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During my summer holidays, I read some fantastic books to relax the brain. Confessions from Jaume Cabré was an impressive novel, and I finished Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens.

However, to get my PLM-twisted brain back on track, I also decided to read the book “The Death of Expertise” from Tom Nichols, with the thought-provoking subtitle” “The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.”

I wanted to read it and understand if and how this would apply for PLM.

Tom Nichols is an American, so you understand he has many examples to support his statement from his own experience, like the anti-vaccination “experts”,  the climate change “hoax” and an “expert” tweeting president in his country who knows everything. Besides these obvious examples, Tom explains in a structured way how due to more general education and the internet, the distance between an expert and a average person has disappeared and facts and opinions seem to be interchangeable. I talked about this phenomena during the Product Innovation conference in Munich 2016: The PLM identity crisis.

Further down the book, Tom becomes a little grumpy and starts to complain about the Internet, Google and even about Wikipedia. These information resources provide so often fake or skin-deep information, which is not scientifically proven by experts. It reminded me of a conference that I attended in the early nineties of the previous century.  An engineering society had organized this conference to discuss the issue that finite element analysis became more and more available to laymen. The affordable simulation software would be used by non-trained engineers, and they would make the wrong decisions. Constructions would fall down, machines would fail. Looking back now, we can see the liberation of finite element analysis leads to more usage of simulation technology providing better products and when really needed experts are still involved.

I have the same opinion for internet, Google, and Wikipedia. They rapidly provide information. Still, you need to do fact checking and look at multiple sources, even if you found the answer that you liked already. Usually, when I do my “research” using the internet, I try to find different sources with different opinions and if possible also from various countries. What you will discover is that, when using the internet, there is often detailed information, but not in the headlines of these pages. To get down to the details, we will need experts for certain cases, but we cannot turn the clock back to the previous century.

What about PLM Expertise?

In the case of PLM, it is hard to find real expertise. Although PLM is recognized as a business strategy / a domain / an infrastructure , PLM has so many faces depending on the industry and its application. It will be hard to find an expert who understands it all and I assume headhunters can confirm this. A search for “PLM Consultant” on LinkedIn gives me almost 4000 hits, and when searching for “PLM Expert,” this number is reduced to less than 200. With only one source of information (LinkedIn), these figures do not really give an in-depth result (as expected !)

However, what is a PLM expert? Recently I wrote a post sharing the observation that a lot of PLM product – or IT-focused discussions miss the point of education (see PLM for Small and Medium Enterprises – It is not the software). In this post, I referred to an initiative from John Stark striving for the recognition of a PLM professional. You can read John’s follow up on this activity here: How strong is the support for Professional PLM?  Would a PLM Professional bring expertise?

I believe when a company understands the need for PLM, they have to build this knowledge internally. Building knowledge is a challenge for small and medium enterprises. It is a long-term investment contributing to the viability of the company. Support from a PLM professional can help. However, like the job of a teacher, it is about the skill-set (subjects, experience) and the motivational power of such a person. A certificate won’t help to select a qualified person.

Conclusion

We still need PLM expertise, and it takes time to build it. Expertise is something different as an (internet) opinion. When gaining PLM expertise, use the internet and other resources wisely. Do not go for the headlines of an internet page. Go deeper than the marketing pages from PLM related companies (vendors/implementers). Take time and hire experts to help you, not to release you from your responsibility to collect the expertise.

 

Note: If you want to meet PLM Experts and get a vendor-independent taste of PLM, join me at PDT Europe 2017 on 18-19 October in Gothenburg.  The theme of the conference: Continuous transformation of PLM to support the Lifecycle Model-Based Enterprise.  The conference is preceded on 17th October by CIMdata’s PLM Roadmap Europe 2017. Looking forward to meet you there !

 

 

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