Another crazy year is (almost) in the books.
As I write this, there are 37 hours left in 2021.
In 2021, the pandemic dominated our lives, as people adapted to remote working and social distancing amidst the disruption and uncertainty that COVID continues to bring.
It’s safe to say that 2021 is one of the biggest years of change we’ve ever had at Share PLM.
In this blog post, I’d like to share with you the ups and downs we experienced in 2021.
The challenge: when education went digital overnight
When Bea and I started Share PLM almost four years ago, we had a vision that online learning would one day play a significant role for companies undergoing digital transformations. But we didn’t foresee a future in which eLearning would play a central role.
For the past few years, eLearning has been our sweet spot, our little blue ocean.
We were “insiders” in the PLM niche. Our eLearning courses were fresh and different. Our customers loved them. We managed to carve out our own niche market, and our customer base grew every day.
But then came the pandemic – almost overnight, education went digital!
Companies were forced to learn online.
The new norm became eLearning and most teams had to quickly learn how to produce their own eLearning materials and courses. Traditional PLM implementation and consulting companies also introduced eLearning solutions into their offerings.
It felt a bit like our little advantage was vanishing.
So, the first half of 2021 was a period of reflection.
Focus on the right customers
During the first two years at Share PLM, our strategy was to work with many different customers on short-term projects. The theory was that using a productized process to deliver our eLearning materials would allow us to expand and grow our customer base.
Although we did manage to expand our customer base and work with many companies, this approach requires a powerhouse sales workforce and doesn’t provide enough value for the customer.
PLM is complex. It takes time to grasp specific company processes, system architectures, and data models.
For us at Share PLM, small, short projects meant less focus on the customer. The “small and short’’ approach also required a huge focus on sales. To keep things going, we had to sell short projects all the time.
This year, we took a different tack by working with fewer customers and widening our scope.
I absolutely feel this is the right approach.
The change a PLM system brings into an organization is huge and requires a strategic partnership with the right customers.
Who are the right customers?
For me, the right (ideal) customers are long-term partners who value your work. They respect you and make you feel like you’re a part of their team and business strategy.
Finally, good customers pay reliably and on time. This is very important for small companies like Share PLM.
Focusing on the right customers allowed us to take a step back, think, and listen carefully.
Back on Track: 3 Key Questions
Discussions with our customers showed us that the answers we were looking for were staring right back at us.
These 3 key questions helped us find and calibrate our inner compass:
#1 - How can I prepare my people for the big change that PLM is bringing to my organization?
Managing the change that new, complex systems typically bring to an organization is becoming critical for many modern businesses in the current digital transformation landscape.
By itself, a Ferrari-like PLM system won’t create faster results or boost productivity.
The cultural shift required to embed new ways of working demands a clear change strategy and, most importantly, a deep understanding of people’s needs.
-> There’s a growing interest in change enablement for PLM technologies.
#2 - How can I map my company processes and the way we work to the new system?
Each company has different products, processes, and system architectures.
There’s no plug-and-play PLM system. No PLM system will work with your organization’s processes and data in an out of the box fashion. To reap the benefits of PLM, companies have to map their processes and way of working to the new system.
-> To make sense of complexity, companies need an end-to-end approach that connects the big picture to their system.
#3 - How can I scale support and bring people on board?
Users want to find answers on their own, quickly and reliably.
The system documentation provided by software vendors is often useless, as most people can only make sense of information when it’s presented in the context of their unique processes, integrations, and data.
-> Companies are heavily investing in self-service knowledge bases with content around recurring topics, issues, and themes.
These kinds of messages kept coming up throughout the year. Our customers all had similar comments and feedback and shared similar ideas as well as suggestions.
And Then Came Cristina, Our New Partner at Share PLM
I got to know Bea at university and, since then, we’ve spent a lot of time studying and working together.
We complement each other. I’m more of a big-picture strategy person, while she has the tactical skills needed to get things done.
It’s a lot of fun to work with her because we know each other so well. We have different views of the world, but that never seems to matter.
However, this year’s pandemic challenges often had us spinning in circles.
The Latin root of the word “decision” means “to cut off”. When you make a decision, you’re cutting yourself off from some other course of action.
Our frequent indecision and paralysis-by-analysis was a wake-up call. If we wanted to unlock decisions and “cut off” all the other options, we needed a third partner.
That’s where Cristina came in.
Cristina was part of our team at the former Outotec (nowadays Metso Outotec). Today she brings a fresh third perspective to Share PLM that helps us to make bold decisions and move things forward.
A Framework to Enable the Change that PLM Introduces to An Organization
The market is demanding that PLM technologies adopt a holistic approach to enabling change and I feel we’re in a good position to meet this demand with our change-management framework.
This framework uses many of the tools we’ve been working with, such as eLearning, training materials, and knowledge bases.
The key difference compared to what we’ve been doing up until now is that our new approach deals with change enablement from start to finish.
I strongly believe this approach is more powerful. We’ve been testing it with many of our customers, and I’ll be sharing more about it with you in 2022!
Content Marketing: 2021's Big Win
From Turkey to Canada, people from all over the world connect with us on a daily basis through our online content.
When I started Share PLM four years ago, I asked my guide, Jos Voskuil, for advice. He recommended that I start a blog.
At first, I didn’t understand how a blog could help us sell. Today, our blog content is our most important sales weapon.
People read our content and follow us. When they need help, they get in touch.
They know who we are, what we do, and how we can help.
I feel humbled that, thanks to the internet, companies large and small (like Share PLM) are equally empowered to share their views with people all over the world.
Not so long ago, only certain people and organizations – ones with huge advertising budgets – could broadcast information or opinions. Nowadays, everyone can share their views and connect to key people in great organizations without having 30 years of experience or being a marketing expert.
Isn’t it amazing?
2022: The Way Forward
The PLM market is booming and we’re excited to be a part of it.
In 2022, it will be difficult for companies to find qualified resources to support their PLM journeys. Our team at Share PLM also shares this challenge.
The hiring process is painful, and talent is scarce. Because PLM is a complex topic with many moving parts, it takes time to build the knowledge required to serve customers reliably. We know this first-hand because we’ve done it several times.
Next year, we plan to grow our team, though we already know that finding talent will be an on-going challenge.
But we won’t let this hold us back.
To scale our team and help people build knowledge as PLM professionals, we’ve partnered with John Stark to build an online course about how to become a PLM consultant.
The course will include a set of practical tools and assignments based on our work. It’ll mix theory and practical case studies to allow students to put theory into practice.
Thanks to the Amazing Team at Share PLM
Take care of your people and they’ll take care of business.
Steve Jobs once said, “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
I can’t help but get emotional when I talk about Share PLM’s team of A+ players. I’m especially proud of their courage to take ownership and make decisions.
Thank You for Joining Us This Year!
Thank You for Joining Us This Year!
We’ve enjoyed hearing from everyone who has written to us by email, in blog comments, or LinkedIn messages.
The consecutive pandemic year of 2021 included several big transitions for us at Share PLM, but it didn’t change why we love the work we do.
We’re honoured that you’re a part of our Share PLM community and we look forward to the wonderful things 2022 has in store for us all. Happy New Year!