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Why Product Lifecycle Management is Often so hard

Recently, I virtually sat down with Peter Bilello, President & CEO of CIMdata. Peter has more than 26 years of experience in business-enabling IT solutions for research, engineering, and manufacturing organizations worldwide. Many call that Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM, but Peter transcends acronyms.

In this freeform discussion, we spend some time talking about Peter’s recent position paper on Why PLM is Often so Hard.

Inspired by our conversation, I’ve expanded on some of our conclusions, in bold, below.


So, why is it often so hard?


1. Made for engineers

Product Data Management (PDM) and PLM solutions were originally made for engineers by engineers. Historically, PDM users also came from engineering, as the original intent was to manage revisions of CAD and related engineering generated data as products and engineering teams gained complexity. But as PLM systems spread to the entire organization with touchpoints in engineering, manufacturing, aftermarket services and other departments, the user base became more diverse.

While having systems made for engineers by engineers is great, many users in lifecycle management are not engineers, often with widely different backgrounds. So, they often find these systems harder to understand and harder to adopt.


2. Often overengineered

Engineers are typically driven to create perfect solutions, designed and optimized for engineering processes. But in many cases, this results in overengineered and complex solutions, even for engineering processes.


As PLM systems impact an organization in a more holistic way than PDM systems, complex and overengineered solutions not only harm the adoption rate by engineers, but also harms the adoption rate amongst non-engineers.

Many organizations miss the big picture and fail to optimize for the entire end-to-end lifecycle perspective. Not being able to see things from a lifecycle perspective but only from an engineering perspective, is suboptimizing and results in a suboptimized solution.


3. Continuing to force old processes on new tech

Unfortunately, many organizations replace old technology with new, expecting this action alone to improve processes and efficiency. Instead of changing current processes, the technology is being shaped to fit the old process. The need to think in a more innovative way is not readily encouraged when implementing new systems.

So how do you think in a new way? PLM is all about people, processes, and technology, no one leg stands along. To ensure higher user adoption rate and overall successful implementation of any new technology, put people first. Each user group has different needs, including the potential for stringent or more flexible business rules behind the process.

The more the system can alleviate things like routine decision making, enable enterprise data, and connect the company with one vision of the products – the better. For example, eons ago, workflows, routings, and decision trees were hardcoded and complex attempting to cover every possible scenario while leaving it up to the user to determine which process is best suited in the system. This left many companies finding products pushed through at the path of least SYSTEM resistance. Today; flexible systems enable logic to alleviate these systems based resistances and opens up a more dynamic way of enabling processes. Considering how new technology affects your people and empowers them - matters.

As lifecycle management is about the end-to-end perspective for the product that is being designed, produced, and brought to market, organizations should consider optimization across the entire value chain. This means not only considering changing processes or technology but also organizational structures as well.


What’s your advice?

What do you do to make PLM less hard?

Want to share a story with the community? I’d love to interview you in an episode of Minerva PLM TV to help you get your story out.

Looking to bounce your ideas around with fellow PLM community enthusiasts? Reach out. Most are open to at least a discussion, myself included.    


About the author

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore has more than 15 years of experience in Business Transformation across different industries. Her extensive experience includes helping companies navigate complex regulatory requirements through software solutions. She has been developing and deploying large, multi-faceted enterprise software project, driving revenues as well as market adoption.

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