One of the areas that is always in the focus of people related to Product Lifecycle Management is how to manage changes in the organization. It sounds obvious – product lifecycle is all about changes. So, it seems to me, change management need to be a sweet spot of PLM. In my view, companies are very often struggling with the implementation of change management practices. I will try to figure what are the elements of the change management and what are potential bottlenecks.
When you speak with people about change management, this change process normally comes first. The reason is simple. Changes cannot be done by a single person. It requires multiple person communication. In most of the situations, it requires to communicate across organizational divisions. The bottom line – it is not easy to communicate between people, and it requires good collaboration and communication skills. Software used by an engineering department is not always used by other departments. From the PLM product standpoint, process is a diagram. Simple? I’m not sure it is simple. The most complicated part of this diagram is to draw one in the real organization. I think this process is hard and requires lots of communications with people in the organization.
The topic of data is underestimated, in my view. You need to have an efficient access to all data related to a change. Models, Drawings, Requirements, Manufacturing, Customers, etc. This is not always possible and this information is rarely located only inside of the PLM system. This is a time when the value of PLM solution becomes lower in customer’s eyes. From the PLM product standpoint, data managed by PLM system can be efficiently used for change process needs. I see it as a chicken-egg problem.
Change implementation is another important piece of change management. When a change is approved, the next step is to implement all required modifications in multiple systems – Bill of Materials, Models, Drawings, Manufacturing instructions, etc .. What is very valuable for this stage is to provide a tool to control the overall implementation process. Because of distributed character of operation and many people involved it is always complicated to provide a complete picture of implementation status and control of it. From the PLM product standpoint, everything can be controlled until it management by PLM system. However, this is not always a reality in the organization.
What is my conclusion today? Management of changes is a complex topic. There are multiple dimensions of complexity – process in the organization, people involved and referenced data. To get them together is not a simple task and hardly can be managed by a single system. To have multiple systems coordinated between them, involving people under the stress of the overall product development and manufacturing process makes is even more complicated. If I’m back to my first question about PLM system, I think, a PLM system can provide a significant help in managing changes. The most important characteristic of this system will be an ability to organized process and giving an access to relevant product and organizational data.
Just my thoughts…