PLM Transformation: Easy, No; Costly, Yes.

For the last weeks, I have chance to speak with few of my colleagues about PLM implementations and technologies in different contexts. The main point of these conversations was about how to make PLM implementation easy. Few interesting blog posts related to this topic – “A PLM Success Story with ROI” by Jos Voskuil and “Why is implementing PLM Hard” by Jim Brown. Few days ago I wrote about how to move PLM to mainstream. However, my take in this post was mostly about technologies, Jim and some of my other blogging colleagues raised valid question – PLM is about people and organizational transformation and therefore, it cannot be easy. This is about change! Change is hard… So, my thoughts today are about to analyze what PLM transformation mean from both sides – technological and organizational.

Here is my short conclusion about main factors that make PLM transformation to be a very not trivial task in organization.

New operational environment for many people in organization

In most of the cases introduction of PLM systems bring new environment to users. New data and process tools, viewing software etc. PLM environment normally combined from few connected pieces – Product, Process and Organization related. Because of complex dependencies existing between these pieces, resulting environment is not easy. So what we have in organization – confused customers and increased training budgets. A key conclusion – PLM needs to look for Trojan horse that will help them to come easy for organization.

Complexity of Infrastructure and Implementation

PLM naturally positioned in the middle of everything in organization. Allowing to connect requirement and design, design and manufacturing, supply chains, PLM position as a system that needs to have quite heavy integration portion with other systems. We know, integration work in enterprise is complicated, painful and very expensive if you start touching main enterprise systems such as CRM, ERP, SCM and some others. So, in many cases PLM stacks in the middle of these integrations and requires significant effort and resources to move it forward to completion. What is possible to improve in this integration journey? My recommendation is to make your integration project part of other projects that bring value. Even if you 100% sure you need to integrate two systems to work together, never start this task alone. You will be going to an endless process of integration. Instead of this approach, make integration to achieve a specific task and show result values. Integration technologies are very painful, don’t try to re-invent a wheel. You will not change “the integration kingdom”. So keep your budgets here.

Changes in Processes

This is another painful point. When we start PLM journey we are always saying – we are going to change how people work, improve it, optimize it. This initial value proposition sounds great and can be appreciated by many stakeholders. However, as soon as people start this process of change they face so many organizational problems and obstacle that they either going for the next 1-2-year  discussion, about how they need to work in organization or try to implement processes that have relatively low maturity. Result is obvious – drain of resources and people dissatisfaction. Meantime you spent your PLM $$$ and what is mostly important credit to make PLM implementation successful. My recommendation here – keep focus and boundary.

Content Transformation

This is last, but not least. In many cases PLM system comes in place where different legacy systems or just handmade processes worked. As a result organization faced huge requirement to transform a lot of organizational content – metadata, document, process information etc. to a new system. This legacy data imports are also not simple. People worried when their data moved, they not always can find it. Also, organization has a tendency to get rid of what they don’t need at the same time. My conclusion, be prepared to import legacy content and handle it initially in your system.

So, what is my conclusion? PLM is a not easy task. If you don’t plan it properly, you can stack many times on your way to transform company to the future way to develop and support a product. As soon as you will get there you will enjoy benefits, but transformation will be not easy and costly. You will ask me – what to do? My short answer – plan it before, have a good team of people committed to making it happen and go!

PS. I tried not to talk about technologies in this post. Technologies can be helpful, but sometimes you need to see beyond magic PLM technologies. So I did and I hope you’ll do so. I’m open to discussions and feedbacks.

Best, Oleg


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