PLM and A Single Point Of Disagreement

When you talk to a sales person from one of the PLM companies, you for sure will be exposed to a “Single Point of Truth” vision. On the surface, you can see it as a very powerful message. What can be wrong with having a single point of truth on all design, requirements, engineering bills, manufacturing plans, support materials and customer calls? Sound a great opportunity finally to organize all you have related to your product development. However, is it really true?

View of the World from 9th Avenue

There is a legendary New Yorker magazine cover by Saul Steinberg called “View of the World from 9th Avenue.”It comprises a “map” of the world from a “New Yorker’s” point of view. Looking west from 9th Avenue in Manhattan is the Hudson River. Beyond that is  a flat view of the rest of United States. Then you see the Pacific, Japan, China and Russia. If you think about manufacturing and product development, you can find a very similar picture, depends on who is the person you are talking to. My conclusion is there is NO single point of truth. Everybody sees the problem or product data differently.

Single Point Of Truth Process

So, what happens when PLM implementation comes to the company? In the nutshell, every PLM implementation is trying to create a single point of truth for the organization. It means to go all the way from a data mess to the agreement about how to manage product data in the organization. The most typical process is when a company is taking PLM vendor’s blueprint of a data management schema and starting to customize it. This is a main reason why the process of PLM implementation is long and painful. You need to have different people in the organization to agree about data management principles. This is a very painful process. People in company departments have different goals and priorities. This is similar to New Yorker’s view from 9th avenue. There are multiple PLM methodology to deal with this called “Role-based views”, but technologically they based on the assumption to have a single model of everything.

The New Goal: Single Point Of Disagreement?

One of the possible ways to start doing PLM differently is to stop applying this painful “agree on a single model” process. People need to have a way to work in the world where their views are different, but their views can be synchronized and integrated. This is a not trivial task. It seems to me as a more appropriated way to solve this problem in comparison to what we have today. What need to be done is to find what are differences between people view on data in the organization. It can help to create an integrated product development data landscape.

What is my conclusion? To create an integrated and balanced way to manage product development is not a simple task. PLM is missing this point and assumed the actually data model integration will be created during PLM implementation and will be driven by customers. I can see it as a mistake that makes an implementation process lengthy and implementation costly. To resolve this problem will help to bring a desired simplification into PLM world. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



Share This Post

  • Oleg,
    Yep, you’re right on. I ran into this when creating a ROI analytic application for a major bank. So this isn’t just a PLM issue, it’s an issue across Biz IT in total. The trick will be to create a business rule layer that’s consistent, but allows for view-point-specific exceptions. An example would be allocations: some departments want raw cost numbers, others want numbers corrected for fixed cost allocations. The trick will be to create a universal layer that allows a single point of creation and administration of business model rules. Of course that’s a boil-the-ocean problem for many companies. Likely this will be deployed pair-wise then expanded across the organization.
    Eric Rogge

  • “Once upon a time there was a certain raja who called to his servant and said, ‘Come, good fellow, go and gather together in one place all the men of Savatthi who were born blind… and show them an elephant.’ ‘Very good, sire,’ replied the servant, and he did as he was told. He said to the blind men assembled there, ‘Here is an elephant,’ and to one man he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant.

    “When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja went to each of them and said to each, ‘Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?’

    “Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, ‘Sire, an elephant is like a pot.’ And the men who had observed the ear replied, ‘An elephant is like a winnowing basket.’ Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.

    “Then they began to quarrel, shouting, ‘Yes it is!’ ‘No, it is not!’ ‘An elephant is not that!’ ‘Yes, it’s like that!’ and so on, till they came to blows over the matter.

    “Brethren, the raja was delighted with the scene.

    “Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing…. In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus.”

  • Eric, Thanks for your insight. I agree, the problem is not so specific for PLM. However, because of some characteristic of implementation the impact is significant for the industry. The universal layer is hard. If you run it as a fully customizable solution is too expensive. On the other side, attempts to create it unified for multiple customers is not obvious. One size doesn’t fit all. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • Evan, Thanks for this great association! So, your assumption is that engineers are blind ;)… You reminded me a famous joke about how CEO asked different people in a company about how to improve product quality? R&D said – need to move to newest technologies. Manufacturing said – need to improve the precision of assembly. Designers said- need to develop modern shapes and forms. Then CEO said – I want you to do all what you mentioned and, please, also cut 50% of cost. Problem with data in organizations is big and hard. And much more complicated than the elephant you mentioned. You need to measure relevant things and decide in multi-dimensional space. To have everybody to agree how to manage data is “a mission impossible”. Just my opinion… Best, Oleg

  • Yogesh Chhawasaria

    One of our implementation had these role based views. Where the Manufacturing saw the same data differently than the engineering and services department.

    But underneath it was the same data model which was customized for the different departments and linked and synced with the different systems.

    A good measure of PLM implementation still involves measuring how much of data duplication it prevents. Duplication of data i.e. Anti-“Single source of truth” is so NON-PLM. You might as well stick to keeping your data in neanderthal excel sheets

  • Brian

    The important point in the single point of truth discussion is that you capture real data, once. How you display it is a completely different issue. So fundamentatlly you should not, first, be trying to make everyone see the data the same way you should be getting everyone to tell you what data they need so that the system can make sure it is captured or at least that you know it won’t be able to meet a particular person’s needs.
    After you have the data being captured then you can worry about the Biz Rules layer or role based views.
    I’ll agree that even this single point of truth could be difficult to achieve but it is much easier than forcing unnecessary agreement on process across all departments.
    First Data – This is the truth.
    Then Process – The captures the truth and puts controls on changing it.
    Then Interpretation of Data – Your own personal view of the truth.
    Cheers, Brian

  • This was a fun blog to read. I liked the elephant story and it reminded me that we are all blind to the things we never experience directly in life we are all products of our experiences. That’s what makes PLM such a difficult leadership journey. The leader must be able to relate to each of the blind people’s experiences and be able to get each to see the elephant for the whole that is the reality. That’s why it is so difficult to make PLM successful and also why PLM is so prone to failure. I agree that technology exists to see the data from different perspectives and I also agree that layers can be put in place and rules to present the data as required for different job roles but the most difficult task is alignment of the blind to see the whole corporate elephant.

    Good comments and thanks for this topic, its a good reminder of the responsibilities of a good PLM leader in the company.

  • Yogesh, Thank you for your comments! I think, what we explained is a common way to implement it. However, I’d expect the process of a single (what you called as a same) data model with customization for all departments wasn’t simple. The data duplication measure is less important. What is important even more, in my view, is to measure is how people are getting an access to the data and not how many duplications it is going to eliminate. It is not so important how you duplicate (or not) data. What is important how to get a value from data for end users? Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • Brian, Thanks very much for this comment! Agree 100% – data comes first. When you can get data, you have a power to organize processes and rules. Best, Oleg

  • Dave, Thanks for commenting. The elephant story is interesting. It made me think, that truth has many faces and this is especially important for the organization. In the end, all people have their own goals. System need to help them to execute goals (multiple truth) and, on the other side, to align these goals with the overall organization goals. What you mentioned as PLM’s prone to failure is basically a try to get everybody agree on different goals and goals representation. This “how to make it” discussion is making PLM technology and implementation very sensitive to the way it is going to be implemented for every manufacturing and engineering organization in the world. It requires a very high sophistication of people implementing it and this is also a reason why it has such high %% of a failure. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • Pingback: PLM Think Tank – Top 5 Posts, June 2010()

  • Pingback: PLM Think Tank – Top 5 Posts, June 2010 « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: Chrysler, PLM Platforms and Business Realities()

  • Pingback: Chrysler, PLM Platforms and Business Realities « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: Why Executives Are Skeptical of PLM - Aras Corporate Blog - Aras PLM Community()

  • Pingback: PLM Network Effect and Single Point of Truths()

  • Pingback: PLM SharePoint Thoughts « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: PLM Network Effect and Single Point of Truths « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • In the process industries, this is very accurate depiction of most process PLM implementations. While it is critical to protect your intellectual property and ensure the efficacy of your products, this is very inward focused approach. As supply chains and operations evolve from “internally or push oriented” to “customer focused and pull orientation”, so to should your PLM orientation. While larger companies have large economies of scale and huge marketing budgets, SMB or smaller product lines need to delight their customers. For food ingredients, flavors, color matching, inks, anyone serving private label or food service, etc,, they live and die by converting customer requests to orders. Too often sale processes are disconnected from PLM. R&D’s ability to delight their customers will be reduced and their competitiveness will be lost. If you goal for PLM is just “one single source of the truth”, you should start with a bigger and customer oriented vision, let live with a meaningful set of process and evolve your processes into customer oriented business processes.

  • Rory, I agree. Implementation can evolve with processes in the organization. These days I can see more companies are interested to how sync or integrate processes across the multiple organization divisions/departments. Just my thoughts… Oleg

  • Pingback: PLM and “The Whole Truth” Problem « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: PLM and Multi-Tier Strategies « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()