PLM is all about process management. This statement comes to the play when people explain the value of PLM in the organization. Usually, when you think about process management, your mind is switching to some kind of “workflow thinking” mode, which assumes you need to follow the process from state to state by accomplishing tasks and activities. In every PLM implementation, this is a moment of time, people ask – how do we manage engineering processes? What toolset we need to have to make it happen?
I can see, engineering people, are bad organized. In many situations to run processes among engineers is similar to herding cats. To manage process in an engineering organization is a challenge. This is a place where PLM vendors usually fails to provide a reliable and simple solution. Engineers are asking for additional flexibility and vendors have a tendencies to provide a complicated solutions. Many PLM tools are providing sort of Workflow designer to create a process model. Later on, you can discover that engineers tend to abandon these processes. Main reason – these processes are not reflecting the reality. I wanted to come with some ideas how to fix that. I came up with the three definitions – tasks, engagement and information context. Take a look on the picture below.
The overall engineering process is described as list of tasks (above). This is the simplest way to present what needs to be done. It easy to digest and follow up. At the same time, the activity around this task list is not linear. In order to accomplish the task, an engineer needs to engage with additional people. This a typical situation when a person who leads the process needs to communicate with other people and comes with the result. Often, it is ad-hoc communication that cannot be formalized resides in people’s mind. Another situation happens when an engineer needs to bring an additional set of information to accomplish the task or make a decision. To combine these activities together is not a simple thing. Workflow is a wrong tool to solve this problem. To support a simplified task management tools with the ability to manage external engagement and connect to information context can be a potential solution to the problem.
What is my conclusion? The simplification is a key word to summarize my thoughts. In many situations, engineers will prefer a simple task list to get things done. However, tools need to provide a collaborative capabilities to connect the engineer’s activity to other people and additional sources of information. Just my thoughts. I’m interesting to learn how you manage engineering tasks in your organizations.