How to disconnect P(olitics) from PLM and Lifecycle Management

How to disconnect P(olitics) from PLM and Lifecycle Management

Innovation is usually one of the top goals on the way PLM projects are sold to manufacturing and industrial companies.CIMdata introduced the term Product Innovation Platform  a few years back, in partnership with Gartner and IDC. It was an answer on the challenges of complex product development and complexity of existing PLM development and implementation. The initial Innovation platform definition – an innovation-enabling business platform that would support all product related disciplines and users through the entire product lifecycle.

A key element in this definition is “entire product lifecycle” connecting design, manufacturing, sales, maintenance, support and sales. As much as it sounds like a perfect place to innovate and to deliver value, it is also a place with the highest potential level of danger.

Recent HBR article – The Biggest Obstacles to Innovation in Large Companies brings politics on the top of the list together with cultural differences and inability to act on signals. What does it mean?

Politics, turf wars, and a lack of alignment (cited by 55% of respondents.) “Any time you start something new like [an innovation initiative], that cuts across many areas, there’s a potential for people feeling like you’re in their backyard,” says Michael Britt, a senior vice president who heads the Energy Innovation Center at Southern Company, a major utility operator. That’s especially true, he adds, when the core business is successful and doing well.

Senior leaders may not be able to squash every political squabble, but they can be clear about what the innovation or new ventures group is expected to do, and how others are expected to support it.

The culture at large companies is typically built on a foundation of operational excellence and predictable growth. Change-makers trying to conduct experiments are rarely greeted with open arms — especially when they’re working on an idea that may cannibalize stable businesses or upend today’s distribution model.

And big companies, like elephants, have long memories. Many long-timers can remember — and will happily detail in meetings — all of the “historical attempts [at innovation] that didn’t pan out – and it may just not have been the right time,” says Stacey Butler, director of innovation at NRG Energy.

So, what PLM people can do about it? The awareness is already important thing. Remember, by transforming company you are taking people out of their comfort zone and regular habits. It is a challenge by itself. Bringing new system just increases a potentially for political conflicts. Here are few things you can get done while preparing for PLM sales event.

1- Create organizational map and understand levels and zones of sensitivity. Ideally to talk to people to validate your hypothesis. This is going to be invaluable experience.

2- Create a system of KPIs that can help to show benefits of PLM initiative and can eliminate potential arguments about effectiveness and impact of PLM on business transformation.

3- To get information about broader company initiatives and campaigns PLM can potentially leverage and benefits. It will allow to find a “free ride” towards the same goals.

What is my conclusion? Politics and culture eats strategy for breakfast, technology for lunch and stays hungry for the dinner. Embarking on PLM project is a big step. To convince potential customers to go with PLM implementation is hard, but by making necessarily preparation you can neutralize politics and organizational conflicts. 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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