PLM and Product Innovation

Few weeks ago, I promised to blog about PLM and Innovation. It started by the following post – “PLM vs. ERP: Don’t manage innovation“. Thank you all for great discussion since then! Now, this is a time for me to summarize and share my thoughts.

My short conclusion about Product Lifecycle Management in the context of innovation is as following. PLM is one of the ultimate systems that can enable innovation in the organization. However, I don’t see how PLM can literally manage innovation. I think about innovation as a process in the organization. The core idea behind this process is how to manage risks related to overall innovation activities. I’ll explain this using something I call “Goose Innovation Strategy”.

Goose Innovation Strategy or How To Convert Innovation to Math? Let think about innovation as a controlled multi-dimensional activity. Our interest is to get a particular outcome, which in case of product development can be considered as next product, versions or the next product features and/or improvements. Nevertheless, developing of something new is a very risky task. What we need to do when we want to  reduce a risk? We want to distribute risk into separate activities. If we develop a single golden egg, it can crack. However, if we will be investing into Goose that laying down golden eggs, our situation can be much  better. You are able to predict results. So, think about hedge fund. Distribute risks, allow to multiple people to product multiple ideas related to the product. In this case, your future might be much more secured. Some of your golden eggs will crack, nevertheless, statistically you should be ok. The bottom line – don’t invest into golden eggs, since they can crack. You better invest into Goose in your organization that laid golden eggs. Your innovation process is how to deliver a decent percent of those eggs. And this is pure math.

PLM Role in Goose Innovation Strategy
So, how PLM can help you to apply Goose Innovation Strategy? I figured out top three factors or components of that. They are belongs to Product Lifecycle Management and needs to be supported for efficient product innovation.

1- Product Data

In my view, you need data to innovate. Period. In context of PLM, this just to say – make your product data available. If you have access to the product data (people like to call it “a single point of truth”), you’ll be able to use it as one source of innovative ideas. It is always good to have a reliable source of information about how a product designed, manufactured and built – this is an endless source of innovation.

2- Product Ideas.

Product Ideas are everywhere. In your organization,  ideas are in the heads of people that bring these ideas. No ideas – no innovation. Remember ideas, capture them, analyze them. Therefore, the next effort needs to be focused on how to capture and access all ideas available in the organization. In my view, all “social” initiatives in PLM should be focused on this too.

3- Product People

People are the source of ideas. You need to have “product people” to think about how to innovate. In order to do so, they need to exchange ideas, communicate, talk, etc. 10 years ago, the only way to do so was a separate room in the building. These days multiple communication and collaboration facilities can help you. Ideas can come to you at any time. You need to keep your “recording device” and “communication device” open. PLM can keep live links between individuals in the organization and stream of product innovative ideas.

What is my conclusion today? Innovation is a controlled activity and need to be organized and managed in the organization. I don’t see PLM as a primary responsible. However, I do see PLM as one of the enablers for such innovation activity by supporting relations between product data, people and ideas.

Best, Oleg

PS. I’d like to recommend few related books. They are essential, in my view, if you want to dive into innovation.



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