conference. You can read about my initial experience here: The weekend after the PLM Innovation Forum.

Some weeks later, having attended some other virtual conferences, I realized that some points should be addressed/solved:

  • Video conferencing is a must – without seeing people talking, it becomes a podcast.
  • Do not plan long conference days. It is hard to sit behind a screen for a full day. A condensed program makes it easier to attend.
  • Virtual conferences mean that they can be attended live from almost all around the globe. Therefore, finding the right timeslots is crucial for the audience – combined with the previous point – shorter programs.
  • Playing prerecorded sessions without a Q&A session should be avoided. It does not add value.
  • A conference is about networking and discussion – I have not seen a solution for this yet. Fifty percent of the conference value for me comes from face-to-face discussions and coffee meetings. A virtual conference needs to have private chat opportunities between attendees.

In the last quarter of this year, I will present at several merely local conferences, sometimes a mix between “live” with a limited number of attendees, if it will be allowed.

And then there is the upcoming PLM Road Map & PDT Fall 2020 (virtual) conference on 17-18-19 November.

This conference has always been my favorite conference thanks to its continued focus on sharing experiences, most of the time, based on industry standards. We discuss topics and learn from each other. See my previous posts: The weekend after 2019 Day 1, 2019 Day 2, 2018 Day 1, 2018 Day2, 2017 Day 1, 2017 Day 2, etc.

The theme Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality has nothing to do with marketing. You can have a look at the full schedule here. Although there is a lot of buzz around Digital Thread, presenters discuss the reality and their plans

Later in this post, see the paragraph Digital Thread is not a BOM, I will elaborate on this theme.

Getting tired?

I discovered I am getting tired as I am missing face-to-face interaction with people. Working from home, having video calls, is probably a very sustainable way of working.  However, non-planned social interaction, meeting each other at the coffee machine, or during the breaks at a conference or workshop, is also crucial for informal interaction.

Apparently, several others in my eco-system are struggling too. I noticed a tsunami of webinars and blog posts where many of them were an attempt to be noticed. Probably the same reason: traditionally businesses have stalled. And it is all about Digital Transformation and SaaS at this moment. Meaningless if there is no interaction.

In this context, I liked Jan Bosch’s statement in his article: Does data-driven decision-making make you boring? An article not directly addressing the PLM-market; however, there is a lot of overlap related to people’s reluctance to imagine a different future.

My favorite quote:

 I still meet people that continue to express beliefs about the world, their industry, their customers or their own performance that simply aren’t true. Although some, like Steve Jobs, were known for their “reality distortion field,” for virtually all of us, just wishing for something to be true doesn’t make it so. As William Edwards Deming famously said: in God we trust; all others must bring data.

I fully concur with this statement and always get suspicious when someone claims the truth.

Still, there are some diamonds.

I enjoyed all episodes from Minerva PLM TV – Jennifer Moore started these series in the early COVID19-days (coincidence?). She was able to have a collection of interviews with known and less-known people in the PLM-domain. As most of them were vendor-independent, these episodes are a great resource to get educated.

The last episode with Angela Ippisch illustrates how often PLM in companies depends on a few enthusiastic persons, who have the energy to educate themselves. Angela mentions there is a lot of information on the internet; the challenge is to separate the useful information from marketing.

I have been publishing the past five months a series of posts under the joint theme learning from the past to understand the future. In these posts, I explained the evolution from PDM to PLM, resulting in the current item-centric approach with an EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM.

On purpose, one post per every two weeks – to avoid information overflow. Looking back, it took more posts than expected, and they are an illustration of the many different angles there are in the PLM domain – not a single truth.

Digital Thread is not a BOM

I want to address this point because I realized that in the whole blogging world there appear to be two worlds when discussing PLM terminology. Oleg Shilovitsky, CEO@OpenBOM, claims that Digital Thread and Digital Twin topics are just fancy marketing terms. I was even more surprised to read his post: 3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Using The Word “Model” In PLM. Read the comments and discussion in these posts (if LinkedIn allows you to navigate)

Oleg’s posts have for me most of the time, always something to discuss. I would be happier if other people with different backgrounds would participate in these discussions too – A “Like” is not a discussion. The risk in a virtual world is that it becomes a person-to-person debate, and we have seen the damage such debates can do for an entire community.

In the discussion we had related to Digital Thread and BOM, I realized that when we talk about traditional products, the BOM and the Digital Thread might be the same. This is how we historically released products to the market. Once produced, there were no more changes. In these situations, you could state a PLM-backbone based on BOM-structures/views, the EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM provide a Digital Thread.

The different interpretation comes when talking about products that contain software defining its behavior. Like a computer, the operating system can be updated on the fly; meanwhile, the mechanical system remains the same. To specify and certify the behavior of the computer, we cannot rely on the BOM anymore.

Having software in the BOM and revise the BOM every time there is a software change is a mission impossible. A mistake suggested ten years ago when we started to realize the different release cycles of hardware and software. Still, it is all about the traceability of all information related to a product along its whole lifecycle.

In a connected environment, we need to manage relationships between the BOM and relations to other artifacts. Managing these relations in a connected environment is what I would call the Digital Thread – a layer above PLM. While writing this post, I saw Matthias Ahrens’ post stating the same (click on the image to see the post)

When we discuss managing all the relations, we touch the domain of Configuration Management.  Martijn Dullaart/Martin Haket’s picture shares the same mindset – here, CM is the overlapping layer.

However, in their diagram, it is not a system picture; the different systems do not need to be connected. Configuration Management is the discipline that maintains the correct definition of every product – CM maintains the Thread. When it becomes connected, it is a Digital Thread.

As I have reached my 1500 words, I will not zoom in on the PLM and Model discussion – build your opinion yourself. We have to realize that the word Model always requires a context. Perhaps many of us coming from the traditional PDM/PLM world (managing CAD data) think about CAD models. As I studied physics before even touching CAD, I grew up with a different connotation

Lars Taxén’s comment in this discussion perhaps says it all (click on the image to read it). If you want to learn and discuss more about the Digital Thread and Models, register for the PLM Roadmap & PDT2020 event as many of the sessions are in this context (and not about 3D CAD).

Conclusion

I noticed I am getting tired of all the information streams crying for my attention and look forward to real social discussions, not broadcasted. Time to think differently requires such discussion, and feel free to contact me if you want to reflect on your thoughts. My next action will be a new series named Painting the future to stay motivated. (As we understand the past).

In the series learning from the past to understand the future, we have almost reached the current state of PLM before digitization became visible. In the last post, I introduced the value of having the MBOM preparation inside a PLM-system, so manufacturing engineering can benefit from early visibility and richer product context when preparing the manufacturing process.

Does everyone need an MBOM?

It is essential to realize that you do not need an EBOM and a separate MBOM in case of an Engineering To Order primary process. The target of ETO is to deliver a unique customer product with no time to lose. Therefore, engineering can design with a manufacturing process in mind.

The need for an MBOM comes when:

  • You are selling a specific product over a more extended period of time. The engineering definition, in that case, needs to be as little as possible dependent on supplier-specific parts.
  • You are delivering your portfolio based on modules. Modules need to be as long as possible stable, therefore independent of where they are manufactured and supplier-specific parts. The better you can define your modules, the more customers you can reach over time.
  • You are having multiple manufacturing locations around the world, allowing you to source locally and manufacture based on local plant-specific resources. I described these options in the previous post

The challenge for all companies that want to move from ETO to BTO/CTO is the fact that they need to change their methodology – building for the future while supporting the past. This is typically something to be analyzed per company on how to deal with the existing legacy and installed base.

Configurable EBOM and MBOM

In some previous posts, I mentioned that it is efficient to have a configurable EBOM. This means that various options and variants are managed in the same EBOM-structure that can be filtered based on configuration parameters (date effectivity/version identifier/time baseline). A configurable EBOM is often called a 150 % EBOM

The MBOM can also be configurable as a manufacturing plant might have almost common manufacturing steps for different product variants. By using the same process and filtered MBOM, you will manufacture the specific product version. In that case, we can talk about a 120 % MBOM

Note: the freedom of configuration in the EBOM is generally higher than the options in the configurable MBOM.

The real business change for EBOM/MBOM

So far, we have discussed the EBOM/MBOM methodology. It is essential to realize this methodology only brings value when the organization will be adapted to benefit from the new possibilities.

One of the recurring errors in PLM implementations is that users of the system get an extended job scope, without giving them the extra time to perform these activities. Meanwhile, other persons downstream might benefit from these activities. However, they will not complain. I realized that already in 2009, I mentioned such a case: Where is my PLM ROI, Mr. Voskuil?

Now let us look at the recommended business changes when implementing an EBOM/MBOM-strategy

  1. Working in a single, shared environment for engineering and manufacturing preparation is the first step to take.

Working in a PLM-system is not a problem for engineers who are used to the complexity of a PDM-system. For manufacturing engineers, a PLM-environment will be completely new. Manufacturing engineers might prepare their bill of process first in Excel and ultimately enter the complete details in their ERP-system. ERP-systems are not known for their user-friendliness. However, their interfaces are often so rigid that it is not difficult to master the process. Excel, on the other side, is extremely flexible but not connected to anything else.

And now, this new PLM-system requires people to work in a more user-friendly environment with limited freedom. This is a significant shift in working methodology. This means manufacturing engineers need to be trained and supported  over several months. Changing habits and keep people motivated takes energy and time. In reality, where is the budget for these activities?  See my 2016 post: PLM and Cultural Change Management – too expensive?

  1. From sequential to concurrent

Once your manufacturing engineers are able to work in a PLM-environment, they are able to start the manufacturing definition before the engineering definition is released. Manufacturing engineers can participate in design reviews having the information in their environment available. They can validate critical manufacturing steps and discuss with engineers potential changes that will reduce the complexity or cost for manufacturing. As these changes will be done before the product is released, the cost of change is much lower. After all, having engineering and manufacturing working partially in parallel will reduce time to market.

Reducing time to market by concurrent engineering

One of the leading business drivers for many companies is introducing products or enhancements to the market. Bringing engineering and manufacturing preparation together also means that the PLM-system can no longer be an engineering tool under the responsibility of the engineering department.

The responsibility for PLM needs to be at a level higher in the organization to ensure well-balanced choices. A higher level in the organization automatically means more attention for business benefits and less attention for functions and features.

From technology to methodology – interface issues?

The whole EBOM/MBOM-discussion often has become a discussion related to a PLM-system and an ERP-system. Next, the discussion diverted to how these two systems could work together, changing the mindset to the complexity of interfaces instead of focusing on the logical flow of information.

In an earlier PI Event in München 2016, I lead a focus group related to the PLM and ERP interaction. The discussion was not about technology, all about focusing on what is the logical flow of information. From initial creation towards formal usage in a product definition (EBOM/MBOM).

What became clear from this workshop and other customer engagements is that people are often locked in their siloed way of thinking. Proposed information flows are based on system capabilities, not on the ideal flow of information. This is often the reason why a PLM/ERP-interface becomes complicated and expensive. System integrators do not want to push for organizational change, they prefer to develop an interface that adheres to the current customer expectations.

SAP has always been promoting that they do not need an interface between engineering and manufacturing as their data management starts from the EBOM. They forgot to mention that they have a difficult time (and almost no intention) to manage the early ideation and design phase. As a Dutch SAP country manager once told me: “Engineers are resources that do not want to be managed.” This remark says all about the mindset of ERP.

After overlooking successful PLM-implementations, I can tell the PLM-ERP interface has never been a technical issue once the methodology is transparent. A company needs to agree on logical data flow from ideation through engineering towards design is the foundation.

It is not about owning data and where to store it in a single system. It is about federated data sets that exist in different systems and that are complementary but connected, requiring data governance and master data management.

The SAP-Siemens partnership

In the context of the previous paragraph, the messaging around the recently announced partnership between SAP and Siemens made me curious. Almost everyone has shared an opinion about the partnership. There is a lot of speculation, and many questions were imaginarily answered by as many blog posts in the field. Last week Stan Przybylinski shared CIMdata’s interpretations in a webinar Putting the SAP-Siemens Partnership In Context, which was, in my opinion, the most in-depth analysis I have seen.

For what it is worth, my analysis:

  • First of all, the partnership is a merger of slide decks at this moment, aiming to show to a potential customer that in the SAP/Siemens-combination, you find everything you need. A merger of slides does not mean everything works together.

  • It is a merger of two different worlds. You can call SAP a real data platform with connected data, where Siemens offering is based on the Teamcenter backbone providing a foundation for a coordinated approach. In the coordinated approach, the data flexibility is lower. For that reason, Mendix is crucial to make Siemens portfolio behave like a connected platform too.
    You can read my doubts about having a coordinated and connected system working together (see image above). It was my #1 identified challenge for this decade: PLM 2020 – PLM the next decade (before COVID-19 became a pandemic and illustrated we need to work connected)
  • The fact that SAP will sell TC PLM and Siemens will sell SAP PPM seems like loser’s statement, meaning our SAP PLM is probably not good enough, or our TC PPM capabilities are not good enough. In reality, I believe they both should remain, and the partnership should work on logical data flows with data residing in two locations – the federated approach. This is how platforms reside next to each other instead of the single black hole.

  • The fact that standard interfaces will be developed between the two systems is a subtle sales argument with relatively low value. As I wrote in the “from technology to methodology”-paragraph, the challenges are in the organizational change within companies. Technology is not the issue, although system integrators also need to make a living.
  • What I believe makes sense is that both SAP and Siemens, have to realize their Industry 4.0 end-to-end capabilities. It is a German vision now for several years and it is an excellent vision to strive for. Now it is time to build the two platforms working together. This will be a significant technical challenge mainly for Siemens as its foundation is based on a coordinated backbone.
  • The biggest challenge, not only for this partnership, is the organizational change within companies that want to build an end-to-end connected solution. In particular, in companies with a vast legacy, the targeted industries by the partnership, the chasm between coordinated legacy data and intended connected data is enormous. Technology will not fix it, perhaps smoothen the pain a little.

 

Conclusion

With this post, we have reached the foundation of the item-centric approach for PLM, where the EBOM and MBOM are managed in a real-time context. Organizational change is the biggest inhibitor to move forward. The SAP-Siemens partnership is a sales/marketing approach to create a simplified view for the future at C-level discussions.
Let us watch carefully what happens in reality.

Next time potentially the dimension of change management and configuration management in an item-centric approach.
Or perhaps Martijn Dullaart will show us the way before, following up on his tricky poll question

 

This time a short post (for me) as I am in the middle the series “Learning from the past to understand the future” and currently collecting information for next week’s post. However, recently Rob Ferrone, the original Digital Plumber, pointed me to an interesting post from Scott Taylor, the Data Whisperer.

In code: The Virtual Dutchman discovered the Data Whisperer thanks to the original Digital Plumber.

Scott’s article with the title: “Data Management Hasn’t Failed, but Data Management Storytelling Has” matches precisely the discussion we have in the PLM community.

Please read his article, and just replace the words Data Management by PLM, and it could have been written for our community. In a way, PLM is a specific application of data management, so not a real surprise.

Scott’s conclusions give food for thought in the PLM community:

To win over business stakeholders, Data Management leadership must craft a compelling narrative that builds urgency, reinvigorates enthusiasm, and evangelizes WHY their programs enable the strategic intentions of their enterprise. If the business leaders whose support and engagement you seek do not understand and accept the WHY, they will not care about the HOW. When communicating to executive leadership, skip the technical details, the feature functionality, and the reference architecture and focus on:

  • Establishing an accessible vocabulary
  • Harmonizing to a common voice
  • Illuminating the business vision

When you tell your Data Management story with that perspective, it can end happily ever after.

It all resonates well with what I described in the PLM ROI Myth – it is clear that when people hear the word Myth, they have a bad connotation, same btw for PLM.

The fact that we still need to learn storytelling is because most of us are so much focused on technology and sometimes on discovering the new name for PLM in the future.

Last week I pointed to a survey from the PLMIG (PLM Interest Group) and XLifcycle, inviting you to help to define the future definition of PLM.

You are still welcome here: Towards a digital future: the evolving role of PLM in the future digital world.

Also, I saw a great interview with Martin Eigner on Minerva PLM TV interview by Jennifer Moore. Martin is well known in the PLM world and has done foundational work for our community

. According to Jennifer, he is considered as The Godfather of PLM.  This tittle fits nicely in today’s post. Those who have seen his presentations in recent years will remember Martin is talking about SysLM (System Lifecycle Management) as the future for PLM.

It is an interesting recording to watch – click on the image above to see it. Martin explains nicely why we often do not get the positive feedback from PLM implementations – starting at minute 13 for those who cannot wait.

In the interview, you will discover we often talk too much about our discipline capabilities where the real discussion should be talking business. Strategy and objectives are discussed and decided at the management level of a company. By using storytelling, we can connect to these business objectives.

The end result will be more likely that a company understands why to invest significantly in PLM as now PLM is part of its competitiveness and future continuity.

Conclusion

I shared links to two interesting posts from the last weeks. Studying them will help you to create a broader view. We have to learn to tell the right story. People do not want PLM – they have personal objectives. Companies have business objectives, and they might lead to the need for a new and changing PLM. Connecting to the management in an organization, therefore, is crucial.

Next week again more about learning from the past to understand the future

Last week I shared my thoughts related to my observation that the ROI of PLM is not directly visible or measurable, and I explained why. Also, I explained that the alignment of an organization requires a myth to make it happen. A majority of readers agreed with these observations. Some others either misinterpreted the headlines or twisted the story in favor of their opinion.

A few came from Oleg Shilovitsky and as Oleg is quite open in his discussions, it allows me to follow-up on his statements. Other people might share similar thoughts but they haven’t had the time or opportunity to be vocal. Feel free to share your thoughts/experiences too.

Some misinterpretations from Oleg’s post: PLM circa 2020 – How to stop selling Myths

  • The title “How to stop selling Myths” is the first misinterpretation.
    We are not selling myths – more below.
  • “Jos Voskuil’s recommendation is to create a myth. In his PLM ROI Myths article, he suggests that you should not work on a business case, value, or even technology” is the second misinterpretation, you still need a business case, you need value and you need technology.

And I got some feedback from Lionel Grealou, who’s post was a catalyst for me to write the PLM ROI Myth post. I agree I took some shortcuts based on his blog post. You can read his comments here. The misinterpretation is:

  • “Good luck getting your CFO approve the business change or PLM investment based on some “myth” propaganda :-)” as it is the opposite, make your plan, support your plan with a business case and then use the myth to align

I am glad about these statements as they allow me to be more precise, avoiding misperceptions/myth-perceptions.

A Myth is bad

Some people might think that a myth is bad, as the myth is most of the time abstract.  I think these people do not realize that there a lot of myths that they are following; it is a typical social human behavior to respond to myths. Some myths:

  • How can you be religious without believing in myths?
  • In this country/world, you can become anything if you want?
  • In the past, life was better
  • I make this country great again

The reason human beings need myths is that without them, it is impossible to align people around abstract themes. Try for each of the myths above to create an end-to-end logical story based on factual and concrete information. Impossible!

Read Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens about the power of myths. Read Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now to understand that statistics show a lot of current myths are false. However, this does not mean a myth is bad. Human beings are driven by social influences and myths – it is our brain.

Unless you have no social interaction, you might be immune to myths. With brings me to quoting Oleg once more time:

“A long time ago when I was too naive and too technical, I thought that the best product (or technology) always wins. Well… I was wrong. “

I went through the same experience, having studied physics and mathematics makes you think extremely logical. Something I enjoyed while developing software. Later, when I started my journey as the virtualdutchman mediating in PLM implementations, I discovered logical alone does not work in businesses. The majority of decisions are done based on “gut feelings” still presented as reasonable cases.

Unless you have an audience of Vulcans, like Mr. Spock, you need to deal with the human brain. Consider the myth as the envelope to pass the PLM-project to the management. C-level acts by myths as so far I haven’t seen C-level management spending serious time on understanding PLM. I will end with a quote from Paul Empringham:

I sometimes wish companies would spend 6 months+ to educate themselves on what it takes to deliver incremental PLM success BEFORE engaging with software providers

You don’t need a business case

Lionel is also skeptical about some “Myth-propaganda” and I agree with him. The Myth is the envelope, inside needs to be something valuable, the strategy, the plan, and the business case. Here I want to stress one more time that most business cases for PLM are focusing on tool and collaboration efficiency. And from there projecting benefits. However, how well can we predict the future?

If you implement a process, let’s assume BOM-collaboration done with Excel by BOM-collaboration based on an Excel-on-the-cloud-like solution, you can measure the differences, assuming you can measure people’s efficiency. I guess this is what Oleg means when he explains OpenBOM has a real business case.

However, if you change the intent for people to work differently, for example, consult your supplier or manufacturing earlier in the design process, you touch human behavior. Why should I consult someone before I finish my job, I am measured on output not on collaboration or proactive response? Here is the real ROI challenge.

I have participated in dozens of business cases and at the end, they all look like the graph below:

The ROI is fantastic – after a little more than 2 years, we have a positive ROI, and the ROI only gets bigger. So if you trust the numbers, you would be a fool not to approve this project. Right?

And here comes the C-level gut-feeling. If I have a positive feeling (I follow the myth), then I will approve. If I do not like it, I will say I do not trust the numbers.

Needless to say that if there was a business case without ROI, we do not need to meet the C-level. Unless, and it happens incidental, at C-level, there was already a decision we need PLM from Vendor X because we played golf together, we are condemned together or we believe the same myths.

In reality, the old Gartner graph from realized benefits says it all. The impact of culture, processes, and people can make or break a plan.

You do not need an abstract story for PLM

Some people believe PLM on its own is a myth. You just need the right technology and people will start using it, spreading it out and see how we have improved business. Sometimes email is used as an example. Email is popular because you can with limited effort, collaborate with people, no matter where they are. Now twenty years later, companies are complaining about the lack of traceability, the lack of knowledge and understanding related to their products and processes.

PLM will always have the complexity of supporting traceability combined with real-time collaboration. If you focus only on traceability, people will complain that they are not a counter clerk. If you focus solely on collaboration, you miss the knowledge build-up and traceability.

That’s why PLM is a mix of governance, optimized processes to guarantee quality and collaboration, combined with a methodology to tune the existing processes implemented in tools that allow people to be confident and efficient. You cannot translate a business strategy into a function-feature list for a tool.

Conclusion

Myths are part of the human social alignment of large groups of people. If a Myth is true or false, I will not judge. You can use the Myth as an envelope to package your business case. The business case should always be a combination of new ways of working (organizational change), optimized processes and finally, the best tools. A PLM tool-only business case is to my opinion far from realistic

 

Now preparing for PI PLMx London on 3-4 February – discussing Myths, Single BOMs and the PLM Green Alliance

Last week I read Verdi Ogewell’ s article:  PTC puts the Needle to the Digital Thread on Engineering.com where Verdi raised the question (and concluded) who is the most visionary PLM CEO – Bernard Charles from Dassault Systemes or Jim Heppelman from PTC. Unfortunate again, an advertorial creating more haziness around modern PLM than adding value.

People need education and Engineering.com is/was a respected site for me, as they state in their Engineering.com/about statement:

Valuable Content for Busy Engineers. Engineering.com was founded on the simple mission to help engineers be better.

Unfortunate this is not the case in the PLM domain anymore. In June, we saw an article related to the failing PLM migration at Ericsson – see The PLM migration dilemma. Besides the fact that a big-bang migration had failed at Ericsson, the majority of the article was based on rumors and suggestions, putting the sponsor of this article in a better perspective.

Of course, Engineering.com needs sponsoring to host their content, and vendors are willing to spend marketing money on that. However, it would be fairer to mention in a footnote who sponsored the article – although per article you can guess. Some more sincere editors or bloggers mention their sponsoring that might have influenced their opinion.

Now, why did the article PTC puts the Needle to the Digital Thread made me react ?

Does a visionary CEO pay off?

It can be great to have a visionary CEO however, do they make the company and their products/services more successful? For every successful visionary CEO, there are perhaps ten failing visionary CEOs as the stock market or their customers did not catch their vision.

There is no lack of PLM vision as Peter Bilello mapped in 2014 when imagining the gaps between vision, available technology, and implementations at companies (leaders and followers). See below:

The tremendous gap between vision and implementations is the topic that concerns me the most. Modern PLM is about making data available across the enterprise or even across the company’s ecosystem. It is about data democratization that allows information to flow and to be presented in context, without the need to recreate this information again.

And here the marketing starts. Verdi writes:

PTC’s Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twin and augmented reality (AR) investments, as well as the collaboration with Rockwell Automation in the factory automation arena, have definitely placed the company in a leading position in digital product realization, distribution and aftermarket services

With this marketing sentence, we are eager to learn why

“With AR, for example, we can improve the quality control of the engines,” added Volvo Group’s Bertrand Felix, during an on-stage interview by Jim Heppelmann. Heppelmann then went down to a Volvo truck with the engine lifted out of its compartment. Using a tablet, he was able to show how the software identified the individual engine, the parts that were included, and he could also pick up the 3D models of each component and at the same time check that everything was included and in the right place.

Impressive – is it real?

The point is that this is the whole chain for digital product realization–development and manufacturing–that the Volvo Group has chosen to focus on. Sub-components have been set up that will build the chain, much is still in the pilot stage, and a lot remains to be done. But there is a plan, and the steps forward are imminent.

OK, so it is a pilot, and a lot remains to be done – but there is a plan. I am curious about the details of that plan, as a little later, we learn from the CAD story:

The Pro/ENGINEER “inheritor” Creo (engine, chassis) is mainly used for CAD and creation of digital twins, but as previously noted, Dassault Systémes’ CATIA is also still used. Just as in many other large industrial organizations, Autodesk’s AutoCAD is also represented for simpler design solutions.

There goes the efficient digital dream. Design data coming from CATIA needs to be recreated in Creo for digital twin support. Data conversion or recreation is an expensive exercise and needs to be reliable and affordable as the value of the digital twin is gone once the data is incorrect.

In a digital enterprise, you do not want silos to work with their own formats, you want a digital thread based on (neutral) models that share metadata/parameters from design to service.

So I dropped the article and noticed Oleg had already commented faster than me in his post: Does PLM industry need a visionary pageant? Oleg refers also to CIMdata, as they confirmed in 2018 that the concept of a platform for product innovation (PIP), or the beyond PLM is far from reality in companies. Most of the time, a PLM-implementation is mainly a beyond PDM environment, not really delivering product data downstream.

I am wholly aligned with Oleg’s  technical conclusion:

What is my(Oleg’s) conclusion? PLM industry doesn’t need another round of visionary pageants. I’d call democratization, downstream usage and openness as biggest challenges and opportunities in PLM applications. Recent decades of platform development demonstrated the important role network platforms played in the development of global systems and services. PLM paradigm change from isolated vertical platforms to open network services required to bring PLM to the next level. Just my thoughts..

My comments to Oleg’s post:

(Jos) I fully agree we do not need more visionary PLM pageants. It is not about technology and therefore I have to disagree with your point about Aras. You call it democratization and openness of data a crucial point – and here I agree – be it that we probably disagree about how to reach this – through standards or through more technology. My main point to be made (this post ) is that we need visionary companies that implement and rethink their processes and are willing to invest resources in that effort. Most digital transformation projects related to PLM fail because the existing status quo/ middle management has no incentive to change. More thoughts to come

And this the central part of my argumentation – it is not about technology (only).

Organizational structures are blocking digital transformation

Since 2014 I have been following several larger manufacturing companies on their path from pushing products to the market in a linear mode towards a customer-driven, more agile, fast responding enterprise. As this is done by taking benefit of digital technologies, we call this process: digital transformation.

(image depicting GE’s digital thread)

What I have learned from these larger enterprises, and both Volvo Trucks and GE as examples, that there is a vision for an end result. For GE, it is the virtual twin of their engines monitored and improved by their Predix platform. For Volvo Trucks, we saw the vision in the quote from Verdi’s article before.

However, these companies are failing in creating a horizontal mindset inside their companies. Data can only be efficient used downstream if there is a willingness to work on collecting the relevant data upstream and delivering this information in an accessible format, preferably data-driven.

The Middle Management Dilemma

And this leads to my reference to middle management. Middle managers learn about the C-level vision and are pushed to make this vision happen. However, they are measured and driven to solve these demands, mainly within their own division or discipline. Yes, they might create goodwill for others, but when it comes to money spent or changing people responsibilities, the status quo will remain.

I wrote about this challenge in The Middle Management dilemma. Digital transformation, of course, is enabled by digital technologies, but it does not mean the technology is creating the transformation. The crucial fact lies in making companies more flexible in their operations, yet establishing better and new contacts with customers.

It is interesting to see that the future of businesses is looking into agile, multidisciplinary teams that can deliver incremental innovations to the company’s portfolio. Somehow going back to the startup culture inside a more significant enterprise. Having worked with several startups, you see the outcome-focus as a whole in the beginning – everyone contributes. Then when the size of the company grows, middle-management is introduced, and most likely silos are created as the middle management gets their own profit & loss targets.

Digital Transformation myths debunked

This week Helmut Romer (thanks Helmut) pointed me to the following HBR-article: Digital does not need to be disruptive where the following myths are debunked:

  1. Myth: Digital requires radical disruption of the value proposition.
    Reality: It usually means using digital tools to better serve the known customer need.
  2. Myth: Digital will replace physical
    Reality: It is a “both/and.”
  3. Myth: Digital involves buying start-ups.
    Reality: It involves protecting start-ups.
  4. Myth: Digital is about technology.
    Reality: It’s about the customer
  5. Myth: Digital requires overhauling legacy systems.
    Reality: It’s more often about incremental bridging.

If you want to understand these five debunked myths, take your time to read the full article, very much aligned with my argumentation, albeit it that my focus is more on the PLM domain.

Conclusions

Vendor sponsoring at Engineering.com has not improved the quality of their PLM articles and creates misleading messages. Especially as the sponsor is not mentioned, and the sponsor is selling technology – the vision gap is too big with reality to compete around a vision.

Transforming companies to take benefit of new technologies requires an end-to-end vision and mindset based on achievable, incremental learning steps. The way your middle management is managed and measured needs to be reworked as the focus is on horizontal flow and understanding of customer/market-oriented processes.

 

Three weeks ago, I closed my PLM-twisted mind for a short holiday. Meanwhile, some interesting posts appeared about the PLM journey.

  • Is it a journey?
  • Should the journey be measurable?
  • And what kind of journey could you imagine?

Together these posts formed a base for a decent discussion amongst the readers.  I like these discussions. For me, the purpose of blogging is not the same as tweeting. It is not about just making noise so others will chime in or react (tweeting), it is about sharing an opinion, and if more people are interested, the discussion can start. And a discussion is not about right or false, as many conversations happen to be nowadays, it is about learning.

Let’s start with the relevant posts.

How to measure PLM?

The initial discussion started with Oleg Shilovitsky’s post about the need to measure the value of PLM. As Oleg mentions in his comments:

“During the last decades, I learned that every company that measured what they do was winning the business and succeeded (let’s count Google, Amazon, etc ..)”

This is an interesting statement, just measure! The motto people are using for digital businesses. In particular for the fast-moving software business. Sounds great, so let’s measure PLM. What can we measure with PLM? Oleg suggests as an example:

“Let’s say before PLM implemented a specific process, sales needed 2 days to get a quote. After PLM process implementation, it is 15 min.”

So what does this result tell us? Your sales can do 64 times more sales quotes. Do we need fewer salespeople now? We do not know from this KPI what is the real value for the company. This because there are so many other dependencies related to this process, and that makes PLM different from, for example, ERP. We do not talk about optimizing a process as Oleg might suggest below:

“Some of my PLM friends like to say – PLM is a journey and not some kind of software. Well, I’m not sure to agree about “journey,” but I can take PLM as a process. A process, which includes all stages of product development, manufacturing, support, and maintenance.”

Note: I do not want to be picky on Oleg, as he is provoking us all many times with just his thoughts. Moreover, several of them are a good points for discussion. So please dive into his LinkedIn posts and follow the conversation.

In Oleg’s follow-up post on measuring the value, he continued with Can we measure the PLM-journey which summarizes the comments from the previous post with a kind of awkward conclusion:

What is my conclusion? It is a time for PLM get out of old fashion guessing and strategizing and move into digital form of thinking – calculating everything. Modern digital businesses are strongly focused on the calculation and measurement of everything. Performance of websites, metrics of application usage, user experience, efficiency, AB testing of everything. Measurement of PLM related activity sounds like no brainier decision to me. Just my thoughts…

I think all of us agree that there needs to be a kind of indicative measurement in place to justify investments in place. There must be expected benefits that solve current business problems or bottlenecks.

My points that I want to share with you are:

  • It is hard to measure non-comparable ways of working – how do you measure collaboration?
  • Do you know what to measure? – engineering/innovation is not an ERP process
  • People and culture have so much impact on the results – how do you measure your company’s capability to adapt to new ways of working?

Meanwhile, we continue our journey…

Is PLM a never-ending journey?

In the context of the discussion related to the PLM journey, I assume Chad Jackson from Lifecycle Insights added his 3 minutes of thoughts. You can watch the video here:

Vlogging seems to become more prevalent in the US. The issue for me is that vlogs only touch the surface, and they are hard to scan for interesting reusable content. Something you miss when you are an experienced speed-reader. I like written content as it is easier to pick and share relevant pieces, like what I am doing now in this post.

Chad states that as long as PLM delivers quantified value, PLM could be expanding. This sounds like a journey, and I could align here. The only additional thought I would like to add to this point is that it is not necessary expanding all the time, it is also about a continuous change in the world and therefore your organization. So instead of expanding, there might be a need to do things differently: Have you noticed PLM is changing.

Next Chad mentions organizational fatigue. I understand the point – our society and business are currently changing extremely fast, which causes people to long for the past. A typical behavior I observe everywhere: in the past, everything was better. However, if companies would go back and operate like in the past, they would be out of business. We moved from the paper drawing board to 3D CAD, managing it through PDM and PLM to remain significant. So there is always a journey.

Fatigue comes from choosing the wrong directions, having a reactive culture – instead of being inspired and motivated to reach the next stage, the current stage is causing already so much stress. Due to the reactive culture, people cannot imagine a better future – they are too busy. I believe it is about culture and inspiration that makes companies successful – not by just measuring.  For avoiding change, think about the boiling frog metaphor, and you see what I mean

 

Upgrading to PLM when PDM falls short

At the same time, Jim Brown from Tech-Clarity published a PTC-sponsored eBook: Upgrading to PLM when PDM fall short, in which as he states:

This eBook explains how to recognize that you’ve outgrown PDM and offers several options to find the data and process management capabilities your company needs, whether it’s time to find a more capable PDM or upgrade to PLM. It also provides practical advice on what to look for in a PLM solution, to ensure a successful implementation, and in a software partner.

Jim is mentioning various business drivers that can drive this upgrade path. Enlarge the image to the left. I challenge all the believers in measurable digital results to imagine which KPIs they would use and how they can be related to pure PLM.

Here the upgrade process is aiming at replacing PDM by PLM something PLM vendors like. Immediate a significant numbers of licenses for the same basic PDM functionality – for your company hard to justify there is no additional value.

In many situations, I have seen that this type of PDM upgrade projects became advanced PDM projects – not PLM. The new PLM system was introduced in the engineering department and became an even bigger silo than before as other disciplines/departments were not willing to work with this new “monster” and preferred their own system. They believe that PLM is a system to be purchased and implemented, which is killing for a real PLM strategy.

Therefore I liked Oleg Shilovitsky’s post: 3 Reasons for Not Growing Existing PDM Into the Full PLM System.  Where Oleg’s points were probably more technology-driven, the value of this post was extended in the discussion. It became a discussion where various people and different opinions which I would like to have in real-time. The way LinkedIn filters/prioritizes comments makes it hard to have a chronological view of the discussion.

Still, if you are interested and have time for a puzzle, follow this discussion and add your thoughts

Conclusion

During my holidays, there was a vivid discussion related to the PLM value and journey. Looking back, it is clear we are part of a PLM journey. Some do not take part in the journey and keep on hanging to the past, those who understand the journey are all seeing different Points Of Interests – the characteristics of a journey

This is the moment of the year, where at least in my region, most people take some time off to disconnect from their day-to-day business.  For me, it is never a full disconnect as PLM became my passion, and you should never switch off your passion.

On August 1st, 1999, I started my company TacIT, the same year the acronym PLM was born. I wanted to focus on knowledge management, therefore the name TacIT.  Being dragged into the SmarTeam world with a unique position interfacing between R&D, implementers and customers I found the unique sweet spot, helping me to see all aspects from PLM – the vendor position, the implementer’s view, the customer’s end-user, and management view.

It has been, and still, is 20 years of learning and have been sharing most in the past ten years through my blog. What I have learned is that the more you know, the more you understand that situations are not black and white. See one of my favorite blog pictures below.

So there is enough to overthink during the holidays. Some of my upcoming points:

From coordinated to connected

Instead of using the over-hyped term: Digital Transformation, I believe companies should learn to work in a connected mode, which has become the standard in our daily life. Connected means that information needs to be stored in databases somewhere, combined with openness and standards to make data accessible. For more transactional environments, like CRM, MES, and ERP, the connected mode is not new.

In the domain of product development and selling, we have still a long learning path to go as the majority of organizations is relying on documents, be it Excels, Drawings (PDF) and reports. The fact that they are stored in electronic file formats does not mean that they are accessible. There is still manpower needed to create these artifacts or to extract the required information from them.

The challenge for modern PLM is to establish new best practices around a model-based approach for systems engineering (MBSE), for engineering to manufacturing (MBD/MBE) and operations (Digital Twins). All these best practices should be generic and connected ultimately.  I wrote about these topics in the past, have a look at:

PLM Vendors are showing pieces of the puzzle, but it is up to the implementers to establish the puzzle, without knowing in detail what the end result will be. This is the same journey of Columbus. He had a boat and a target towards the unknown. He discovered a country with a small population, nowadays a country full of immigrants who call themselves natives.

However, the result was an impressive transformation.

Reading about transformation

Last year I read several books to get more insight into what motivates us, and how can we motivate people to change. In one way, it is disappointing to learn that we civilized human beings most of the time to not make rational decisions but act based on our per-historic brain.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman was one of the first books in that direction as a must-read to understand our personal thinking and decision processes.

 

 

 

I read Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To from Dean Burnett, where he explains this how our brain appears to be sabotaging our life, and what on earth it is really up to. Interesting to read but could be a little more comprehensive

 

I got more excited from Dan Ariely”s book: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions as it was structured around topics where we handle completely irrational but predictable. And this predictability is used by people (sales/politicians/ management) to drive your actions. Useful to realize when you recognize the situation

 

These three books also illustrate the flaws of our modern time – we communicate fast (preferable through tweets) – we decide fast based on our gut feelings – so you realize towards what kind of world we are heading.  Going through a transformation should be considered as a slow, learning process. Like reading a book – it takes time to digest.

Once you are aiming at a business transformation for your company or supporting a company in its transformation, the following books were insightful:

Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee is maybe not the most inspiring book, however as it stays close to what we experience in our day-to-day-life it is for sure a book to read to get a foundational understanding of business transformation.

 

The book I liked the most recent was Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future by Nathan Furr, Kyle Nel, Thomas Zoega Ramsoy as it gives examples of transformation addressing parts of the irrational brain to get a transformation story. I believe in storytelling instead of business cases for transformation. I wrote about it in my blog post: PLM Measurable or a myth referring to Yuval Harari’s book Homo Sapiens

Note: I am starting my holidays now with a small basket of e-books. If you have any recommendations for books that I must read – please write them in the comments of this blog

Discussing transformation

After the summer holidays, I plan to have fruitful discussions around topics close to PLM. Working on a post and starting a conversation related to PLM, PIM, and Master Data Management. The borders between these domains are perhaps getting vaguer in a digital enterprise.

Further, I am looking forward to a discussion around the value of PLM assisting companies in developing sustainable products. A sustainable and probably circular economy is required to keep this earth a place to live for everybody. The whole discussion around climate change, however, is worrying as we should be Thinking – not fast and slow – but balanced.

A circular economy has been several times a topic during the joint CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT conferences, which bring me to the final point.

On 13th and 14th November this year I will participate again in the upcoming PLM Roadmap and PDT conference. This time in La Defense, Paris, France. I will share my experiences from working with companies trying to understand and implement pieces of a digital transformation related to PLM.

There will be inspiring presentations from other speakers, all working on some of the aspects of moving to facets of a connected enterprise. It is not a marketing event, it is done by professionals, serving professionals. Therefore I hope if you are passioned about the new aspects of PLM, no matter how you name label them, come and join, discuss and most of all, learn.

Conclusion

 

Modern life is about continuous learning  – make it a habit. Even a holiday is again a way to learn to disconnect.

How disconnected I was you will see after the holidays.

 

 

 

This time a post that has been on the table already for a long time – the importance of having established processes, in particular with implementing PLM.  By nature, most people hate processes as it might give the idea that their personal creativity is limited, where large organizations love processes as for them this is the way to guarantee a confident performance.  So let’s have a more in-depth look.

Where processes shine

In a transactional world, processes can be implemented like algorithms, assuming the data to be processed has the right quality. That is why MRP (Material Requirement Planning) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) don’t have the mindset of personal creativity. It is about optimized execution driven by financial and quality goals.

When I started my career in the early days of data management, before it was called PDM/PLM, I learned that there is a need for communication-related to product data. Terms are revisions, and versions started to pop-up combined with change processes. Some companies began to talk about configuration management.

Companies were not thinking PLM along the whole lifecycle. It was more PDM for engineering and ERP for manufacturing. Where PDM was ultimate a document-control environment, ERP was the execution engine relying on documented content, but not necessarily connected. Unfortunate this is still the case at many companies, and it has to do with the mindset. Traditionally a company’s performance has been measured based on financial reporting coming from the ERP system. Engineering was an unmanageable cost in the eyes of the manufacturing company’s management and ERP-software vendors.

In de middle of the nineties (previous century now ! ), I had a meeting with an ERP-country manager to discuss a potential partnership. The challenge was that he had no clue about the value and complementary need for PLM. Even after discussing with him the differences between iterative product development (with revisioning) and linear execution (on the released product), his statement was:

“Engineers are just resources that do not want to be managed, but we will get them”

Meanwhile, I can say this company has changed its strategy, giving PLM a space in their portfolio combined with excellent slides about what could be possible.

To conclude, for linear execution the meaning of processes is more or less close to algorithms and when there is no algorithm, the individual steps in place are predictable with their own KPIs.

Process certification

As I mentioned in the introduction, processes were established to guarantee a predictable outcome, in particular when it comes to quality. For that reason, in the previous century when globalization started companies were somehow forced to get ISO 900x certified. The idea behind these certifications was that a company had processes in place to guarantee an expected outcome and for when they failed, they would have procedures in place to fix these gaps. The reason companies were doing this because no social internet could name and shame bad companies. Having ISO 900x certification would be the guarantee to deliver quality.  In the same perspective, we could see, configuration management, a system of best practices to guarantee that product information was always correct.

Certification was and is heaven for specialized external auditors and consultants.  To get certification you needed to invest in people and time to describe your processes, and once these processes were defined, there were regular external audits to ensure the quality system has been followed.  The beauty of this system – the described procedures were more or less “best intentions” not enforced. When the auditor would come the company had to play some theater that processes were followed., the auditor would find some improvements for next year and the management was happy certification was passed.

This has changed early this century. In particular, mid-market companies were no longer motivated to keep up this charade. The quality process manual remained as a source of inspiration, but external audits were no longer needed. Companies were globally connected and reviewed, so reputation could be sourced easily.

The result: there are documented quality procedures, and there is a reality. The more disconnected employees became in a company due to mergers or growth, the more individual best-practices became the way to deliver the right product and quality, combined with accepted errors and fixes downstream or later. The hidden cost of poor quality is still a secret within many companies.  Talking with employees they all have examples where their company lost a lot of money due to quality mistakes. Yet in less regulated industries, there is no standard approach, like CAPA (Corrective And Preventive Actions), APQP or 8D to solve it.

Configuration Management and Change Management processes

When it comes to managing the exact definition of a product, either an already manufactured product or products that are currently made, there is a need for Configuration Management.  Before there were PLM systems configuration management was done through procedures defining configurations based on references to documents with revisions and versions. In the aerospace industry, separate systems for configuration management were developed, to ensure the exact configuration of an aircraft could be retrieved at any time. Less regulated industries used a more document-based procedural approach as strict as possible. You can read about the history of configuration management and PLM in an earlier blog post: PLM and Configuration Management – a happy marriage?

With the introduction of PDM and PLM-systems, more and more companies wanted to implement their configuration management and in particular their change management inside the system, as the changes are always related to product information that can reside in a PLM-system. The change of part can be proposed (ECR), analyzed and approved, leading to and implementation of the change (ECO) which is based on changed specifications, designs (3D Models / Drawings) and more. You can read the basics here: The Issue and ECR/ECO for Dummies (Reprise)

The Challenge (= Problem) of Digital Processes

More and more companies are implementing change processes fully in PLM, and this is the point that creates the most friction for a PLM implementation. The beauty of digital change processes is that they can be full-proof. No change gets unnoticed as everyone is forced to follow the predefined procedures, either a type of fast track in case of lightweight (= low risk) changes or the full change process when the product is already in a mature state.

Like the ISO-900x processes, the PLM-implementer is often playing the role of the consultancy firm that needs to recommend the company how to implement configuration management and change processes. The challenge here is that the company most of the time does not have a standard view for their change processes and for sure the standard change management inside PLM s not identical to their processes.

Here the battle starts….

Management believes that digital change processes, preferable out-of-the-box, a crucial to implement, where users feel their job becomes more an administrative job than a creative job. Users that create information don’t want to be bothered with the decisions for numbering and revisioning.

They expect the system to do that easily for them – which does not happen as old procedures, responsibilities, and methodologies do not align with the system. Users are not measured or challenged for data quality, they are measured on the work they deliver that is needed now. Let’s first get the work done before we make sure all is consisted defined in the PLM-system.

Digital Transformation allows companies to redefine the responsibilities for users related to the data they produce. It is no longer a 3D Model or a drawing, but a complete data set with properties/attributes that can be shared and used for analysis and automation.

Conclusion

Implementing digital processes for PLM is the most painful, but required step for a successful implementation. As long as data and processes are not consistent, we can keep on dreaming about automation in PLM. Therefore, digital transformation inside PLM should focus on new methods and responsibilities to create a foundation for the future. Without an agreement on the digital processes there will be a growing inefficiency for the future.

 

Image:  21stcenturypublicservant.wordpress.com/

I have talked a lot the past years about Digital Transformation and in particular its relation to PLM. This time I want to focus a little more on Digital Transformation and my observations related to big enterprises and small and medium enterprises. I will take you starting from the top, the C-level to the work floor and then try to reconnect through the middle management. As you can imagine from the title of this post, there is a challenge. And I am aware I am generalizing for the sake of simplicity.

Starting from the C-level of a large enterprise

Large and traditional enterprises are having the most significant challenge when aiming at a digital transformation for several reasons:

  • They have shareholders that prefer short-term benefits above long-term promising but unclear higher benefits. Shareholders most of the time have no personal interest in these companies, they just want to earn money above the average growth.
  • The CEO is the person to define the strategy which has to come with a compelling vision to inspire the shareholders, the customers and the employees in the company – most of the time in that order of priority.
  • The role of the CEO is to prioritize investments and stop or sell core components to make the transformation affordable. Every transformation is about deciding what to stop, what to start and what to maintain.
  • After four to seven years (the seven years’ itch) it is time for a new CEO to create a new momentum as you cannot keep the excitement up too long.
  • Meanwhile, the Stop-activities are creating fear within the organization – people start fearing their jobs and the start-activities are most of the time of such a small-scale that their successes are not yet seen. So at the work floor, there will be reservations about what’s next

Companies like ABB, Ericsson, GE, Philips – in alphabetical order – are all in several stages of their digital transformation and in particular I have followed GE as they were extremely visible and ambitious. Meanwhile, it is fair to say that the initial Digital Transformation plan from GE has stalled and a lot of lessons learned from that.

If you have time – read this article: The Only Way Manufacturers Can Survive – by Vijay Govindarajan & Jeff Immelt (you need to register). It gives useful insights about what the strategy and planning were for digital transformation. And note PLM is not even mentioned there J

Starting from the C-level of a small and medium enterprise

In a small or medium enterprise, the distance between the C-level and the work floor is most of the time much shorter and chances are that the CEO is a long-term company member in case of a long-standing family-owned business. In this type of companies, a long-term vision can exist and you could expect that digital transformation is more sustainable there.

Unfortunate most of the time it is not, as the C-level is often more active in current business strategies and capabilities close to their understanding instead of investing energy and time to digest the full impact of a digital transformation. These companies might invest in the buzz-words you hear in the market, IoT, Digital Twins and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, all very visionary topics, however of low value when they are implemented in an isolated way.

In this paragraph, I also need to mention the small and medium enterprises that are in the hands of an investment company.  Here I feel sorry as the investment company is most of the time trying to optimize the current ways of working by simplifying or rationalizing the business, not creating a transformative vision (as they do not have the insights. In this type of companies, you will see on a lower scale the same investments done as in the other category of small and medium enterprises, be it on a lesser scale.

Do people need to change?

Often you hear that the problem with any change within the companies is because people do not want to change. I think this is too much a generalization. I have worked in the past five years with several companies where we explored the benefits and capabilities of PLM in a modern way, sometimes focusing on an item-centric approach, sometimes focusing on a model-based approach. In all these engagements there was no reluctance from the users to change.

However, there were two types of users in these discussions. I would characterize as evolutionary thinkers (most of the time ten years or more in the company) and love-to-change thinkers (most of them five years or less in the company). The difference between these groups was that the evolutionary thinkers were responding in the context of the existing business constraints where the love-to-change thinkers were not yet touched by the “knowledge how good everything was”.

For digital transformation, you need to create the love-to-change attitude while using the existing knowledge as a base to improve. And this is not a people change, it is an organizational change where you need to enable people to work in their best mode. It needs to be an end-to-end internal change – not changing the people, but changing the organizational parameters: KPIs, divisions, departments, priorities. Have a look at this short movie, you can replace the word ERP by PLM, and you will understand why I like this movie (and the relaxing sound)

The Middle Management dilemma

And here comes my last observation. At the C-level we can find inspiring visions often outcome-based, talking about a more agile company, closer to the customer, empowered workers, etc.  Then there is the ongoing business that cannot be disrupted and needs to perform – so the business units, the departments all get their performance KPIs, merely keeping the status quo in place.

Also, new digital initiatives need to be introduced. They don’t fit in the existing business and are often started in separation – like GE Digital division, and you can read Jeff Immelt’ s thoughts and strategy how this could work. (The Only Way Manufacturers Can Survive). However as the majority of the business runs in the old mode, the Digital Business became another business silo in the organization, as the middle management could not be motivated to embed digital in their business (no KPIs or very low significance of new KPIs)

I talked about the hybrid/bimodal approach several times in my blog posts, most recently in The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem.  One of the points that I did not address was the fact that probably nobody wants to work in the old mode anymore once the new approach is successful and scaled up.

When the new mode of business is still small, people will not care so much and continue business as usual. Once the new mode becomes the most successful part of the company, people do want to join this success if they can. And here the change effort is needed. An interesting article in this context is The End of Two-Speed IT from the Boston Consultancy Group (2016). They already point at the critical role of middle management. Middle management can kill digital transformation or being part of it, by getting motivated and adopting too.

Conclusion

Perhaps too much text in this post and even more content when you dive more in-depth in the provided content. Crucial if you want to understand the digital transformation process in an existing company and the critical place of middle management. They are likely the killers of digital transformation if not give the right coaching and incentives.  Just an observation – not a thought 😉

In this post, I will explain the story behind my presentation at PI PLMx London. You can read my review of the event here: “The weekend after ……” and you can find my slides on SlideShare: HERE.

For me, this presentation is a conclusion of a thought process and collection of built-up experiences in the past three to  five years, related to the challenges digital transformation is creating for PLM and what makes it hard to go through compared to other enterprise business domains.  So here we go:

Digital transformation or disruption?

Slide 2 (top image) until 5 are dealing with the common challenges of business transformation. In nature, the transformation from a Caterpillar (old linear business) to a Butterfly (modern, agile, flexible) has the cocoon stage, where the transformation happens. In business unfortunate companies cannot afford a cocoon phase, it needs to be a parallel change.

Human beings are not good at change (slide 3 & 4), and the risk is that a new technology or a new business model will disrupt your business if you are too confident – see examples from the past. The disruption theory introduced by Clayton Christensen in his book, the Innovators Dilemma is an excellent example of how this can happen.  Some of my thoughts are in The Innovator’s dilemma and generation change (2015)

Although I know some PLM vendors consider themselves as disruptor, I give them no chance in the PLM domain. The main reason: The existing PLM systems are so closely tied to the data they manage, that switching from one PLM system to a more modern PLM system does not pay off.  The data models are so diverse that it is better to stay with the existing environment.

What is clear for modern digital businesses is that if you could start from scratch or with almost no legacy you can move faster forward than the rest. But only if supported by a strong leadership , a(understandable) vision and relentless execution.

The impression of evolution

Marc Halpern’s slide presented at PDT 2015 is one of my favorite slides, as it maps business maturity to various characteristics of an organization, including the technologies used.

 

Slide 7 till 18 are zooming in on the terms Coordinated and Connected and the implications it has for data, people and business. I have written about Coordinated and Connected recently: Coordinated or Connected (2018)

A coordinated approach: Delivering the right information at the right moment in the proper context is what current PLM implementations try to achieve. Allowing people to use their own tools/systems as long as they deliver at the right moment their information (documents/files) as part of the lifecycle/delivery process. Very linear and not too complicated to implement you would expect. However it is difficult ! Here we already see the challenge of just aligning a company to implement a horizontal flow of data. Usability of the PLM backbone and optimized silo thinking are the main inhibitors.

In a connected approach: Providing actual information for anyone connected in any context the slide on the left shows the mental picture we need to have for a digital enterprise. Information coming from various platforms needs to be shareable and connected in real-time, leading, in particular for PLM, to a switch from document-based deliverables to models and parameters that are connected.

Slide 15 has examples of some models.  A data-driven approach creates different responsibilities as it is not about ownership anymore but about accountability.

The image above gives my PLM-twisted vision of which are the five core platforms for an enterprise.  The number FIVE is interesting as David Sherburne just published his Five Platforms that Enable Digital Transformation and in 2016 Gartner identified Five domains for the digital platform .- more IT-twisted ? But remember the purpose of digital transformation is: FIVE!

From Coordinated to Connected is Digital Transformation

Slide 19 till 27 further elaborate on the fact that for PLM there is no evolutionary approach possible, going from a Coordinated technology towards a Connected technology.

For three reasons:  different type of data (document vs. database elements), different people (working in a connected environment requires modern digital skills) and different processes (the standard methods for mechanical-oriented PLM practices do not match processes needed to deliver systems (hardware & software) with an incremental delivery process).

Due to the incompatibility of the data, more and more companies discover that a single PLM-instance cannot support both modes – staying with your existing document-oriented PLM-system does not give the capabilities needed for a model-driven approach. Migrating the data from a traditional PLM-environment towards a modern data-driven environment does not bring any value. The majority of the coordinated data is not complete and with the right quality to use a data-driven environment. Note: in  a data-driven environment you do not have people interpreting the data – the data should be correct for automation / algorithms.

The overlay approach, mentioned several times in various PLM-blogs, is an intermediate solution. It provides traceability and visibility between different data sources (PLM, ALM, ERP, SCM, …). However it does not make the information in these systems better accessible.

So the ultimate conclusion is: You need both approaches, and you need to learn to work in a hybrid environment !

What can various stakeholders do?

For the management of your company, it is crucial they understand the full impact of digital transformation. It is not about a sexy customer website, a service platform or Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality case for the shop floor or services. When these capabilities are created disconnected from the source (PLM), they will deliver inconsistencies in the long-term. The new digital baby becomes another silo in the organization. Real digital transformation comes from an end-to-end vision and implementation.  The result of this end-to-end vision will be the understanding that there is a duality in data, in particular for the PLM domain.

Besides the technicalities, when going through a digital transformation, it is crucial for the management to share their vision in a way it becomes a motivational story, a myth, for all employees. As Yuval Harari, writer of the book Sapiens,  suggested, we (Home Sapiens) need an abstract story, a myth to align a larger group of people to achieve a common abstract goal. I discussed this topic in my posts: PLM as a myth? (2017)  and PLM – measurable or a myth?

Finally, the beauty of new digital businesses is that they are connected and can be monitored in real-time. That implies you can check the results continuously and adjust – scale of fail!

Consultants and strategists in a company should also take the responsibility, to educate the management and when advising on less transformational steps, like efficiency improvements: Make sure you learn and understand model-based approaches and push for data governance initiatives. This will at least narrow the gap between coordinated and connected environments.

This was about strategy – now about execution:

For PLM vendors and implementers, understanding the incompatibility of data between current PLM practices – coordinated and connected – it will lead to different business models. Where traditionally the new PLM vendor started first with a rip-and-replace of the earlier environment – no added value – now it is about starting a new parallel environment.  This implies no more big replacement deals, but more a long-term. strategic and parallel journey.  For PLM vendors it is crucial that being able to offer to these modes in parallel will allow them to keep up their customer base and grow. If they would choose for coordinated or connected only it is for sure a competitor will work in parallel.

For PLM users, an organization should understand that they are the most valuable resources, realizing these people cannot make a drastic change in their behavior. People will adapt within their capabilities but do not expect a person who grew up in the traditional ways of working (linear / analogue) to become a successful worker in the new mode (agile / digital). Their value lies in transferring their skills and coaching new employees but do not let them work in two modes. And when it comes to education: permanent education is crucial and should be scheduled – it is not about one or two trainings per year – if the perfect training would exist, why do students go to school for several years ? Why not give them the perfect PowerPoint twice a year?

Conclusions

I believe after three years of blogging about this theme I have made my point. Let’s observe and learn from what is happening in the field – I remain curious and focused about proof points and new insights. This year I hope to share with you new ideas related to digital practices in all industries, of course all associated with the human side of what we once started to call PLM.

Note: Oleg Shilovitsky just published an interesting post this weekend: Why complexity is killing PLM and what are future trajectories and opportunities? Enough food for discussion. One point: The fact that consumers want simplicity does not mean PLM will become simple – working in the context of other information is the challenge – it is human behavior – team players are good in anticipating – big egos are not. To be continued…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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