Thanks, 2021!

Share PLM Madrid meetup

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. 

eLearning for PLM

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.

End2End process mapping

-> 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.

knowledge base

-> 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.

Change enablement framework for PLM

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. 

PLM Consulting course

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. 

Practical PLM Course

Our first cohort is starting on April 25. 

We’ll be officially sharing more information about the course at the end of January.

Interested in the course? Let’s talk! 

Interested in contributing as a mentor? Let’s talk too!

Thanks to the Amazing Team at Share PLM

Share PLM team

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.

Share PLM remote team

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!

7 Easy Tips Nobody Told You about PLM Adoption

Share PLM adoption strategy

You’ve done it! Your company has finally taken the plunge and installed a new PLM system. The hard part is over, right? Wrong. The adoption stage of your new PLM system is crucial and, all too often, overlooked. 

Foreseeing the challenges your organization may face is a surefire way to mitigate these common PLM adoption struggles. Before we delve into our industry-verified tips, let’s take a look at where the classic PLM adoption pitfalls lie.

Contextualizing data processes and mapping, developing plans that cover the extent of a system’s complexities across various departments, and ensuring people are informed and feel involved in these system changes are the areas that incur the most difficulties for companies installing new PLM systems today. In short, the lack of a well thought out adoption strategy that covers these problem areas is what sets companies back. 

A company-wide PLM change implementation is more akin to a marathon, not a sprint. Showing up on race day with the most expensive gear on the market may make you feel like you have a competitive advantage, but showing up that day with ample training, knowledge of the course, and a flexible attitude to let that expensive gear do its work is a whole lot better. 

The following tips are the keys to making sure that, one year from now, your new PLM system will feel like an integral part of your organization and not a perfect stranger.

7 Easy Tips Nobody Told You about PLM Adoption

#1 - #2 - Start with the “who”, and the “why”.

PLM adoption motivation

This is not new, however, in practice, we find that many PLM leaders falsely assume that the “why” is clear to the broader organization. Consequently they fail to spend enough time communicating the rationale behind their change efforts.

People long to belong, and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. 

Focus on people

Take the time to understand who is part of the transformation and what’s in it for them.

Because believing in the “why” behind a change can inspire people to change their behavior. 

So before you hit the ground running, you need to spend enough time thinking about who is going to be a part of the transformation and what’s in it for them.

#3 - Take the time to understand the context.

Cultural context matters

Take time to investigate how your change initiatives went in the past. Understanding the established business culture and historical response to change is very important to plan your strategy and the things you are going to do to approach the change initiative.

These first three tips give us the framework to craft the change imperative that will fuel your PLM initiative. We are going to mobilize your organization with a powerful change story. As humans we are wired for stories. We are going to manufacture a change narrative to inspire the workforce and create a shared sense of purpose.

My tip here is to think of the people involved and even give them names. List their pains, their fears, and their concerns, and build them into the storyline. The best change stories answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” They provide people with an understanding of how their work relates to the organization’s overall vision.

#4 - Focus on quick wins.

Concentrate on the quick wins

OK now, once you have your foundations in place, your “north star”, you are going to find quick wins. These are projects where you can show progress quickly and help people feel the movement right away.

This is very important because PLM is like a big elephant – don’t try to eat all of it at once when you first start out.

We want to select projects with well-defined outputs. Many definitions will surely be missing, but we want to focus on the end result and work on the definitions along the way. How do you define an item, and what are the attributes you use to classify them?

#5 - Embrace an end-to-end approach to change.

Share PLM adoption approach

When you approach your change initiative with an end-to-end process mindset, you look at the tools, data, and handoffs that support your PLM processes.

Select an information flow and figure out how things are changing and how they should work from end-to-end.

The end-to-end mindset is powerful because you help people grasp the big picture while providing tangible outputs and results.

#6 - Start small and scale up.

Step by step

I recommend starting small, with pilot projects, and see if things work. Pilot projects are going to help you build the solution and the process. You’ll develop ownership along the way because with a “pilot”, people are going to feel like a part of the process, and they’ll become champions of change. If things go well, you’ll also be able to create real case studies, which are going to help you tremendously to move things forward in the rest of the organization.

And once you’re set up, you’ll be ready to scale up. You’ll have a blueprint to continue the deployment and to go bigger, step by step.

Testing ideas, learning from failures, and scaling up successes quickly is an approach that limits damage, provides valuable lessons, and builds an appetite for change.

#7. Invest in your people.

A worthy investment

The lack of investment in people is something I see a lot. Do we have budget restrictions? We cut training. Do we need money for a new system? We cut support. If you are serious about PLM, you have to invest in your people. And that means making sure you spend time, money, and energy on enabling change and upskilling people.

In practice build a community, invest in support, and be close to the end user.

It’s time to work smarter, not harder. Investing in an extensive PLM adoption strategy, that highlights the people behind the scenes, is the smart choice.

Conclusion

Share PLM guidance

Adapting to a new PLM system will never be painless, but establishing a clear PLM adoption strategy can help make the transition less of an uphill battle. Adoption enablement is an ever evolving process that requires constantly having to reassess and realign priorities. But please don’t let the daunting nature of PLM adoption deter you! Instead, take these tips into consideration and you’ll see how prioritizing adoption enablement was the best decision you ever made.

Our Share PLM team has already helped dozens of companies manage change by implementing tailored PLM adoption strategies. If you’re looking for more tips to improve your implementation plan, schedule a quick call with us to see how we can help!

Introducing Cristina Jimenez, Share PLM’s Newest Partner

Share PLM Madrid meetup

I’m excited to welcome our new partner, Cristina Jimenez, to Share PLM

Cristina was Beatriz’s and my former coworker and part of our “PLM dream team” at the former Outotec (now Metso Outotec), where she led the plant’s PLM solution development. 

I first met Cristina in Frankfurt, Germany, seven years ago. Beatriz sold her on the idea of moving to Frankfurt for an internship on my team, and she joined us as an implementation manager.

Share PLM team photo

Since we started Share PLM 4 years ago, we’ve tried many times to get Cristina on board. 

Although Cristina has entrepreneurial blood – her mum owns a hair salon, and her dad used to own a small construction company – she wasn’t prepared to leave her full-time job yet. 

She knows first hand that running a small business is like a rollercoaster ride: it’s scary and hard, but also a lot of fun! At long last,  we’ve finally persuaded Cristina to jump on our rollercoaster. We’re delighted to have you on our team, Cristina!

Helena Bea Cristina Jimenez

Meet Cristina Jimenez! 5 Fun Facts about Share PLM’s Newest Partner

#1 - She has a great vibe.

Cristina is one of those people that infects you with her positive energy, at work or anytime you’re around her.

She used to organize and run our user community events. She has a gift for creating energy.

#2 - She’s from Spain, although she now lives in France.

Cristina was born and raised in Mallorca, a small city in the Balearic Islands known for its beautiful coastline, limestone mountains, wineries, and stunning architecture.

Four years ago, she moved to Paris to work for Dassault Systèmes. She still lives in Paris and can cook an amazing quiche Lorraine. She speaks fluent French.

Share PLM Helena Bea Cristina

#3 - She’s a bit of a nerd.

Cristina is also a hardcore PLM person. She worked at Dassault Systèmes for the past four years as a system architect and oversaw the development of the plant solution for the former Outotec when she was on my team. 

She studied aeronautical engineering at the same university that Beatriz and I studied at, as well. 

And she’s into jazz music and board games. 

#4 - She’s a working mum.

Her son, Luca, was born only 2 days after my son Elias. There’s a great opportunity for working mums to stay relevant in today’s digital economy, and at Share PLM we’ve created a team and flexible schedule that helps moms balance work and family.

#5 - She designed Share PLM’s logo.

Five years ago, we had the idea of launching a blog to share our experiences, tips, and templates with like-minded PLM people.

Cristina went on to design our logo, but she left for Dassault Systèmes four years ago when I started Share PLM. 

So what’s next for Share PLM with Cristina on board?

Cristina complements Beatriz’s and my personalities very well. I am a product and strategy person. Beatriz is very practical and grounded – she can really make things work. 

Cristina brings in the commercial side that Bea and myself sometimes lack.

But perhaps the most important contribution that Cristina will offer the team is perspective. 

Beatriz and I have found ourselves falling into a loop in the past year – overthinking certain things and not being as decisive in our decision making. While some planning and strategy is very beneficial, too much can do more harm than good.

With Cristina, we hope to share the burden of decision making and move forward with energy and confidence! I trust that the tight bond that we have with one another will be a recipe for growth and success!

Getting to the Roots of PLM Resistance

Roots of PLM

Sarah had just taken on the role of Director of Product Lifecycle Management at Nexa. She was bright, a bit shy – and man, was she passionate about PLM!

Sarah had worked as an implementation manager for the last three years, helping Nexa roll out their new PLM system

During this time, she had gained deep architecture and system knowledge. She could draw Nexa’s data model in less than 5 minutes and was the go-to person whenever anyone had a question about systems, processes, or integrations.

PLM roi

Sarah was excited by the thought of what Product Lifecycle Management could do for the people in her organization. 

So was her team. They’d seen how their pilot products’ time to market decreased by 50% after Product Lifecycle Management was implemented. 

But as the story developed, things weren’t as straightforward as they were supposed to be.

Most people started to hate the PLM system. They couldn’t figure out how to use it properly and they started to experience serious PLM problems

Some users kept asking for new functionalities. They wanted the new system to work the same way as the old one. 

Her team quickly got overwhelmed with support and development requests. 

Users felt disengaged, or worse, hostile towards her PLM system.

PLM user problems

Sarah was particularly concerned that she was losing buy-in from management.

The business didn’t understand where the PLM budget was going: “Do you really need so many licenses?”

Her big boss kept asking her for the return on investment (ROI). He thought PLM was just a system: “So why can’t you make it work?”

Getting to the Roots of PLM Resistance

Even though Sarah’s story is fictitious, this type of experience is common in many of the companies we work with.

Some months ago, I came across a brilliant, simple, but powerful organizational change management framework. Rick Maurer, an organizational change-management expert who works with big digital transformation projects, invented it. 

According to Maurer, there are three core reasons why this resistance happens:

people resist change and PLM

#1 - “I don’t get it.”

PLM can often get a little abstract.

Is it a paradigm? A lifecycle mindset? Wasn’t it supposed to be just a new system to manage our data? 

If people don’t understand why the change is needed and don’t see what’s in it for them, they just “won’t get it”. 

#2 - “I don’t like it.”

User experience is not a strength of PLM systems. Boring user interfaces and confusing screens with thousands of buttons are day-to-day realities in the PLM world. 

Wouldn’t it be great if your PLM system could be as intuitive and drop-dead simple as LinkedIn or Google?

We’ve been spoiled by consumer-centric applications. 

Product data is spread across multiple systems (PDM, ERP, CRM, MRO, etc.). These systems often aren’t well connected. They are complex and typically don’t offer a great user experience.

As a result, people fear using these systems and they just don’t like them.

#3 - “I don’t like you.”

Maybe they do like you, but they don’t trust or have confidence in your leadership.

Perhaps it’s not you, but rather the people you represent. The moment they hear that you’re from headquarters and are coming to help, they get sceptical and enter resistance mode.

If people don’t trust you, they will resist you. They will complain and hinder your ability to get things done.

Each of these three levels of resistance plays off the others, one influencing the other.

I love Maurer’s framework because I feel it works well for PLM projects where people resist change.

How to Turn Resistance to PLM into Support

Since you made it this far in the blog post, I assume you might be wondering how to overcome the problems presented above. 

Here are some tips on addressing resistance to PLM in your organization:

getting to the roots of PLM resistance

LEVEL 1: “I don’t get it.” - Explain the Big Picture

One thing sets successful PLM implementations apart from those that don’t achieve the desired results: people believe a change is needed.

Creating a compelling case for change is the first step to helping people “get it”. To do that, formulate your “why” in a crisp and clear vision statement to guide your PLM transformation. 

Although this might seem obvious, most companies rolling out PLM initiatives don’t have a simple, powerful vision. 

To test whether you’ve done a good job with your vision, ask 10 random people in your organization:

  • What is PLM? 
  • Why do we need it?

If the answers you get are all different, you either don’t have a vision or haven’t done a good job at communicating it.

LEVEL 2: “I don’t like it.” - Improve the User Experience

Although this might seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Identifying and improving your top 10 use cases will solve many of your “I don’t like it” issues.

Take your random and disconnected system manuals and distill them into the essence of what really matters to your end-users. Focus on the 20% of the functionality used by 80% of the people.

LEVEL 3: “I don’t like you.” - Listen and Communicate a Lot More

My recommendation here is to start listening to people’s concerns and take them seriously. 

Find out if people are complaining for a good reason. 

The mere act of listening will bring you closer to your people and establish trust. 

Communicating more will help you make your PLM initiative more appreciated and more welcome. To make communication happen, put together a communication plan. Following a plan will help you develop your communication muscle and make it a habit.

An expensive PLM system won’t help you overcome resistance to PLM.

Often, companies rolling out PLM initiatives don’t think enough about the human side of change when they deploy PLM.

They think about systems, integrations, and data. But they don’t plan the change and how it will affect their people.

Soon, they realize that their people don’t get it.

Their people don’t like it.

And then their people don’t like them.

A Ferrari PLM system won’t get you faster results.

Product Lifecycle Management is all about people.

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.

The 12 Best PLM Blogs To Follow

People frequently ask me how I learned PLM

I often answer that to truly understand PLM, you must get your hands dirty and work in real PLM projects, whether that is as a consultant or in corporate.

While knowledge from “the field” is invaluable, the truth is that by reading PLM blogs and books, you can learn the foundations of PLM and stay on top of industry trends, terminology, advancements in the industry, etc.

Why should you follow and read PLM blogs as a PLM professional?

PLM blogs are especially useful. 

There is no shortage of PLM literature, but blogs are insightful and practical. 

Most blog authors I follow share a lot of experience from the field. And their insights are incredibly useful when it comes to learning PLM, where often it’s not easy to bring high-level concepts down to earth.

Even when PLM blogs aren’t going into details of how to do something on a granular level, they discuss complex topics such as concepts and trends that are relevant to stay up to date as a PLM professional.

Today, I’m going to share 12 blogs and articles that have made a big impact on me. 

Some of these are what one might consider “classics” of the PLM literature.  Others are hidden gems, niche authors that share great content but don’t promote it big, so if you don’t already know them, you might never come across their wisdom.

You may have read some of these, but I hope that this post inspires you with even one blog that you haven’t picked up yet. I hope you’ll bookmark them like I have so that you can stay on top of what’s going on in the PLM world.

OpenBOM’s co-founder Oleg Shilovitsky writes more blog posts — on Beyond PLM and all over the web — than just about anyone I know, and there’s always something to learn.

My favourite posts that he writes share his views on the evolution of Product Lifecycle Management and offer a visionary look at what’s going on and what we can expect from vendors and future trends.

There’s no fluff here at all, and if you want to keep up to date in the PLM arena, I can’t recommend this blog enough!

Recommended post: PLM System Architecture Evolution For Dummies

When Jos Voskuil shares advice, I listen. 

This blog holds a special place for me, too, because I learned the basics of PLM with Jos’ articles. 

I still remember carrying a folder full of printed articles from Jos’ blog with me for my first assignments as a PLM consultant. Jos’ blog, for me, is a bit like a PLM manual with lots of in-depth core PLM content. 

I always tell Jos that he should gather all his articles and write a book, but he’s a strong believer in sharing free information to the public and is proud of being one of the pioneer PLM bloggers out there.

Recommended post: ECR ECO for Dummies

Michael Finocchiaro is a hardcore PLM system architect, with a vast track record ranging from global system architect at Dassault Systems and Windchill. His in-depth system guides are both sophisticated and actionable. I share it as a must-read with anyone who has asked me for PLM advice.

He has a “Demystifying XX” series for all major systems, and I find these guides incredibly useful to get an introduction of the system’s and vendor’s history, and understand the basics of what’s going on under the hood.

Recommended post: Demystifying 3D Experience

Bjørn Arvid Fidjeland is behind PLM Partner’s blog, the go-to place for plant and facility information management. 

Some years ago, as I was still working in corporate, I hired Bjørn to help me plan our PLM program after reading some of his insightful blog posts. 

His content and advise is gold and I revisit it every now and then as a guide for our projects at Share PLM.

Recommended post: Plant Information Management: Information Structures

Lionel Grealau is the lead consultant at X-Lifecycle, and his posts are some of the most sophisticated, in-depth looks at the things that are most important in PLM. 

I still remember listening to Lionel around 10 years ago in a conference talking about system engineering and having an “Aha!” moment while connecting the theory I’d learned at university with a real-life case.

Recommended post: The place of PLM in the digital future

Jan Bosch’s blog isn’t solely a PLM blog, but he covers many of the moving parts for effective Product Lifecycle Management.

My friend Jos Voskuil recommended that I follow Jan’s blog some years ago, and I’m still getting a lot of value from his content.

Jan talks all things digitalization – from strategy, to concepts and tools. I recommend you follow him on LinkedIn too, where he shares his content and interacts with readers every week.

Recommended post: Why Your Data Is Useless

Yoann Maingon from Ganister PLM is behind the “PLM Stack” blog. Yoann is the co-founder and CEO of Ganister PLM, an innovative graph-based PLM solution application that is going strong at the PLM software arena. 

He is an old hand at PLM and he shares in-depth reflections from the field in his blog and those gems make it more than worth it.

Recommended post: ECO Objections And Remarks

Last year, I was lucky enough to work on my first project in the fashion and apparel industry. It was then when I discovered Which PLM’s blog. 

They have a very complete library of articles with unbiased, impartial insights on the fashion apparel marketplace. 

Recommended post: ERP and PLM: Do they work together and do we really need both?

This is blog one of those must-haves for a list like this.

Engineering.com is a great place to stay current with industry news and learn from other companies’ PLM deployment experiences. They feature real-life PLM implementation stories, and you can find many tips in their community forums.

Recommended post: Top 10 questions to Ask PLM Vendors

Scott Pigman is behind The PLM Dojo, a blog that revolves around Siemens Teamcenter.

Scott covers the tactics of configuring and customizing Teamcenter, and his content goes from the Teamcenter architecture down to the nuts-and-bolts code.

Recommended Post: Aligning PDM and PLM with Part and Design Business Objects

Martijn Dullaart is behind MDUX.net, a blog focusing on configuration management. Martijn has a strong PLM background and talks about many topics at the intersection of Product Lifecycle and Configuration Management – such as FFF, part and assembly revisions, and interchangeability. 

Recommended post: It’s about interchangeability & traceability

Christoph Golinski shares his insights on one of the few German-speaking blogs focused on vendor-agnostic Product Lifecycle Management. 

Although this PLM blog is new for me, I find Christoph’s content very insightful – from straight forward interviews with experts to blogs where he shares his perspective – it’s a must-stop shop for all the German speaking PLM professionals out there.

If you don’t speak German, you can also use Google to translate the content and get a lot of value out of it as well.

Recommended post: Das PLM Leben ist nicht ohne Risiko

So that, in a nutshell, is my round up of the best PLM blogs. 

What PLM blogs do you read? Why do you like them? Leave us some suggestions in the comments below!

Products 2019 Review: The Combination of Business and PLM

Products 2019 Book Review

Computer and warm coffee at hand, it was the end of the year 2020 and I was at home when a LinkedIn message hit my inbox. It was from John Stark. If you are a PLM or product-related expert, you definitely know him.

His new book was out: Products 2019. “Could you please read it, Bea, and see if we can collaborate?”

After reading his previous books, I knew that besides being full of wisdom, they are very theoretical.  

I needed to book a time to sit down at my desk to concentrate on reading. 

What stress! Helena, my business partner and friend, was on maternity leave. We were in lockdown where I live, the business was weak, all the daycares were closed, my family lives far away in Spain so we have no other help available…

I did want to read the book, it’s just life always gets in the way. So I opened it and read some one day, a little more the next day…until something more urgent came up.

Sometimes a book shows up, but for some reason, you stop reading it before you give it a fair chance. That was the case for me.

Time passed and the arranged call with John took place.

“Sorry John, I haven’t read the book yet. We are redesigning our product portfolio and planning for the year.”

Honestly, I felt very bad because I admire John so much and I wasn’t able to save a few minutes a day to read the book. The idea was to make an online course from the book. So, I had to read it. Yes or yes.

“Sorry John, we are very busy during this start of the year, please would you mind if we postpone our project till March?”

Of course, he is a very good guy and he understood our situation and the next meeting was scheduled.

Guess what? One week before the meeting and I hadn’t started reading the book. (Please, let me know that I am not the only one that does these kinds of horrible things!)

The meeting was on Wednesday and on Monday I started the book again, reading fast so that I could finish it. What a surprise!

Products 2019 completely absorbed me and I couldn’t put it down!

The main character is Jane, a British woman that wants to do her MBA final thesis in a German company.

Her task is to understand how the different company departments collaborate in product development. I identified with Jane a lot and really related to the story. Of course, not because of my British accent. 

I started my PLM career in Germany. I live in Germany, I have a lot of PLM German colleagues, and of course, friends who I consider my German family. It’s one of the reasons why we remain here in the north.

In the book, Jane’s first task is to interview different department managers on how their responsibilities are related to the company’s products. She meets several managers and visits the manufacturing and maintenance areas.

This brought back so many memories for me of my visits to German companies. Back in those days, face-to-face meetings were still possible. Our PLM colleagues would walk us across the departments and manufacturing plants and would enthusiastically explain what their companies’ products consisted of.

John and his book have made me realize the importance of our role as PLM consultants, internal or external. 

The companies need our help to understand the whole picture of their products and facilitate the product data flow, the collaboration, and the communication between departments.

I want to congratulate all the PLM people that try every working day to understand the product’s end-to-end process a bit better and provide their respective companies with a view of the real practices that otherwise will be hidden, generating conflicts between colleagues and teams.

I would highly recommend John’s book because he reflects on the most common departmental issues in a storytelling manner and provides a thinking guide on how to structure and simplify the product’s end-to-end process.

My only critique would be that maybe the book gets a bit repetitive – Jane has breakfast every day in the same hotel and eats German food in the same canteen. Indeed, this repetition reflects what a business trip normally looks like: you do the same thing every work day and you look forward to the weekend to do some sightseeing. But despite that, I cannot deny what a source of wisdom that this book is.

I found that Products 2019 gives a very useful holistic overview of the relationship between a company and product relationship for any PLM newcomer.

Thanks, John, for your generosity and your mission of sharing and teaching PLM.

We will keep you up to date on our future collaboration. We’re looking forward to seeing it live.

PD: I would like to give a special thanks to Daniel Michaels, Alexander, Ulrich Frank, Michael Missalla, Mathias Gabriel, Roger Becker, and Astrid Asquino for taking the time to explain how their products work.

The PLM Dilemma: Which Comes First, the Processes or the System?

PLM Chicken and Egg Dilemma

Do processes lead system implementation, or do new systems lead process development? That’s the PLM dilemma, just like the classic chicken-and-egg paradox: “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?”

Here are a few examples to get a better understanding of this:

  • If you don’t have your product development process documented, you won’t be able to implement it in your PLM system. And if your system doesn’t support your product development process, users won’t use the system to define their products digitally.
  • If you don’t have an enterprise standard format for your bill of materials report, you won’t be able to implement it in your systems. If your PLM system doesn’t enable you to extract a company-compliant bill of materials report, users will be reluctant to use it to manage their BOMs.
  • If you don’t have a common library of attributes for your product modules, you won’t be able to implement a classification system in your PLM systems without bothering someone. If your module attributes aren’t available in the system, users won’t be able to search, and integrations will be a mess.

In Product Lifecycle Management implementations, this is a common challenge. 

Should you first define your processes and then implement them in your system? Or should you start with some temporary definitions in the system to push the process definitions?

It’s easy to get too philosophical at this point.

The new PLM system is just the start.

Technology is just the tip of the iceberg. The new PLM system to manage your products is going to change a lot of things.

It’s going to change how people work. 

It’s going to change the way you define your products. 

And it’s going to change how people collaborate. 

The new PLM system is not just a fancy tool for managing data. If it’s implemented properly, the new PLM system will drive your business transformation.

PLM systems drive business transformation.

Introducing a new Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system involves changing how your business is organized and operates.

Are your people ready to change the way they work? Do you have the skills required? Is your current development process capable of managing the digital definition of your products? 

The truth is that a new system will force you to define processes. 

It will force your teams to talk to each other. 

It will force you to define standards, decide if your bill of materials report is horizontal or vertical, or if drawing titles should be capitalized or not in your title blocks in CAD.

A PLM system will force you to expose your data and your way of working.

PLM Dilemma Processes vs PLM system

Navigating the “System-Needs-Processes” PLM Dilemma

Let’s be honest.

If your processes aren’t written down, you don’t have processes. 

If your service teams are retyping item data into your ERP system, you are duplicating product data and your enterprise collaboration engine is not working.

If you haven’t agreed on the format of your reports, you don’t have a company-wide standard.

A PLM system will only expose the problems you already have.

When they embark on a Product Lifecycle Management transformation, many companies need to take a step back to ask whether they’re doing the right things.

Some companies manage to navigate this “chicken-and-egg” dilemma by using the “system wave” to define and modernize their processes.

Others get stuck in the discussions and the definition, and the expected results fail to materialize. 

5 Tips to Overcome the "System-Needs-Processes" (Chicken-and-Egg) Dilemma

#1 – Look for executive support.

You’ll soon encounter “definition challenges” when implementing your PLM system. 

You’ll probably need a budget, resources, and decision-making power to move things forward, so you should look for executive support early.

Prepare a concise, credible, and compelling presentation highlighting the challenges.

Executives are busy, so you need to get to the point quickly. You want to give them a clear and concise description of what’s happening and a proposal to move forward. 

This often means answering the following questions in a short, visual slide deck:

  • What is the current situation? Service teams are recreating product data in the ERP systems. The product-to-service process is not defined, and service teams need to manually gather product data from drawings in AutoCAD.
  • What is the cost of the current situation? 2 FTEs are continuously entering duplicated data into the ERP.
  • What are you proposing? Define the data-service needs for the product and establish an official product-to-service process handover.
  • What will it get us? We will improve data quality and save 2 FTEs and avoid human typing errors.
  • What will it take? We need 4 workshops with the product; service teams to agree on the process and deliverables; a steering group to sign the new process; a consultant to help us moderate the discussions and implement the changes; and a pilot project to test the process. This will cost us $XX amount of money.
PLM Presentation questions for the board

#2 – Define clear roles and responsibilities across units, regions, and product lines.

Being clear on who can “sign” decisions is gold.

Defining roles and responsibilities is very important to move change forward. If you do this soon enough, you’ll be able to define processes, standard documents, and deliverables on the go with a team of people who are entitled to decide and can sign off on changes.

Establishing strong governance and executive sponsorship at the onset of the initiative is key for success and smooth decision making.

To make it work, select only one responsible person for each process or standard. I’ve seen companies that have three product development process owners, two product compliance reporting heads, or two solution owners for document management. That doesn’t work. They will pass the ball and the decision won’t be made. 

If you want decisions to happen, choose only one name.

#3 – Start small and demonstrate success early.

As you implement your PLM system, you’ll find many processes and standards that need to be defined or updated. 

Before you take the giant leap and try to fix everything at once, prepare an Effort-Impact diagram to help you figure out where to start. 

PLM effort vs impact graph

The Effort-Impact diagram is a simple representation that helps you clarify your priorities. Draw a grid with four quadrants based on the overlap between effort and impact. Impact runs along the vertical y-axis. The higher up, the more impact. Effort runs along the bottom x-axis. The further to the right along this axis, the harder it is.

Choose a process or definition that’s low-effort, high-impact on your matrix. Something you can define easily and that will yield quick results.

Reports and standards are often easy to start with. By agreeing on a companywide format for your reports, you will enable interoperability between locations, show a cohesive company brand, and make the work easier for your enterprise systems. 

Defining the whole process at once is a huge uphill climb, and it just won’t work. Starting small and slowly getting traction is a great way to keep going and build the confidence to go bigger. 

#4 – Have an official place to publish official processes and standards.

Publishing processes and standards to a signboard helps make things official. Some companies have an operating model handbook or a process library where processes and standards are stored and published. 

If you don’t have an official place to publish your processes, consider building a process library. It doesn’t need to be something fancy – a SharePoint site or a CMS will do the job and make your processes official.

Overcoming the System-Needs-Processes PLM Dilemma list

#5 – Done is better than perfect — keep things going!

This last one is personal advice: if you want to move forward, you need to keep things going.  

I’ve seen many companies become paralyzed because they’re missing key definitions and don’t want to implement a “not-quite-perfect” concept in their PLM system. 

People get so worked up about what others may say that they can’t even start the work.

But done is better than perfect.

Sometimes, coming up with a definition with a small group of people and pushing it into the system will foster discussion and move things forward.

However, this is no excuse to quickly turn in sloppy work or keep things secretly handled by your IT department. You should still discuss with the relevant teams and get decisions signed off officially. 

In my experience, “done” gets results. 

You can always fix or improve definitions later on. 

PLM weaves together processes and systems.

The tricky thing about PLM is just that it’s not just a stand-alone system to manage data. PLM is a common thread that weaves together many enterprise components.

A PLM system is a powerful business transformation tool to get your processes and definitions rolling. Use the system as an “excuse” to improve operational processes and to rethink how the business runs.

The Number One Reason PLM Is NOT Working in Your Organization

productization is key in PLM

Last week I spoke with a potential customer who read my article, “13 Common PLM Implementation Problems And How to Avoid Them”, and reached out for help.

“We’re having all of the problems you listed in your article, Helena,” our potential customer began. “Can you please help us get it right?”

I agreed to assess how we could help his company and after he gave me some background and explained what they were selling, I asked him, “What are your products?”

“We’re a customer-oriented company,” he said. “Our products are tailor-made for our clients. We work on projects; we don’t have products as such.” 

“Why don’t you have products?” I asked.

“Our clients always have special requests, and so we can’t productize our offering.” 

Sound familiar?

I thought it might.

The problem with selling projects, not products

I know far too many businesses that depend on always-different products and project-to-project revenue to keep the lights on.

Their process changes every time there’s a new project, and the people involved in the process are the brain of the operation. 

As they provide highly customized solutions, they need an experienced team who can function with a high level of uncertainty from day to day and week to week. 

Building and maintaining this type of team is costly and resource heavy, which makes it very difficult to maintain healthy margins. This leads to big challenges when it comes to scaling.

But the most pressing problem with tailor-made products is that it is very difficult to capitalize on the lifecycle value. Forget revenue-adding services at scale – your product isn’t standard, and your services can’t be standard, either.

If your organization is dependent just on projects, you need to define your product first.

define your products productization PLM

Defining your product first

Productization means packaging your solutions in a cohesive and standardized offering of well-defined products and related services.

A productized offering reduces the “chaos” that often happens when “every project is different” and your solutions are always customized for a wide variety of clients and needs. 

PLM can surely help you gain efficiency and manage information smartly if you still focus on projects. 

But remember the “P” in PLM? PLM is all about products.

The number one reason why Product Lifecycle Management is not working for your organization is that you keep “reinventing the wheel” in every project and always-different products.

Productization is key.

Here’s the deal.. If you want a healthy, scalable, and sustainable business, don’t sell projects anymore. Sell products.

Sell Products, Not Projects: 5 Reasons Why You Should Productize

#1 – Products are easier to sell, deliver, and support.

The more standard and repeatable your products are, the easier it will be for your team to sell, deliver, and support them.

As a project-oriented organization, you probably have a lot of salespeople who love to tailor your solutions to the customer. They’re always selling something different to make the customer feel special and close deals.

Here’s the good news. You can still offer configurable add-ons or options for your products. Your products will be made of standard modules, and your sales team will still be able to put together an offer that makes the customer “feel special”.

By focusing on products and a standard way of delivering them and serving clients, your business can scale and grow easily while your products, at their core, remain the same for all clients.

#2 – Products keep quality and reliability high.

Every “special project” adds potential for a problem to slip through the cracks.

Product quality is an important competitive issue. Quality products help you improve your customer retention, build brand trust, and boost your product’s lifetime value.

When your organization delivers products in the same way every time, you can keep quality and reliability high.

why productization is crucial with plm

#3 – Products are cheaper.

Tailor-made products that are always different can increase the cost to deliver your solutions, and probably result in a higher price for the customer. 

The more variations there are in your offering, the harder it is to work with standard specifications and standard processes.

A common benefit of  productization is built-in efficiency at a great price.

#4 – Products make your organization more efficient.

Tailor-made products often involve reinventing the wheel for every project. 

I know of many organizations that depend on a few key “heads” who know how to “adapt” the product every time. These people are often close to retirement, and their knowledge is either in their heads or locked in a master spreadsheet that only they can operate.

A productized offering also relies on people. But with productization of your offering, your sales process, the timeframe for delivery, the interfaces between teams, the software you use, and your operations can be standardized.

Because the work method is now defined, your team can focus on the part of the process they’ve been hired to do. 

#5 – Products unlock lifecycle value.

Lifecycle value: this is a biggie. Productization helps you focus on services for your best clients and run your business in a more systematic and predictable way.

Lifecycle is at the core of PLM. Without a well-defined product, you won’t be able to capitalize on its lifecycle value. 

Shifting from projects to products

Shifting from projects to products isn’t easy.

A product mindset must be baked into your business. Every day, every project, every interaction, every moment. 

Breaking away from the way you’ve done things for so long is always difficult, confusing, and risky. But if you’re feeling the itch that my potential customer and so many others have felt with project-specific solutions, then it’s more of a risk to not work on your products.

7 Benefits of Outsourcing Your PLM Training

Outsourcing PLM Training

Choosing to embark on a change initiative to implement a new PLM system in your business is one of the biggest projects that a company can take on. Very often, despite the large amount of financial resources and time invested, and despite their expectations or best-laid plans, organizations can still fail to leverage the promised benefits of PLM – 7 out of 10 fail, actually. It’s crucial that your PLM project is planned and communicated correctly from day one, and this means developing an effective training plan. Although your team can envision the desired outcome, developing training for a change initiative of this size and importance may require some specific skills or resources that you don’t have available in house. That’s why it can be a huge benefit to outsource your PLM training.

When implemented correctly, PLM will connect your processes, data, andmost importantlyyour people. However, many neglect this key element of the implementation process and don’t provide quality training for their employees. Instead of chancing whether your users become knowledgeable and efficient in your PLM system or not, you can hire external experts whose job is to ensure your team is trained the right way.

Let’s take a look at some of the greatest benefits of outsourcing your PLM training.

#1 – You will get a professional result which will lead to a better outcome.

We’ve all seen the Powerpoint presentations thrown together by management that are as equally boring as they are visually appalling. To be fair, those people have full workloads and “training designer” isn’t exactly in their job description. So why do companies make them create their training? They wouldn’t have anyone but a web design expert make their website, for example, so why is training any different?

If you work with training experts you can expect a professional product. The better the quality of the training program, the better the outcome of that training will be.

In the end, you want your users to be experts in your PLM system, so hiring experts to train them is what makes sense.

OpenBOM Onboarding Course

#2 – PLM training specialists have pedagogical knowledge so they will follow the best learning techniques when developing your training.

There are learning principles that pedagogical experts will be able to apply while creating your training program to make it the most effective for your users. They know how to build a program that accommodates their different needs and habits so that they learn faster and retain more of the information.

For example, training specialists will design your lessons to be the correct length, vary in learning styles and media, build on the most relevant material, and they can help you plan the training sessions so that they reinforce the information at the right time. Most likely your organization is unaware of a lot of these tricks and knowledge and that can affect how well your training program performs.

PLM outsourcing experts

#3 – You can take advantage of all the latest digital learning tools and technology.

Besides the benefit of pedagogical knowledge, outsourcing will also allow you to design more engaging materials by using the latest technology. You can take advantage of an assortment of interactive e-learning tools, such as system demos, video tutorials, online courses, software simulations, process libraries, webinar breakout rooms, interactive images, etc. 

All of these tools can be customized to your system and business processes so your users won’t have to waste time going through boring, irrelevant “out-of-the-box” system guides. You can save time and make the experience more enjoyable and relevant for your users. For example, with system simulations your team can practice real-world tasks they need to learn in the PLM system without the fear of making mistakes and distributing workflow.

OpenBOM Training Library

#4 – The process of developing your training program will be more time efficient.

Another obvious benefit of outsourcing your PLM training is that you will save a ton of time in the development of your training. Designing, structuring, and creating a training program that will ultimately be effective is a huge project. When it’s done internally in a company, the project must be completed on top of all the normal day-to-day tasks.

When you outsource the work, you will only have to spend time collecting the needed system manuals and current materials to send to the other company and then review the final outcome. After a few feedback sessions you can have your finished materials.

Plus, if the company is in a different time zone, you may also have the added benefit of getting work done even after your company’s work hours end!

#5 – Your PLM initiative will be prioritized and will stay on schedule.

When you hire an external company to design your training materials, you will both agree on set deadlines and on a final delivery date. The external business will make your project their priority and work to deliver it in that time frame. That means your initiative will have a strict plan, which will help everyone on your side stay on schedule too.

On the other hand, if you choose to develop your training materials on your own, the project is more likely to get delayed as other things inevitably come up. It’s easy to put off your training development as more urgent or demanding tasks appear.

#6 – PLM training experts will audit your existing documentation and create materials that you’re missing.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know. 

By outsourcing your PLM training development to PLM training specialists, you may discover unexpected gaps in your PLM concept. 

In the case that you find that your existing documentation is missing materials, PLM training experts can create new content for your program.

You don’t have to worry that your documentation is too technical and won’t be adapted clearly in your training program, either. If you hire training consultants that specialize in PLM systems, they will be familiar with a variety of software solutions and can expertly translate the materials into your training materials.

Auditing PLM concept

#7 – You will save a lot of money on operational costs and other expenses in the long run.

According to Harvard Business Review, outsourcing can cut your business’s costs by 20-30 percent!

Of course quality training comes at a price, but nothing is as expensive as wasting your organization’s time and resources. What if you invest all of this in this change initiative but your implementation begins to fail due to lack of user acceptance? Then your business would need to pay to fix what could’ve been done correctly the first time around.

Instead you can shift the workload of this project to the most efficient location, outside of your organization entirely. Then you can set a fixed budget for it and track investment costs as well.

Saving money outsourcing

There are so many savings and benefits to outsourcing your PLM training. Maybe you’ve been weighing those benefits for a while and want to see how your business can use outsourcing to your advantage. 

Ready to bring your PLM training to the next level? Go ahead and schedule a quick call with us to see how we can help! There’s no better time to start than now!

13 Common PLM Implementation Problems And How to Avoid Them

bulletin board with list of problems

The promise of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is captivating, but before you reach the golden lands of accelerated time to market, better product quality, efficient collaboration, and faster deliveries that PLM offers, you’ll likely encounter a few potholes. In this article, I’ve listed some of the most common PLM problems I’ve come across in the PLM projects we’ve been a part of.

#1 - Management chose the PLM system based on PowerPoints and company dinners.

Improved time to market, cross-company collaboration, capitalizing on the lifecycle value…the buzzwords, the charming sales guy, his shiny demo, and a bold pitch got your organization’s C-suite to say “Yes!” to Product Lifecycle Management.  

Data-quality issues, system architecture mismatches, and clashes with corporate culture are conveniently left out of those marketing-led meetings. 

All too often, management thinks PLM is as simple as implementing a system. 

The product dashboards might look great in the demo but getting them implemented in your company will take some time.

Man giving PLM presentation

How to avoid this PLM problem:

Let me tell you a secret. A successful PLM journey doesn’t start with a “best-in-class” system. It starts with a great team of people. Together, they can make almost any system work.

If it’s not too late with this PLM problem, consider the solution’s history of industry success, customization, flexibility, integration ability, customer support, and how well the solution addresses the organization’s requirements.

#2 – The system is seen as ugly, too slow, and expensive.

Your management picked the wrong system – it’s a common problem with PLM implementation. Maybe they didn’t have time to evaluate different ones or got sucked in by the siren song of a good deal. Either way, you ended up with a PLM system that’s simply not right for you.

It’s not that the system isn’t good. It just doesn’t fit your business. 

Perhaps they selected a system with too many features. It could even be that the system’s interface doesn’t look good. Or maybe the OOTB solution is hard to use – it seems like you’re designing an aircraft when you just need to manage your BOMs!

Man hitting computer because he has a PLM problem

How to avoid this PLM problem:

The secret to a better user experience is doing the up-front work to determine what matters most. What are the top workflows? What functionalities do people use the most? Is it the EBOM module, or the search engine? 

Figure out what’s important, then stay focused on the key things. Find a compromise that marries your workflow to the realities of your system.

More is not necessarily better, even when it comes to PLM systems. If you show every feature, view, and integration, you’ll soon be drowning in so much functionality that you won’t be able to focus on what’s important.

#3 - Good old Excel is still the go-to tool.

The biggest market share in PLM belongs to Excel, says Oleg Shilovitsky, co-founder of OpenBOM, a cloud-based bill of materials and inventory management tool for hardware start-ups, manufacturing, and supply chain. 

Engineers love Excel. It’s still the go-to tool for “critical” engineering calculations such as process design or product configurations. Excel is good at things PLM isn’t, like moving data back and forth and creating cool dashboards from multiple data sources.

But while Excel is convenient and useful for simple calculations, it’s a terrible tool for collaboration and enterprise data management.

Man saying that he loves Excel

How to avoid this PLM problem:

Old habits die hard! 

If you want to convince the engineers and project managers in your organization to move away from Excel, you have to make a case for collaboration and transparency. 

Identify some real-life examples where Excel has failed to deliver the lifecycle visibility your organization needs, and show them a better way using your PLM system.

In a start-up with a young workforce, getting over Excel will be easier.

However, it’s an entirely different ball game to get older staff members to come to grips with your PLM system and change their ingrained Excel-centric ways of working. 

#4 - There's a war going on between your systems.

If you’ve been in the PLM world for a while, you’ve probably witnessed a lot of system wars: PLM vs ERP, PLM vs CRM, even PLM vs PLM!

The tricky thing about Product Lifecycle Management is that product data is spread across different systems. There’s often a lack of clarity about where and how to manage product data, especially after a merger. Also, different systems offer the same functionality. If the people managing these systems don’t talk to each other, it won’t be long before a system war breaks out.

Magnet attracting money to ERP not to PLM

How to avoid this PLM problem:

In the end, it’s all about defining system responsibilities. Who does what? Where do you need to manage BOMs? Do you need more than one system to release parts to production? Where do you do what?

Often, you’ll need to compromise. Don’t try to get it all right at once. Having a vision, planning out the system roles and the PLM architecture will slowly build peace in your system wars.

#5 - Your teams are competing against each other.

The Germans vs the Swedes. The French vs the Americans. 

This is a variation on our previous point – Teamcenter vs 3Ds, or Catia vs NX.

Men having fight over PLM

Political infighting can be overwhelming in international PLM projects.

If you’ve been part of a PLM implementation in a global company, I’m sure you’ve heard this before:

  • “That’s not how we do things here.” 
  • “This might work for a simple product like yours, but ours are much more complex.” 
  • “This system is too complex. Have a look at what we have in-house!”

Country-specific ways of working are often threatened by a PLM implementation. 

For example, the cool product configurators they’ve developed in-house could be lost when you begin to adopt the PLM system’s configurator for internal efficiency purposes.

How to avoid this PLM problem:

Sometimes bringing down the walls between teams starts with a dinner or an outdoor event.

Having a PLM project leader from a country other than the ones fighting the war can help keep tempers in check. 

Plan and be prepared to deal with political turmoil if you’re deploying PLM in a global company.

#6 - Your middle-aged users are set in their ways.

Who is Markus, and how you can drag him into the 21st century?

Markus is that grumpy, belligerent engineer who created the first Excel-based product configurator when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. 

“You guys in management sell the PLM as a productivity tool, but now it takes me ten minutes longer to save my CAD models than before! So, what’s in it for me?”

Markus is, of course, an archetype, but there are plenty like him – people who refuse to engage with new ways of doing things.

Man complaining that system is slow

How to avoid this PLM problem:

Here’s another secret: Technology is a small challenge compared to people in a PLM implementation. Identify skill gaps and invest in education and organizational change management.  

My advice here is to ensure you bring in the right team to engage in your PLM implementation – people who can listen, empathise, and move things forward.

Don’t know how to get started? We can help!

#7 - The “Mister-Know-it-all” PLM consultant's solutions aren't the best for you.

Nobody likes a know-it-all consultant, but many companies’ PLM implementations have been led by one of them. 

You’ve probably been there. An experienced and charming guy with more than 20 years of consulting experience delivering a conceptual presentation deck filled with management jargon, mountains of charts, figures, and statistics. 

Some of these consultants resort to “one-size-fits-all” approaches. They use the same slide decks from client to client and keep asking for more budget. The solutions they propose are not necessarily the best for the company, but only what they can deliver and capitalize on.

When you attempt to implement what you’ve received, you have few actionable steps to take.

While certain strategies might have been successful on similar projects, no two engagements are identical. 

How to avoid this PLM problem:

Bringing in a PLM consultant can be essential to move PLM forward. But if you’re not careful about how you make the decision, you can end up with a “Mister-Know-It-All” leading the change.

Not all consultants are arrogant know-it-alls. Look for a consultant who listens. Someone who has worked in your industry. And hire a person, not a company name.

PLM consultant comic

#8 – The PLM architect has their head is in the clouds.

“We’re going to lose all the customizations this year, get back to the Out of The Box (OoTB) solution, and build an internal ecosystem with API-powered applications connected to the cloud. Then we’ll build a digital twin portfolio powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). This strategy will give us a real edge.”

Buzzword bingo!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably met a lot of PLM system architects whose “heads are in the cloud.” 

I get it. Tech can be intoxicating. 

But talking about advanced geeky stuff when the basics aren’t in place is a joke. 

Trying to make sense of what constitutes PLM architecture (rather than, say, a system upgrade or a website redesign) is never easy. Product Lifecycle Management is the enabler of a lot of the cool things that digitalization does, but its roots go far back.

Man with his head in the clouds

How to avoid this PLM problem:

The latest powerful advances in tech are exciting. Having a bold vision is not necessarily a bad thing. 

But if your system architecture teams keeps only dreaming big, your PLM solution will soon be perceived as an “ivory tower” by the business. 

A great system architect balances technical and business knowledge. If it’s not too late with this PLM problem, hire a PLM system architect who’s not just a tech-obsessed geek.

#9 - The PLM concept owner wants to keep it conceptual.

I’ve been part of several PLM implementations where the concept owner didn’t want to hear about the system. She wants to “keep it all at a conceptual level” because the concept doesn’t need to be “system-specific”.

But the reality is, a PLM concept goes hand in hand with the PLM system.

If your PLM concept hides its absence of real tactical advice under many layers of fancy-looking “conceptual” data models, you have a problem with your concept owner.

PLM problem with concept

How to avoid this PLM problem:

If your PLM concept owner is swimming in high-level theories and complex concepts, you might want to raise an eyebrow. A good concept owner needs to get her hands dirty by getting down to the nitty-gritty details to understand the system. 

Ask questions and make sure they can show you how things should work with the toolset you have on hand, not “in the perfect world”.

#10 – The IT department doesn’t care.

Does granting your users access take ages? Your PLM system keeps crashing and no one seems to be able to fix it? You can’t access your system today and the guy from helpdesk keeps asking you if you’ve tried turning it off and on again?

There’s nothing worse than a non-supportive IT department. Technology plays a key role in PLM, and if your information technology department can’t help you get it right, you have a real PLM problem. 

Two IT men having a conversation

How to avoid this PLM problem:

The best way to resolve the PLM IT-related issues is to treat the problem as a team effort. Once the departments identify an issue with IT support, they will work on finding the root of the problem. Is it knowledge? Is it motivation? Is it politics?

Identify the key tasks your IT department needs to help you with, and document how to do it. If you don’t have enough internal knowledge to support your PLM users, it might be worth outsourcing it. 

There are a lot of small companies with well-informed people that can help you solve daily user problems and think strategically about how to improve your PLM system performance.

#11 - There's little excitement about data.

Product data is power – but only if the data is correctly collected, processed, and managed. 

Simply put, product data quality refers to the “health” of your data and whether it’s fit for its intended use. If your product data is duplicated across systems, outdated, or full of errors such as typos, abbreviations, and punctuation mistakes, it’s impossible to extract insights and value from it. 

The problem is that although big data and data analytics sound sexy, the real, nitty-gritty data work is boring. 

Ensuring that attributes are common across the enterprise and getting integrations and migrations right is difficult and takes a lot of work. 

Man saying PLM isn't exciting

How to avoid this PLM problem:

All too often, key data quality issues are overlooked. I’ve seen several key digital transformation programs fail because the product data wasn’t prepared or good enough. 

Don’t build your product data foundations on sand. Make sure you have funding in place to support the effort to get to good product data. 

Build a case for management and use plenty of real-life examples. Explain why your product data management initiative is needed and be prepared to explain why it’s so expensive.

#12 - It's time for the dreaded system upgrade.

Your system is outdated, and it’s time for an upgrade. Now that you’ve got the ball rolling and your people are used to your PLM system, your system vendor has informed you that, as of next year, they won’t be supporting the version you installed.

Outdated PLM systems can put companies at risk of security issues and holes in their system architecture. Updating a PLM system can seem as simple as updating a software version – but if you’ve been through a PLM system upgrade, you know it’s not.

Customizations and company-specific configurations will often make it hard and time-consuming.

PLM system upgrade time

How to avoid this PLM problem:

System customizations will be needed, but if you customize your system too much, you’ll end up on your own at upgrading time.

Plan and budget for upgrades, and don’t underestimate the effort they involve. A PLM system upgrade is a project on its own.

#13- You're having a hard time demonstrating the PLM's ROI.

Data quality issues, technology hurdles, poor people engagement with the system … any or all of these common PLM problems can make your C-suite feel like they’re not getting a big enough bang for their buck. 

Why is the return of investment such a big deal for Product Lifecycle Management? Because justifying the value of PLM through ROI is very challenging.

The tricky thing about PLM is that it’s a bit different for everyone. 

When a PLM journey begins, most companies simply don’t understand what they’re implementing, let alone how much it costs or how long it will take. 

Our blogging peers Jos Voskuil and Oleg Shilovitsky discuss this in detail in some of their articles. 

Man asking where the PLM ROI is

How to avoid this PLM problem:

PLM implementations often focus on technology and pay far less attention to the human aspects. People problems are the reason for most of the PLM failures I’ve seen.

While systems and technology require attention, people need at least as much careful consideration and strategic planning.

Put people first, and make them your superpower!