Why PLM sales are stuck in organizational politics?

Why PLM sales are stuck in organizational politics?


Last week I blogged about PLM selection politics. People are hard and political games in an organization are unavoidable.Existing PLM architecture demand significant preparation work to be done upfront – data modeling, process discovery and agreement, data mapping, legacy data cleaning and importing, etc. This is a big project and it usually stuck within Engineering IT and PLM organization.

Engineering.com article Political Realities of PLM Implementation Projects offers an interesting perspective on a problem of politics in an organization around IT projects. It speaks about decision processes, influence, budgets and craziness of enterprise IT project decision making.

“It’s all wrapped around politics,” the executive told us.   In some potentially big accounts, “the internal champions, the people who experience the pain and develop the proposals, tell us they are always getting squelched at budget time.  They’ll work on a project for a year and a half only to be told, ‘Sorry, no.’” Some engineers and IT staffers tell us, “project justifications and planning ‘are almost like busy work.’”

Another way of saying this is: The earliest stages of the implementation go smoothly until someone “downstream” from the group leading the project asks, “Show me how this will work.”  Or someone in finance says, “Prove it.” That’s when the political problems emerge. Unfortunately, it’s usually safer and better for one’s career to cut costs a little further than to try to hit the rare innovation home run.

Although politics was mentioned by CIMdata and Engineering.com article as one of the most important elements why projects are slipping of schedules and priorities, I think the problem is a bit different. The article reminded me that one of the big competitive factors – status quo. Many times, the decision taken by large organization IT is… to postpone the decision and wait. The wrong decision can be life time damage for PLM champion and to keep status quo can be a safe bet.

So, how PLM sales can fight a status quo. Tons of articles are written about competition and status quo. When customers don’t purchase products or services, vendors assume that they’ve lost the sale to their competition.  But a significant number of sales fall because the customer doesn’t find enough value to make a change. Most sales training programs aren’t effective because salespeople are being taught how to beat out the competition, not how to convince a prospect to make a change. “Salespeople are being trained to view the competition as the enemy, but they should do opposite – convince customer to make a change.

Here are my 3 points recommendation to PLM sales people how to fight politics and status quo in PLM sales situations:

1. Create sense of urgency. Manufacturing companies might be crazy about their product development, but engineering IT is working slow. The assumption that everything that can be done now, also can be done next year without taking too much risks. So, a prospect needs to know the dangers of not making a change. Explain the dangers, problems and challenges of the status quo to create a sense of urgency that encourages customer to look a safe alternative to status quo. When urgency comes, the dynamics of political game can change. Nobody wants to be responsible for NOT taking decision in such situation.

2. Side by side comparison. Bring a single slide to a company explaining their life before and after PLM implementation. It might be hard, but without such contrast, your chances to sell are very low. This is extremely hard for PLM implementations because remember – traditional PLM is struggle for differentiation.

3. Present concrete implementation plan and not a big vision. Although vision is good, PLM vendors oversold their vision and over-promises the deliveries. To sell a vision for 5 years cannot do anything good to you. Focus on 6 months horizon and think how deliver something that can work. Not a POC (proof of concept). Unless customer is 100% loyal to your brand, focus on how to get foot at the door and implement something that can be used in production and bring value. In the era of agile cloud services, this is the best approach to earn customer trust.

What is my conclusion? The real reason why PLM implementation are stuck with politics is an absence of visible value and differentiation. When 3 main PLM vendors show you things that looks the same and smells the same, the only way to decide what vendor to choose is to play politics. 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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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