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.
Considerations for Evaluating Product Lifecycle Management Solutions
Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with Oleg Shilovitsky of OpenBOM and Leon Lauritsen of Minerva. In this freeform discussion, Oleg and Leon spend a bit of time talking about the challenges of adopting Product Lifecycle Management for the mid-market.
Of course, some of their conclusions are perhaps obvious. Mid-market companies don’t have the same resources as a large enterprise. This includes cash, personnel, experience with technology projects, product lifecycle management concepts, and the like.
However, once we get past understanding the complexity of sharing information across an entire enterprise – including suppliers and partners – we can move on to practical considerations for evaluating product lifecycle management solutions. And it’s not just software. So, what can you do to advance your initiative?
Inspired by their discussion, I’ve expanded on some of their conclusions, in bold, below.
Seek Out Knowledge
1. Training Classes and Books: There are a multitude of training classes available. From CIMData for everything from Basics to Leadership, to IPX for specific knowledge on business processes including CMII based change Management, SharePLM for custom PLM training from high-level concepts to user-specific training once a solution is selected, and more.
Books on the subject include Product Lifecycle Management, two books by the same name. One by John Stark and another by Michael Grieves, both classic. There are more than 18 books written by Dr. Martin Eigner of Eigner Engineering Consult and the online PLM Book by Oleg Shilovitsky. Formalized training classes can be one starting point, but not the only starting point.
2. Free Educational Content: Think blogs, webcasts, and newsletters. A few of the most prolific bloggers with content that can keep you busy for years are Virtual Dutchman, plmPartner, and Beyond PLM. Each solution provider and implementation partner also have blogs. These resources are often a good start to understand the similarities and differences between company philosophies and technologies.
Now that you have spent some time on the foundation of PLM, gotten perhaps a little bit beyond the management of parts, bills of materials, change masters, and the like, what are your requirements? Starting with either a burning challenge or end goal is often the beginning of understanding your requirements.
Some examples of each I hear routinely:
- We have missed a deadline or shipped the wrong product and need better control over our internal documentation across all parts of the organization, including supplier collaboration and hand off to manufacturing.
- It currently takes 6+ months to establish a new product line with our current processes and systems. Creating a new SKU (and all that comes with it) is too time consuming and manual labor intensive. To increase our business and be first to market with new innovations, we must decrease this process without sacrificing quality.
A list of features and functions alone that you expect to enable your teams will not meet these objectives to their entirety. Product Lifecycle Management is a business strategy.
By the time you get to this phase, you are probably eating, sleeping, and breathing PLM. You now see all the ways in which your company is already “doing PLM”, and how improving the overall process will help everyone involved and improve the bottom line. You have seen a lot of great solutions and have an idea of which technology platforms you believe will help achieve your goals. Before you jump in the deep end headfirst, pause. Carve out a benchmark or proof of concept. Test your theories with a small piece of reality. If the opportunity fits, put two systems head to head.
Utilize your data. Make changes to a few standard objects to ensure the out of the box functionality and flexibility you require for your business to continue to evolve are both present. Define success. Is turning on the engine enough? How does making a change to the existing components affect time to scale and ability to adapt different processes, without help of a consultant, in the future? What other questions do you need answered?
Don’t rush. Frequently, companies come to me and want to solve a challenge right now. Yesterday is better. While Product Lifecycle Management has the ability to enable you to impact enterprise-wide improvement, a hasty definition of what should be solved and equally hasty decision on the solution to support those processes will not serve you in the long term.
On the flip side of that, don’t go into paralysis analysis either. Making progress only in demos and not in decisions can paralyze a company as equally as a rush decision. Bottlenecks, lack of visibility, and slow time to market rarely, if ever, resolve themselves without focused attention.
Think about the interconnectivity of product data. Turn on the engine. Experience your data in a benchmark or put your hands on a live system. And once you make a selection, keep putting the solution to the test. Rapidly implement a key objective, get it in the hands of the users, and make incremental improvements to maximize ROI. Use out-of-the-box as much as you can, but don’t be afraid to tweak the environment to match your competitive edge. After all, the solution should serve you, not the other way around.
What’s your advice?
Have a favorite blog, book, or webcast to share? Link it below.
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.