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questionaireThe last month I haven’t been able to publish much of my experiences as I have been in the middle of several PLM selection processes for various industries. Now in a quiet moment looking back, I understand it is difficult for a company to choose a PLM solution for the future.

I hope this post will generate some clarity and may lead to some further discussion with other experts in the audience. I wrote about the do’s and don’ts of PLM selection in 2010, and most of it is still actual; however, there is more. Some of the topics explained:

Do you really need PLM ?

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This is where it starts. PLM is not Haarlemerolie, an old Dutch medicine that was a cure for everything since the 17th century. The first step is that you need to know what you want to achieve and how you are aiming to achieve it. Just because a competitor has a PLM system installed, does not mean they use it properly or that your company should do it too. If you do not know why your company needs PLM, stop reading and start investigating.

….

If you are still reading this, you are part of the happy few, as justifying the need for PLM is not easy. Numerous of companies have purchased a PLM system just because they think they needed PLM. Or there was someone convinced that this software would bring PLM.

Most of these cases there was the confusion with PDM. Simply stating: PDM is more a departmental tool (engineering – multidisciplinary) where PLM is a mix of software, infrastructure to connect all departments in a company and support the product through its entire lifecycle.

Implementing “real” PLM is a business change, as people have to start sharing data instead of pushing documents from department to department. And this business transformation is a journey. It is not a fun journey, nicely characterized in Ed Lopategui’s blog post, the PLM Trail.

Although I believe it is not always that dramatic, Ed set the expectations right. Be well prepared before you start.

Why do companies still want PLM, while it is so difficult to implement?

The main reason is to remain competitive. If margins are under pressure, you can try to be more efficient, get better and faster tools. But by working in the old way, you can only be a little better.

NoChangeMoving from a sequential, information pushing approach towards an on-line, global information sharing manner is a change in business processes. It is interaction between all stakeholders. Doing things different requires courage, understanding and trust you made the right choice. When it goes wrong, there are enough people around you to point fingers at why it went wrong – hindsight is so easy.

Doing nothing and becoming less and less competitive is easier (the boiling frog again) as in that case the outside world will be blamed, and there is nobody to point fingers at (although if you understand the issue you should make the organization aware the future is at stake)

Why is PLM so expensive?

Assuming you are still reading, and you and your management are aligned there is a need for PLM, a first investigation into possible solutions will reveal that PLM is not cheap.

No_roiWhen you calculate the overall investment required in PLM, the management often gets discouraged by the estimated costs. Yes, the benefits are much higher, but to realize these benefits, you need to have a clear understanding of your own business and a realistic idea how the future would look like. The benefits are not in efficiency. The main benefits come from capabilities that allow you to respond better and faster than by just optimizing your departments. I read a clarifying post recently, which is addressing this issue: Why PLM should be on every Executive’s agenda !

From my experience with PLM projects, it is surprising to learn that companies do not object to spend 5 to 20 times more money for an ERP implementation. It is related to the topic: management by results or management by means.

PLM is not expensive compared to other enterprise systems. It can become expensive (like ERP implementations) if you lose control. Software vendors have a business in selling software modules, like car resellers have a business in selling you all the comfort beyond the basics.

The same for implementation partners, they have a business in selling services to your company, and they need to find the balance between making money and delivering explainable value. Squeezing your implementation partner will cause a poor delivery. But giving them an open check means that, at a certain moment, someone will stand up and shutdown the money drain as the results are no longer justifiable. Often I meet companies in this stage, the spirit has gone. It is all about the balance between costs and benefits.

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This happens in all enterprise software projects, and the only cure is investing in your own people. Give your employees time and priority to work in a PLM project. People with knowledge of the business are essential, and you need IT resources to implement. Do not make the mistake to leave business uncommitted to the PLM implementation. Management and middle management does not take the time to understand PLM as they are too busy or not educated / interested.

Make business owners accountable for the PLM implementation – you will see stress (it is not their daily job – they are busy), but in the longer time you will see understanding and readiness of the organization to achieve the expected results.

We are the largest – why select the largest ?

marketleaderWhen your assignment is to select a new enterprise system, life could be easy for you. Select a product or service from the largest business and your career is saved. Nobody gets blamed for selecting the largest vendor, although if you work for a small mid-sized company, you might think twice.

Many vendors and implementers start their message with:
“…. Market leader in ABC, though leader in XYZ, recognized by 123”

The only thing you should learn from this message is that this company probably has delivered a trustworthy solution in the past. Looking at the past you get an impression of its readiness and robustness for the future. Many promising companies have been absorbed by the larger ones and disappeared. As Clayton Christensen wrote in The Innovators Dilemma:
“What goes up does not go down”.
Meaning these large companies focus on their largest clients and will focus less on the base of the business pyramid (where the majority is), making them vulnerable for disruptive innovation.
Related to this issue there is an interesting post (and its comments), written by Oleg Shilovitsky recently: How many PLM vendors disappear in disruption predicted by Gartner.

observationMy observation: the world of PLM is not in a moment of sudden disruption at this moment.

Still when selecting a PLM vendor it is essential to know if they have the scale to support you in the future and if they have the vision to guide you into the future.

The future of PLM is towards managing data in a connected manner, not necessary coming from a single database, not necessary using only structured data. If your PLM vendor or implementer is pushing you to realize document and file management, they are years late and not the best for your future.

PLM is a big elephant

PLM is considered as a big elephant, and I agree if you address everything in one shot that PLM can do. PLM has multiple directions to start from – I wrote about it: PLM at risk – it does not have a single job

PLM has a huge advantage compared to a transactional system like ERP and probably CRM. You can implement a PLM infrastructure and its functionality step by step in the organization, start with areas that are essential and produce clear benefits for the organization. That is the main reason that PLM implementations can take 2 – 3 years. You give the organization time to learn, to adapt and to extend.

We lose our flexibility ?

flexibleNobody in an organization likes to be pushed in a cooperate way of working, which by definition is not as enjoyable and as flexible as they way you currently work. It is still an area where PLM implementations can improve: provide the user with an environment that is not too rigid and does not feel like a rigid system. You seen this problem with old traditional large PLM implementations for example with automotive OEMs. For them, it is almost impossible to switch to a new PLM implementation as everything has been built and connected in such a proprietary way, almost impossible to move to more standard systems and technologies. Late PLM implementations should learn from these lessons learned.

PLM vendor A says PLM vendor B will be out of business

One of the things I personally dislike is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It has become a common practice in politics and I have seen PLM vendors and implementers using the same tactics. The problem with FUD is that it works. Even if the message is not verifiable, the company looking for a PLM system might think there must be some truth in this statement.

imageMy recommendation to a company that gets involved in FUD during a PLM selection process, they should be worried about the company spreading the FUD. Apparently they have no stronger arguments to explain to you why they are the perfect solution; instead they tell you indirectly we are the less worst.

Is the future in the cloud ?

I think there are two different worlds. There is the world of smaller businesses that do not want to invest in an IT-infrastructure and will try anything that looks promising – often tools oriented. This is one of my generalizations of how US businesses work – sorry for that. They will start working with cloud based systems and not be scared by performance, scalability and security. As long all is easy and does not disturb the business too much.

cloudLarger organizations, especially with a domicile in Europe, are not embracing cloud solutions at this moment. They think more in private or on-premise environments. Less in cloud solutions as security of information is still an issue. The NSA revelations prove that there is no moral limit for information in the sake of security – combined with the fear of IP theft from Asia, I think European companies have a natural resistance for storing data outside of their control.

For sure you will see cloud advocates, primarily coming from the US, claiming this is the future (and they are right), but there is still work to do and confidence to be built.

Conclusion:

PLM selection often has a focus on checking hundreds of requirements coming from different departments. They want a dream system. I hope this post will convince you that there are so many other thoughts relevant to a PLM selection you should take into account. And yes you still need requirements (and a vision).

Your thoughts ?

Last week I started a small series of posts related to the topic PLM 2.0. I was hoping for more comments and discussion about the term PLM 2.0, although I must say I was glad Oleg picked it up in his posts: PLM 2.0 born to die? and Will JT-open enable future of PLM 2.0?

Oleg, as a full-time blogger, of course had the time to draw the conclusions, which will take me another two weeks, hoping meanwhile the discussion evolves. Where Oleg’s focus is on technology and openness (which are important points), I will also explain that PLM 2.0 is a change in doing business, but this will be in next week’s post.

This week I will focus on the current challenges and pitfalls in PLM. And we all know that when somebody talks about challenges, there might be problems.

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Last week : What is PLM 2.0?
This week: : Challenges in current PLM
Next : Change in business
Final post : Why PLM 2.0 – conclusions

The Challenges in current PLM

First I want to state that there are several types of definition in the world for PLM, coming from different type of organizations – I listed here two vendor independent definitions:

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The Wiki definition:

In industry, product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.


clip_image005The 2PLM definition:

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the business activity of managing a company’s products all the way across the lifecycle in the most effective way. The objective of PLM is to improve company revenues and income by maximizing the value of the product portfolio

And there are more definitions. Just recently, I noticed on the PlanetPTC blog from Aibhe Coughlan a post where she promoted a definition of PLM published in the Concurrent Engineering blog. Here I got immediate a little irritated reading the first words: “PLM is software designed to enhance process efficiencies ……… and more …”

clip_image007I do not believe PLM is software. Yes there is software used to automate or implement PLM practices, but this definition starts to neglect the culture and process sides of PLM. And as Oleg was faster – read his more extended comment here

(I am not paid by Oleg to promote his blog, but we seem to have similar interests)

Back to the classical definitions

The Wiki definition gives the impression that you need to have an infrastructure to manage (store) all product data in order to serve as an information backbone for the extended enterprise. It becomes more an IT-project, often sponsored by the IT-department, with the main goal to provide information services to the company in a standardized manner.

This type of PLM implementations tends to be the same type of implementation as an ERP system or other major IT-system. In this type of top-down implementations, the classical best practices for project management should be followed. This means:

  • A clear vision
  • Management sponsorship
  • A steering committee
  • A skilled project leader and team
  • Committed resources
  • Power user involvement
  • Communication
  • …… and more …

project_structure

These PLM projects are promoted by PLM vendors and consultants as the best way to implement PLM. And there are a lot of positive things to say about this approach. For many big companies implementing cPDM or PLM was a major step forward. Most of the ROI stories are based on this type of implementations and have been the showcases on PLM events. It is true that data quality increases, therefore efficiency and product quality. Without PLM they would not reach the same competiveness as they have now.

But sometimes these projects go into extreme when satisfying users or IT-guidelines

To avoid the implementation of a ‘new IT-system’, companies often have the strategy that if we already have an ERP-system , let’s customize or extend it, so we can store the additional data and perform workflow processes based on this system.

In a recent webinar, I heard a speaker saying that in their company they had the following automation strategy defined together with IT is:

  • First they will see if the needed PLM functionality exists in their ERP system or is part of the portfolio of their ERP provider. If the functionality is there (this means the ERP vendor has the capability to store metadata and a factsheet mentioning the right name), there is no looking outside.
  • If the functionality is not there, there will be a discussion with the ERP vendor or implementer to build it on top of their ERP system.

clip_image011I have seen implementations where the company has developed complete custom user interfaces in order to get user acceptance (the users would not accept the standard graphical interface). At that time, no one raised the flag about future maintenance and evolution of these custom environments. The mood was: we kept it simple – one single system.

I believe this closes the door for real PLM, as storing data in a system does not mean you will use it in an efficient and optimized manner. How will you anticipate on changes in business if it is just doing more with the same system?

And mid-market companies ?

The top-down approach described before is the fear of many mid-market companies, as they remember how painful their first ERP implementation was. And now with PLM it is even more unclear. PLM aims to involve the engineering department, which so far has not worked in a very procedural manner. Informal and ad-hoc communication combined with personal skills within this department was often the key for success.

clip_image013And now an unfriendly system is brought in, with low or little usability, pushing these creative people to enter data without seeing any benefits. The organization downstream benefits but this will be only noticed later in time. And for the engineering department it will take more effort to change their work methodology focused on innovation. However, in general in the mid-market, the target of a PLM project is to have a Return on Investment (ROI) in a very short timeframe ( 1-2 years). Investing in usability should be even more important for this type of companies as there is less top-down pressure to accept this new PLM system.

And flexibility ?

clip_image015In the past years we have seen that business is changing – there is a shift in global collaboration and manufacturing and from the recent history we can learn that those big enterprise projects from the past became a threat. Instead of being able to implement new concepts or new technology, the implementation became more and more vendor monolithic as other capabilities and applications do not fit anymore. This is against the concept of openness and being flexible for the future. I believe if PLM becomes as rigid as ERP, it blocks companies to innovate – the challenge for big companies is to find the balance between stability and flexibility (This was the title from Sony Ericsson’s presentation at the PLM forum in Sweden this year)

And again for mid-market companies who do not have the budget or resources to invest in similar projects. They have less a drive to optimize themselves in the same manner as big companies do as flexibility is often their trade mark (and capability to innovate) . So PLM for the mid-market will not work in the classical way.

This is one of the reasons why a mid-market PLM standard has not yet been found (yet ?). From the other hand many mid-market companies are dealing with PLM practices although often it is more close to PDM and CAD data management. And mid-market companies do not change their organization easily – there is more a departmental approach avoiding therefore a change in business.

To summarize the biggest challenges in current PLM described in this post:

  • PLM is considered complex to implement
  • PLM is a huge IT-project
  • PLM requires change and structuring – but what about flexibility
  • Where is the PLM value and ROI – user acceptance
  • PLM for the mid-market – does it exist ?

Conclusion: I have been writing about the PLM challenges in the past, see the links below if you are interested in more details on a specific topic.

In 2008,I thought that Out-of-the-Box PLM systems and standard functionalities could bring a solution for the mid-market, perhaps future solutions based on the cloud. However I learned that if you want to do real PLM in a modern manner, you need to change the way you do your business – and this I will explain in my upcoming post.

Related links:

observation During this summer holiday, I was looking back on recent implementations and sales efforts related to PLM. Some had particular challenges regarding the PLM implementation and the relation to the IT department. The role of the IT-department was crucial, but always in a positive manner ? Judge yourself.

First this statement:

In many mid-market companies the choice for PLM is not that clear.

Let me explain what I mean by a typical mid-market company – it is not based on size or turn-over. For me a mid-market company is a company, not allocating the resources to have an overall strategic department and in addition the IT-department is limited to a team of people with a main focus to keep the company operational – ERP first.

The impact of this situation is twofold:

  • From one way new business initiatives will mostly come from departments, either sales, marketing, engineering, production, service or IT. Companywide business initiatives are not likely to come from a separate department as each department is working on their own issues.
  • Secondly IT often has a tendency to ‘standardize’ on certain environments. Some quotes: it_approval
    “We love/hate Microsoft”
    “SharePoint is our standard”
    “If it is not Linux it is not reliable”
    “Our ERP provider has also a PLM module, so this is going to be the standard”

And this standardization is often at the end the business killer

So where does PLM come from in a mid-market company ?

blind Example 1: The IT-department in company XYZ had the opinion there was a need to provide a company infrastructure for document management – people complained about not being able to find the right information. Related to the CAD system in use, it often became a kind of PDM implementation with extended document management. The IT-department provided the infrastructure (we need Oracle / SQL /DB2 – based on their standards) and engineering was allowed on top of that infrastructure to define their PDM environment.

As most of the people involved in this project were very familiar with computers, the implemented system was highly customized, due to specific actions the engineers wanted and what IT envisioned users would require. The overall thought was that other users would automatically get enthusiastic when seeing this implementation

users In contrary: the regular users refused to work with the new PDM system – too complex, it takes too much time to fill in information and in situations of heavy customization some users became afraid of the system. Making one mistake was hard to undo and could have a chain reaction of events further down in the organization. They preferred the traditional method of sending documents or Excels to the other departments and getting face-to-face feedback. Of course in case of missing information or a mistake this could be clarified easily too.

Conclusion from all the PLM pessimists: PLM is too complex, PLM is hard to implement.

My intermediate conclusion: Good will to improve the company’s business is important, however you need business people to define and lead the implementation.

dead_end Example2: IT in a company ABC developed a custom PLM infrastructure for their users and everyone was happy, till …… business changed. Where several years ago, the users decided that the standard PLM software was not good enough as some details were not supported and the standard system PLM system was able to do too much, IT generously decided to build a complete, nice user environment for their company.

Everybody happy for three years, till recently, due to acquisitions, outsourced contracting (engineering and manufacturing), the IT-department has to hire more people to support more and more custom connections and data exchange. Now in an overheated state they are looking for ways to use PLM standard software instead, however IT does not want to write off the previous investments that easy, the users are not aware of the problems in changing business and the future PLM decision is again driven by IT and not by business,

Internal conclusion: The IT-department was very helpful for the end users, who appreciated the simple to-the-point interface – whispering:  Therefore never a change process took place anticipating strategic changes upcoming. The result a kind of dead end.

My intermediate conclusion: If you are a mid-market company and you are not in software development, stay out of it. It is always a temporary and  people dependent (who can/will leave at some time).

Just two examples out of many, typically for mid-market companies. I think also larger enterprises sometimes demonstrate the same problematic. Good IT-people and IT-department are crucial for every company. The challenge is to keep the balance between business and IT. The risk is that due to the fact that there is a lack of business strategy resources, the IT-department becomes the business standard.

standardization

Conclusion: PLM is about business change and PLM is not an IT-tool. However a PLM implementation requires good and intensive support from IT. The challenge for every company is that the IT-department often has the most skilled people for a company-wide implementation, however the business drivers and strategy should come from outside.

Your thoughts ???

observationIn the past two weeks I had some interesting observations related to the core of PLM. Reading posts and some in-depth discussions with customers lead to the statements below:

Single version of truth ?

dummies_logo First I am going back to the intent of PLM – companies that implement PLM are not looking for a system where they can store information in a single database. Often the single version of the truth story is translated into technology . To illustrate this statement I was explaining a medical device company some weeks before how in PLM practices the interaction of requirements, integrated with regulatory compliance verification speeds up the product development process as deviations are early discovered during the development stage. The astonishing answer from the customer was; “Yes we already store this information in our well-known ERP system – so no need for PLM to handle this”

For this person the conclusion was that once data is stored in a system, it is managed. However  what the company never tried was to track each requirement individually (and its possible change) during the engineering process and have a direct connection to regulatory demands.

deaf_blindIn that area Excel, people’s knowledge and stored documents were used to collaborate. Off course with the late discovery of errors and several extra iterations due to it. As long as this company does not understand that the PLM system is not yet another tool to store data, but an enabler to work different and more efficient, these tools based statements will not bring them further. But as nobody get fired for selecting a well-known ERP system, but trying to change the way people work is a risk, often the first option is chosen.

And the more conservative the company culture, the more likely this will happen.

Tools do not make a change

global In a last week meeting I met a VP of a business group of a real global company. I am stressing the word real as there are many global companies, that actually have one main location where the IP and influence comes from – as compared to the real global companies where all around the world the knowledge and IP of the company is invented and spread from there. Although the discussion was on the current status and quality of the tools in use, during breaks we concluded that although the discussion is about tools, the hardest part for implementing PLM in their company is to master and motivate the changes in the way of working towards the users.

saveIn several blog posts from Oleg  (and others) I see the hope that new user interfaces, user data handling can provide a break through here. I partly agree here – in the eighties/nineties we had the single window terminal screens, which were easy to understand (no multi-tasking / no multi-windows). Slowly the current workforce got used to windows (still no multi-tasking) and the new generation (generation-Y) is less and less single tasking and has different ways of solving issues. New interfaces can contribute to the acceptation of a tool, but as in the end we are still doing the same – storing data in a central system without changing the way we work – there is nothing improved

MBOM in PLM

Another interesting statement of this VP was also that they are in the process of bringing all engineering data coming from different disciplines in their R&D / PLM environment. Originally it was the ERP system that was used to combine all data coming from different disciplines. However the disadvantage was that this product definition resided partly in an ERP (there is no concept of a single ERP as manufacturing differ so much globally)  and partly in PLM.  Their future plan was therefore to extend the coverage of PLM toward the whole preparation for manufacturing – my favorite topic too: see Where is the MBOM ?

Conclusion so far

In day to day relations customers and PLM vendors, implementers are talking about functions and features to implement and where and how data is stored. The major driver should be the concept of changing the way we work to be more efficient, more clever and with higher quality. This is not reached by storing data, but by having the right data available at the right moment. And this moment changes when implementing PLM

  • PLM Customers: Make sure that change of doing business is the target of your PLM implementation – do not look for tools only – check with your implementer and vendor which experience they have.
  • PLM Implementers: Schedule time and activities during the implementation to understand the business change and the customer to adapt. It is a different type of skill required but as important.
  • PLM Vendors: You have a hard time – as all are talking about the tools, you do not want to talk about the changes PLM implies – a pity but most customers do not want to hear this side during their PLM selection process

 

observation It has been silent from my side the past – more than two months. Extremely busy and sometimes surprised to see the amounts of post some of my colleagues could produce, with Oleg as the unbeaten number one. During this busy period I was able to observe some interesting trends listed below:

Going Social

Social Media and PLM is one of the favorite topics for both bloggers and some PLM vendors at this moment. New products for community based collaboration or social engineering  are promoted. Combined with discussions and statements how the new workforce (Generation Y) should get challenging jobs without doing the ‘old boring stuff’.

True arguments to initiate a change in the way we work.  And I agree, must of current PLM systems are not ‘intelligent’ enough to support engineers in a friendly manner. However is there an alternative at this moment ? Below a commercial (in Dutch) promoting that elderly workers are still required for quality.

I discussed the relation PLM and Social Media some time ago in my post Social Media and PLM explained for dummies. In addition my observation from the field, gives me the feeling that in most companies the management is still dominated by the older generation, and most of the time they decide on the tools they will be using.  No X and Y at this moment. Therefore I do not see a quick jump to social media integrated with PLM – yes the vision is there – but the readiness of most companies is not yet there.

Cloud

PLM and Cloud are also more and more mentioned by PLM vendors as a new solution specially for the mid-market.  And with an optimistic mind you can indeed believe that with a low investment (pay per use) mid-market companies can do their PLM on-line. But why are existing on-line PLM systems not booming at this time ? (Arena  / PLMplus / and the major PLM vendors) I believe that there are two key reasons for that:

  1. Implementing PLM is not equal to installing a  system. PLM is a vision to be implemented using a system. And the difficulty is that a vision does not match function and features from a product vendor. There is a need for a driving force inside the company that will support the business change. Where are the consultants and advocates (with experience) for this type of solutions ?knowledge_theft
  2. There is still a reluctance to store intellectual property somewhere on-line in a cloud without direct control  and ownership of data. Mid-market companies are not known to choose solutions ahead of the mass. In this type of companies cloud based CAD tools might be an entry point, but all product data – no way they say.

 

 

PLM or ERP

Before even talking about new technologies or fundamentals for PLM, I see the biggest challenge for PLM is still to get the recognition as the system for product knowledge (IP) and innovation. In too many companies ERP rules and PLM is considered as a way to capture CAD and engineering data. The main PLM vendors are not addressing this challenge – they neglect ERP (yes we can connect). And ERP vendors like SAP and Oracle are not known for their PLM messages and strategy  (yes we have PLM). As ERP is often the major IT-system historically, there is so often the (wrong) opinion that everything should be built and based on one system.

swiss

In some publications I have seen the Swiss knife as an example for the multi-functional system with all tools embedded. My question remains – who wants to work only with a Swiss knife when doing professional work ?

I like to have the right tools to do my job

The most important topic around my blog the past 3 years has been around the Manufacturing BOM – where should it be – and where is the MBOM current ?

Sweden – a reality check

Last week I attended the DS PLM forum in Gothenburg to present the vision of using a PLM system as the backbone for plant information management for owners/operators and how ENOVIA supports this vision.

PLM forum But I also learned Sweden is (one of) the most innovative countries (I need to verify the criteria used but can imagine there is a source of truth). What impressed me more where the presentations from  Staffan Lundgren from Sony Ericsson with the title “Living in a world of change – balancing stability and flexibility” and Magnus Olsson from Volvo Cars with the title “Driving operational excellence in a challenging business environment”. Both companies are well known for their robust image. From both speakers you could experience that they are not worried so much about Generation Y, their success is depending on a clear vision and a will to go there. And this basic drive is often missing – PLM is not a product you buy and then business continues as usual

Conclusion

PLM vendors made a lot of noise the past months (events / product announcements) and customers might get the impression that technology and software (or the price of software) are the main criteria for successful PLM. Although not unimportant, I would focus on the vision and to assure this vision is understood and accepted by the company. old_fashioned

Am I old fashioned ?

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