PLM and the gap between technologies and processes

PLM and the gap between technologies and processes


Almost a decade years ago, I’ve been using HTC phone running Windows mobile operational system. The same one you see on the picture above. It came to replace my old fashion Blackberry, but it is a different story…  HTC was a sophisticated phone with lot of features, camera, touch screen, stylus and sliding keyboard. Everything you can imagine in a single box. It was able to use 3G network, wifi and has apps. It was compliant to IT and security procedures of my employer. But, it had one little problem. From time to time, it was stuck when you’ve been trying to answer a call. Sigh… iPhone had not much to offer in terms of options. It had no keyboard and it was not very much compliant to organizational policies. But, I was able to answer calls. So, I moved despite many organizational problems with a single hope that IT “will figure this out”. Eventually many people moved and it changed IT priorities. Rest is the history…

For the last decade we gathered new personal digital experience. And it is starting to influence our business software environment. But it creates a conflict with business status quo. Businesses are build on top of existing data assets that must be protected, ERP and other information systems with huge historical investments (and often unclear ROI) and huge level of complexity that cost a fortune to maintain.

During my last year of PLM consulting, I’ve seen Windows XP, COBOL code used for manufacturing companies, green-character-based apps and once even Novell system. These companies are coming to embrace PLM implementations and very often facing significant implementation level complexity, expensive consulting service, long meetings and frustrated users. These users feel disconnected from the strategic goals of a company and the need to follow decisions build based RFQ processes, product demos, technology reviews and restaurant preference of a specific PLM vendor.

It made me think about a potential problem in PLM implementation chain. How to make users interested (and vote) for a specific PLM system, tech or product. Take a look on the following picture I created this morning.


There are two vectors – organizational resistance and technological influence and impact. Most of technological decisions are concentrated and managed by IT people. Data centers, clouds, operational systems, databases, networks, installations, system configurations and administration can be “sold” to IT and not as complicated as you might think about.

At the same time, culture, changes, habits, and business processes are very complicated and usually have lot of dependencies on people, organization and politics. PLM companies are trying to solve this complexity by applying top-down sales techniques working with CxOs, creating value proposition charts and user variety of enterprise sales methods. Although the trajectory of PLM acceptance have changed for the last decade, it is still recognized as a very complex sales process even for relatively small organization. It is complex from both sides – vendor and customer. So, how to change it and where is a potential gap?

I want to come back to my earlier example with HTC phone. It was an approved device and it was compliant to all business processes and technologies. Did it work? In general yes. But did it create a smooth and painless procedures? No… hell not. It was an opposite actually. I wasn’t able to answer calls and it was stuck in the process of answering. So, here is my parallel with PLM products and technologies. I can hear people telling me “PLM technologies are more or less ok, but the problem is on the side of organizational change”. I can see the point, but in my view day to day procedures have lot of problems. I believe to close the gap of procedures and improve experience can make a difference for people so they ask to make a change. It happened with iPhone and some other products. So, it might happen with PLM as well.

What is my conclusion? The focus on improvements of “procedures” can change an experience of people with PLM technologies. These are small, but very painful things. It is about how to go beyond of “technology is more or less ok” statement. By doing that, PLM vendors can earn the interest and trust from users – people that will use PLM product on a daily basis. But once done, it will eliminate the gap between PLM technologies and process improvement. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain.


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