What to learn from Ericsson PLM failure?

What to learn from Ericsson PLM failure?

Verdi Ogewell, the Editor-in-Chief of VerkstadsForum PLM Magazine and ENGINEERING.com’s European correspondent publish his next PLM failure bombshells – Telecom Giant Ericsson Halts Its PLM Project with Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE. If you’re like me often reading Verdi’s publication, you’re not surprised. You can easily find other news similar to this one. Here is a short list:

Volkswagen’s Epic Challenge to synchronize PLM for its Truck Brands

Is Jaguar Land Rover About to Stumble on the Final iPLM Stretch?

A Big Win as Yamaha “Does a Daimler” and Chooses Siemens PLM

PLM at Jaguar Land Rover – The Moment of Truth for Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

The world of “big PLM” is full of dramas. A novice reader not familiar with the PLM industry can think it is a big deal. It is actually a big deal for people involved in this project. But for the PLM industry, it is not a surprise. Here are a few comments, I captured from an open LinkedIn discussion:

Kevin Prendeville, Principal – Product Strategy & Lifecycle Management at Deloitte – Great learnings from this – it’s not the vision nor the SW – its how to transform the processes, people and data to get there.

Tim McLellan, Director, Systems Design – Entrepreneur, Engineer, Author, & Strategic PLM Leader – Not really a surprise. People, process, technology. People 1st with a strong commitment and a, truly, shared long term vision at all levels of the organization are a must!

The failure rate of PLM projects is high. Aras Corp white paper is suggesting a number of reasons why PLM projects fail. Read more here – PLM Frustrations – Why Do Many PLM Projects Fail? Aras suggests the biggest reasons for PLM project failures is lack of flexibility, limited customization, and the fact projects are stuck with no upgrade path.

Engineering.com article hits that complexity of customization and legacy data migration was one of the reasons project was derailed from their original goals.

In general, it can be stated that the toughest problems associated with such a system swap are about migrating legacy data; information that already is in existing systems. This is a delicate and difficult task that partly concerns the quality of existing data and partly requires extensive translation and consulting efforts in connection with the migration of the legacy data.

“Every time we have tested the migrated data, all use cases failed,” says my source within Ericsson. “Not once has it been possible to migrate old data. This, the CIO [had] been fully aware of when he repeatedly confirmed that ’the timetable holds, we will deliver …’ This is an extremely important piece [of the project] and taking care of [data] history has always been high on the agenda.”

Legacy PLM Data Challenge

There is a real challenge behind legacy data acquired by existing systems. I can see business system such as PLM in production for 10-15 years produced huge amount of data. To clean it and to transfer to a new system can be life threatening experience, which was confirmed by a “death toll” of Ericsson/3DS implementation. While flexibility is a key, I’m not sure pushing existing data in a new platform is a good step, because functionality might not match.

PLM Flexibility vs Changing People

This is one of the biggest challenges of PLM implementation is to introduce a company to a business transformation path by changing the way the company works. So, changing people can be a more efficient way than over customize PLM?  I captured an interesting comment in the LinkedIn discussion.

A common route when replacing legacy systems is to attempt to re-program the old system in the new platform. None of the PDM/PLM systems I have witnessed are optimal platforms for such an approach. Either the programming environment is not conducive to enhancement or you risk making upgrades virtually impossible. Best keep to “OOTB” – or as my previous CIO repeatedly reminded us “change the people, not the system”. Easy said, but sometimes, politically, not so easy to carry out …

Changing people can have consequences, but might be more efficient step rather trying to reprogram new PLM with old features. I’m sure not everyone will agree with such a statement. I have a mixed feeling as well.

What is my conclusion? There is no simple conclusion today. Flexibility vs Out of the box products – which one do you prefer? Over-customize a new PLM to follow old processes? To use a new system as an opportunity to clean existing processes? To move 25,000 people from one database to another is not a simple job. It is time to think about no upgrade PLM systems. While a cloud environment is not an option for mega-size OEMs like Ericsson, there is an opportunity for OEM IT together with the PLM vendor to run a migration path. The last one is a very expensive step. But… without this step, the current database oriented single-version of truth PLM paradigm is doomed. It can save few mega-size PLMs, but it will do nothing to help 90% of manufacturing companies to success with their PLM projects. There is a need for a new Beyond PLM paradigm. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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