PLM implementations and organizational change

PLM implementations and organizational change


The thing you can often hear about PLM implementations – it is about change. PLM will change the way you do business and manage product development processes. This topic is widely discussed by PLM industry insiders, advisers and customers. Jos Voskuil ( put a nice article about complexity of PLM and change management – PLM and blockers, which took me into John Dyer’s article – What Motivates Blockers to Resist Change? Here is my favorite passage about the change and PLM:

The combination of business change and the existence of blockers are one of the biggest risks for companies to go through a business transformation. By the way, this is not only related to PLM, it is related to any required change in business.

According to another article written by Jos, the core of the problem is even bigger. It is actually our brain. Read the following article – Our brain blocks PLM acceptance. Jos brings an example of Nokia and their failure to manage the change:

Nokia was famous for they ways they were able to transform their business in the past. How come they did not see the smartphone and touch screens upcoming ? Apparently based on several articles presented recently, it was Nokia´s internal culture and superior feeling that they were dominating the market, that made it impossible to switch. The technology was known, the concepts were there, however the (middle) management was full of blockers.

In such case you can think about “culture of blockers” in a company. The situation is actually much worst that you can think. Few days ago, my attention was caught by GrabCAD article written by Joe Barkai – Culture eats strategy AND technology for breakfast. Joe paraphrases famous quote – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. The origin of the quote actually appears to be Ford Motor Company’s CEO Mark Fields who mistakenly attributed it to Peter Drucker. I like the following passage speaking about acceptance of collaboration tools by engineers:

Obviously, engineers need to see the value in collaboration. They need to agree that spending extra time creating and sharing information, and then applying it downstream, for example, in manufacturing and service operation, is worthwhile. They also need to see value in reusing known concepts, existing designs and available inventory parts. Sadly, many such collaboration and reuse opportunities go fallow. We see design teams ignoring manufacturability constraints and serviceability considerations. We see engineers designing new parts rather than using an existing design, or, better yet, modify a design to allow the use of a part already in inventory or available from an approved supplier.

So, change is really hard for engineers and companies. In my yesterday blog about how to rethink PLM, I put a suggestion to take PLM sales and implementations away from corporate process alignment. There are no perfect companies (although some of my friends from manufacturing companies may disagree). Every company is messy in their own way. We should disconnect PLM implementations from solving corporate politics and internal conflicts. Easy to say, but hard to implement. In my view, focus on providing useful tools that company can leverage fast can be helpful. It can change the way people are implementing PLM.

PLM today is strongly associated with change. The value proposition of PLM was built on company transformation and improvement. What if we can twist it and separate PLM tools and change processes. By doing that, PLM software vendors will supply platforms and tools that can be used by companies. These tools will be smart enough to provide an agile product development environment that can be used by companies. Companies (actually people in companies) will have to work on how to manage changes by themselves and improve product development processes. It is non-stop work. Companies need to perform it in order to improve their processes. Like agile development process. It never stops. You just go between sprints. The positive outcome is to improve the adoption of PLM tools. The negative scenario – it will take PLM tools back into the era of expensive data management toolkits. To prevent that, PLM software vendors will have to innovate by making their products more flexible, smarter and adaptable to data and processes. This is an opportunity for technological competition. Which PLM tool company will like more to manage their agile PLM process development?

What is my conclusion? Change is hard. We should re-think the way we implement PLM and exclude process alignment from PLM implementation. Stop changing people and stop forcing people to take complicated decisions during PLM sales process. Future PLM products will become a foundation for agile change management that will be done by companies. Engineering IT departments will have to change their focus and bring people that can manage change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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