How to Define Your Own PLM Bible & IT Documentation

In my previous blog post, I shared with you why I believe that successful PLM implementations start with a PLM Bible. This is a blueprint that explains what PLM means to them and how they work with their products, data and IT documentation.

If you’re in the same boat, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about how to define your PLM Bible.

1. Define your learning customers

Getting a handle on who your learners or customers are is the first thing you need to do when you start working on your company’s PLM Bible.

Learning for a techy PLM system administrator isn’t quite the same as it is for an IT executive. Everybody processes information differently. An insightful presentation that captivates the executive’s attention might be confusing or utterly boring for the system administrator, even if the information is equally relevant to both of them.

Having a comprehensive understanding of your customers allows you to:

  • Keep focused on your customers’ learning needs
  • Connect with their motivations and behaviours
  • Enrich the impact of your content
  • Personalize and tailor your training content
  • Look at (and solve) problems from your customers’ perspective

To identify your customers, think about the people who need to learn PLM in your organization. Now go one step further and try to classify them in groups.

To show you what I mean, let’s pretend you’re a Cloud PLM software provider. Some of your potential customers – your leads – have never tried your application. They need to understand what they’d get if they purchased it. Your paying customers have already subscribed to your product. They need to help their users get up and running with the new system. And they also need to train their system administrators, the ones configuring and managing the application behind the scenes.

In this case, you can break your learning customers down into 3 groups:

By considering your learning customers, you’ll then be able to determine how to structure your PLM Bible and what content and IT documentation you need to create to keep your learners interested.

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2. Detail your PLM learning categories

We’ll use learning categories to create our learning structure and to organize, sort and filter the learning content. If we tag every piece of content with categories such as roles, process, system, etc., we’ll later be able to locate all the relevant content easily.

To detail your learning categories, get your team together and brainstorm. Think about at least 4 categories to tag your content. For example, we could look at the information from a role perspective: R&D Engineers, Product Managers, Sales Managers, etc. We could also define processes as categories. How about using PLM capabilities as a way to categorize our content? Another idea would be to tag our content according to the corporate systems involved.

If you want to come up with rich learning categories, make sure you get a diverse group of people involved in the discussion. If your team members work on the same projects together, go to team meetings together, and sit next to each other in the office, it’s needless to say that the categories will likely start to get pretty homogenous.

3. Build your learning structure

Now that you’ve pinned down your categories, it’s time to start thinking about the learning structure.

A typical learning structure starts with a learning path. A learning path is a group of courses that allows us to master a topic in small steps. Courses are made of several lessons, and the content often can be reused in several learning paths.

Learning paths work well for PLM, because they help people absorb a lot of information while providing flow and structure.

If you want to get inspired, head over to DropboxLynda, or Asana. It’s helpful to see a few examples of learning structures in action, and these companies all do a great job of it.

Using the learning categories you’ve previously identified, you’ll define the learning paths. The first step is to select a main category. We’ll focus on one main category first, because we want to keep things simple.

For example, we could select “Roles” as the main category to come up with our learning paths. In this case, we’ll have paths such as “Becoming a Product Manager,” “A day in the life of a Sales Manager” or “Customer Support Foundations.”

Alternatively, we could select “Process” as the main category. In this case, we’ll have learning paths such as “Product Development Fundamentals,” “Understanding the delivery process” or “A day in the life of Support.”

When working on your PLM learning structure, simplicity is a design principle worth following. While you want to deliver a highly personalized learning experience to your customers, having too many learning paths or courses leads to indecision, confusion, and lower satisfaction. That’s why I recommend that you keep your learning paths lean and focused.

4. Analyse and map learning content and IT documentation

Now that you’ve got your learning paths in place, it’s time to go one step further and define your courses. At this stage, you’ll take the learning paths and think of the courses needed to achieve the customer learning goals.

First of all, make an inventory of the existing documentation. Take each of the learning paths you’ve come up with and think about the courses you’ll need to achieve the learning goals you’ve set.

Content mapping can be tricky, because you have to work backwards.

Start by determining the logical pathway a learning customer would take when navigating through the path. What process do they follow? Which functionality will they use? In what order? Do they need any previous knowledge?

To give you an idea of how this works, let’s look at Outotec’s Equipment PLM Learning path:

In the picture, you can see a series of use cases following the process (on the left) that walk the user through product development to product delivery and services.

Behind each of the use cases, you’ll find the learning content required to complete each step.

At this point, your task is to define those use cases and think about the type of learning content you need for them. The content can be in video format, eLearning, PowerPoint presentations, manuals or even teacher-led trainings. And you don’t need to use the same content type for each path. I encourage you to mix up different content types to match your learners’ needs.

Great learning content must:

  • Combine theory and practice
  • Be interdisciplinary
  • Provide business context
  • Be practical

For inspiration, check out some examples from the engaging eLearning courses we’ve created for our customers Konecranes, Aqseptance or Upchain. Nowadays the possibilities for eLearning are countless, and you can break down and present complex concepts (like the ones involved in PLM) in a very interactive and engaging way.

5. Getting a handle on what’s important

Now that you’ve analysed the content you need to create, it’s time to prioritize what’s most important.

Start by determining which type of learning customer makes up the largest portion of your learners. If most of your learners are novice, for example, you might decide not to work on the intermediate and expert learning paths just yet.

However, if you have roughly an equal number of learners from each group, you should consider what content is most relevant to them. Maybe some courses will be common for all your customers, or perhaps there’s a deployment coming up for a specific role that should take priority.

Sometimes it helps to survey a random sample of customers and ask them some questions to shape your plan. For example, if you’re working on a PLM course for novice learners, you might want to ask your experienced users:

  • What are the 5 things a new PLM user absolutely needs to know to see value?
  • What are the top 5 things you wanted to do when you first logged into the new PLM system?

You could then use the results to decide which content to prioritize.

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6. Create a plan

Once you’re clear on what content matters most, go ahead and create an action plan.

Think of this plan as your PLM Bible’s Northern Star. It will keep your sights set in the right direction and guide you as you move things forward.

Using a template or spreadsheet, determine which content you’ll work on, either on a weekly or monthly basis. Rather than working on an overly long-term plan, break those long-term goals down and focus on multiple short-term “waves” to reach the goal.

The plan for these shorter-term waves lays out a clear course of action to review, create and test the learning content you need. This way, you’ll gain greater clarity on how long the work will actually take versus how long you thought it would take.

And what’s more, you’ll be able to celebrate small successes, learn from the experience, and get buy-in.

7. Listen to your customers

Finally, for your PLM Bible to really stay relevant, you need to talk to your customers. Whether it’s in person, online, or through surveys, take the time to check in with your customers and stay on top of what matters most to them. Customer feedback is one of the most powerful tools you can use to make your PLM Bible meaningful and relevant – and ultimately help your customers stick around to become PLM evangelists.

Over to You

I know this is a lot of information, but the work has just begun! It takes time, organization, and creativity to create a successful PLM Bible.

But, as the book of Proverbs says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.“ If you value education, PLM will bring a lot of value to you!

Design Your PLM eLearning Course in 12 Steps

elearning course design

Here’s a stat for you: 85% of every euro spent on your PLM classroom training is spent delivering it. This means that when you invest in classroom training, you’ll spend more on the PLM trainer’s time and travel than you will on actual training materials. How do you cut those costs? By making a PLM elearning course designed specifically for your company.

Creating a PLM online course is a flexible, cost-effective way to deliver your PLM training. An elearning course is easy to access from anywhere, can have a design customized for your team, and allows your learners to pace themselves according to their needs.  The best part is that you standardize your procedures, provide better training and reduce costs!

Creating an online course involves a whole lot of moving pieces, some more exciting than others. Brainstorming course ideas? Fun! Uploading your course to your corporate LMS? Not so fun. The trick to successfully getting your online course off the ground is to meticulously plan and organize your materials, prioritize properly, and stay on top of the progress of each and every one of these moving parts.

Although every PLM environment is a bit different, a systematic process will help you plan and structure your course and reach your desired goals. This article will walk you through all the steps you need to take to build your first PLM elearning course design.

1. Pick the perfect PLM online course topic

The key to creating a successful online course is identifying exactly what your organization is looking for. Does the sales department need to better understand your organization’s products? Do you want to train your PLM support team to troubleshoot common issues? Have you recently launched a new product development process and need to explain the changes to your organization’s researchers? Does service need a blueprint to maintain your company’s products?

People are drawn to the topics that matter to them. Before selecting a course topic, ask yourself: How much effort will it take to create the content and what will the immediate impact be? The magic behind success is prioritization. Focus on the high impact, low effort topics first that can drive quick success.

2. Assemble the right team

  • Project Manager: Oversees the full project, interfaces between subject matter experts and the eLearning team, sets deadlines and makes sure the job gets done.
  • Concept Developer:This is the person who works with the content and presents it in a way that facilitates learning. Often, the concept developer handles the course project management as well. Working on a PLM online course is demanding work—it’s not something every instructional designer can do. Understanding the technical content is not enough. You need the right blend of technical and communication skills to understand complex concepts and present them so that people actually understand what you’re trying to teach them.
  • Graphic Designer: Creates graphics and animations, and produces video and audio. The graphic designer’s work is key to achieving an appealing look and feel for the course.
  • eLearning developer: Assembles all the elements into an engaging course, adds interactivity and works on the elearning course design. Sometimes the eLearning developer takes care of the graphic design as well.

Beyond your core team, you’ll also be interacting with other people across your organization who will be part of your extended team:

  • Subject Matter Experts are experts in their field. Imagine you’re working on product training for your sales team. The product managers would be the subject experts in that case. Or think of a very technical course documenting the PLM architecture. In this case, the information architect would be the subject matter expert. In practice, the concept developer works with subject matter experts to develop the content.
  • Reviewers / Tester:Testers and reviewers execute the course review process—both from the technical and conceptual perspective. It’s key to appoint the course reviewers well ahead of time and clarify who will make the final decisions. The review process is one of the most demanding parts of the course development process, so I recommend that you tie up loose ends with your reviewers before you get started.

If some roles are only needed part-time, consider working with freelancers. For example, your team might need graphic design and project management work on a part-time basis, so these roles could be outsourced. At Share PLM, we specialize in training and eLearning course design and can help you create your PLM online training plan!

  • Project Manager: Oversees the full project, interfaces between subject matter experts and the eLearning team, sets deadlines and makes sure the job gets done.
  • Concept Developer: This is the person who works with the content and presents it in a way that facilitates learning. Often, the concept developer handles the course project management as well. Working on a PLM online course is demanding work – it’s not something every instructional designer can do. Understanding the technical content is not enough. You need the right blend of technical and communication skills to understand complex concepts and present them so that people actually “get” what you’re trying to teach them.
  • Graphic Designer: Creates graphics and animations, and produces video and audio. The graphic designer’s work is key to achieving an appealing look and feel for the course.
  • eLearning developer: Assembles all the elements into an engaging course, adds interactivity and works on the course didactic. Sometimes the eLearning developer takes care of the graphic design as well.

Beyond your core team, you’ll also be interacting with other people across your organization who will be part of your extended team:

  • Subject Matter Experts are experts in his or her field. Imagine you’re working on a product training for your sales team. The product managers would be the subject experts in that case. Or think of a very technical course documenting the PLM architecture. In this case, the information architect would be the subject matter expert.In practice, the concept developer works with subject matter experts to develop the content.
  • Reviewers / Tester: Testers and reviewers execute the course review process – both from the  technical and conceptual perspective. It’s key to appoint the course reviewers well ahead of time and clarify who will make the final decisions. The review process is one of the most demanding parts of the course development process, so I recommend that you tie up loose ends with your reviewers before you get started.

If some roles are only needed part-time, consider working with freelancers. For example, your team might need graphic design and project management work on a part-time basis, so these roles could be outsourced. At Share PLM, we specialize in training and eLearning and can help you create your PLM online trainings!

3. Get clear on your learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are the compass that guides your course development. They explain in simple terms what the student will learn by the end of your course.

Think carefully about what your key learners’ takeaways will be. What is the course all about? Who are the students? Why should they take the course? How will it help them?

Getting clear on these big questions is the best way to take a step back, look at your course holistically, and define the targets before you start getting into the weeds.

Here’s an example of the learning outcomes for our PLM Basics eCourse:

4. Organize a kick-off meeting

One of the best ways to avoid getting stuck during the project is to organize a project kick-off meeting where all the roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Who will collect the feedback? Who is responsible for reconciling conflicting feedback? Who gets to make the final decision? Are you going to collaborate with freelancers to design or develop the course yourself?

Get your team together and identify expectations, including:

  • High-level objectives
  • Budget
  • Suppliers
  • Tools
  • Deadlines
  • Style Guidelines
  • Review process
  • Escalation path for decision-making.

By taking some time upfront to set the ground rules, you’ll be in a much better position to create a successful course, on time and on budget!

5. Prepare an online syllabus

A syllabus ensures that only the right students will enroll in your course. The syllabus is like the course’s cover letter—an introduction to the course’s content and goals. It’s a guide for students to the kind of teaching and learning they can expect in your course.

A good online syllabus should at least include:

  • Course description:What is the basic content of the course and what makes it important or interesting? How does the course fit into the context of the discipline?
  • Learning objectives:What will students be able to do by the end of the course? Formulate objectives in simple terms and keep it easy for your learners to understand what they will get from your course.
  • Prerequisites:Do your students need any previous skills to take the course? Do they need to understand any previous concepts before they start? Do they need to install something, or grab a new license? Make sure to list everything they need to take the course!
  • Course duration:How long does it take to complete the course? Don’t forget to include the exercises and thinking time when calculating the course duration.
  • Support:Explain to your learners how they can solve questions through the course. Do they need to write an email to someone? Do they have a support forum available? Are you organizing Q&A online meetings?

Later, you might also want to incorporate the course outline into the syllabus. This ties into our next task: “Preparing a course outline”.

6. Prepare a course outline to structure the content

Before you jump into the content, it’s worth spending time on structuring your course. It’s best to start with the end in mind and work backwards: think about the key takeaways you want for your students and brainstorm to come up with the content you need.

Now look at your ideas and start classifying them. Break down your content into a hierarchy of chapters and lessons. Group similar themes, tips, and ideas into small lessons that are easy for learners to digest. Then work on the sequence: structure the chapters and lessons in the order that makes the most sense. This is sort of like a puzzle. Just move your lessons around until the story flows!

7. Select and gather your PLM course content

It’s time to prepare a detailed inventory of what you have: past training materials, PowerPoint presentations, user manuals, workbooks, audio and video files, and worksheets. Only include content that directly relates to your learning outcomes.

Once you have all the “raw materials,” your next step is to review them and check if the information is accurate. Flag those parts that require an update or flag the content you need to create from scratch.

At this stage, many PLM teams start procrastinating. They realize that some parts of the process aren’t well documented, some information is missing, and some concepts aren’t yet in place.

My advice is to focus on the content you have ready first. Put the missing parts in the “to-do list,” and work on them later!

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8. Create engaging lessons

Now that you have a thorough course plan and know the content you need to create, it’s time to get to the meat of your course. This is where all the learning happens. Your goal is to fit your content and ideas into a storyboard and figure out how you’ll present the content to learners.

Creating content for your course is a really creative process in which you’ll organize information, brainstorm the interactions and decide on the best way to deliver the content.

What type of visuals will you use? Will you have videos, reading content, interactive activities, audio content? Mix up different formats to bring your content into action and keep your learners engaged!

The good news is that the tools to put all the pieces together, including ones that record your original content, have become easier to use and a whole lot less expensive.

If this is the first time you’ve worked on an elearning course design, it’s hard to imagine all the potential ways to present your content! To help, we’ve put together a blueprint that guides you through the course-building process, step by step. Click here to get inspired!

9. Prepare exercises

It’s time to prepare some exercises related to the course content. Exercises are great for helping learners follow along and strengthen their skills and knowledge. Keep your exercises relevant and try to use real-world situations as often as you can! This is a cool exercise example from John Stark’sPLM Paradigm course.

10. Review your course

At this stage, you should collect feedback from all the stakeholders. Ask your reviewers to formulate their feedback in a way that’s specific and actionable. What do I mean by specific feedback? Let’s look at one example:

  • Unspecific Feedback: “I can’t read the text. Please change.”
  • Specific Feedback: “The header text is too bright. Could you please change the colour to black?”

The review process is one of the most challenging parts of the online course creation process. The more people involved, the more complex it gets!

When Share PLM develops PLM courses for our clients, we can find ourselves stuck in the middle. We have to make sense of confusing and contradictory feedback from reviewers who confuse and contradict, and those who are too busy to work on the content until the very last minute. Managing the feedback process can be a big challenge!

The review process can often feel like it’s never-ending. To avoid these challenges, set a due date for the feedback and agree on the ground rules at the start of the project. And if things get stuck, avoid the back and forth and bring everyone together for a face-to-face online review.

11. Host your PLM online course

After all that hard work, you’re ready to share your awesome PLM online training with your learners! There are two major ways to deliver your online courses:

  • Option 1: Self-hosting

As the name suggests, with this option you host your online course on your own server or website. If you use WordPress, you can install plugins such as “LearnDash” or “Scorm Cloud” and upload the courses to your website. Things start to get trickier if you need to track results or deliver certificates. At the end of the day, setting it up requires technical knowledge. It’s also time-consuming.

  • Option 2: Learning Management Systems (LMS)

An LMS is a platform used to deliver, track, and report eLearning courses. They give you full control over everything and are very easy to set up. LMSs come in all shapes, sizes, and price levels. At Share PLM, we use a free open-source LMS called Moodle to host our own online courses. If you work for a big company, the odds are that they already have an LMS.

12. Measure Your Success

Measuring the success of your course is an important final step. Ask for feedback from your learners and analyse the statistics from your LMS. How many students took the course? How many finished it? What did they like most about it? What would they improve?

Gathering feedback is great for improving future versions of your course, creating better courses in the future, and shaping your PLM training program so that it brings the people in your organization closer to your products!

And that’s it! Ready to dive in? We’ve compiled a quick guide to walk you through the building blocks of modern PLM online courses. Check it out and share it with the world!

How to Craft a Killer PLM User IT Onboarding Journey

it onboarding

What is user onboarding?

IT onboarding of your users is the process of actively guiding and helping users to find value and success within your product, process or service.

Onboarding gets users past the awkward uncertainty of trying out something new. Good onboarding experiences combine the right elements of education, inspiration, and actionable insights.

User onboarding is one of the most critical phases in a PLM users’ journey. The better you can engage your users on day one, the more likely they are to see value right away, pull others in, and stay around.

When done properly, onboarding should feel like magic—an invisible hand that guides users through every step of their new way of working.

The value of user onboarding for PLM

Connect people, processes and data across the entire lifecycle of a product. A short and sweet elevator pitch that got your management team excited, and your company embarking on a PLM journey.

Yet five years afterwards, you’re still fighting with clunky systems, bad data and employees who complain about how much slower they’ve become since you renewed the company’s operating model.

Product data is stored and spread across multiple core systems and applications. These systems are often bumbling and complex, and not well integrated with each other.

Dropping new users into this system’s jungle with only a knife between their teeth leads to few finding their way out safe and well.

If you want to put your PLM transformation program on track, you need to “sherpa” your users and your business through your PLM journey.

While IT onboarding can’t control the complexity of your PLM landscape, it can certainly help your users go from being completely unfamiliar with PLM to being intrigued, committed, and, ultimately, advocating for your initiative.

And how can you do that?

By setting up the easiest trails, removing as many roadblocks as possible, and always encouraging them to continue the journey.

By nailing down your user onboarding.

The building blocks of PLM user onboarding

Your IT onboarding process should be a combination of education, inspiration, and actionable insights. But before we get into the process of designing an onboarding flow, let’s explore the building blocks of a PLM user onboarding experience!

1. Educational emails

Start by saying hello to your users with a welcome email as soon as they enroll in your PLM program. What can you do to engage them and excite them about what’s coming?

Plan out an email sequence to hold your users’ hands through the first stages of their onboarding experience.

Introduce yourself and the program and provide them with a short list of useful resources to get started the first time you show up in their inbox. You might also encourage your users to ask questions and let them know where they can find you.

When you show up in their inbox again, ask yourself, what does a new user need to know in order to get going? Focus your email efforts on those first steps, and share content that delivers value and education.

After the first few critical days, you can continue sending educational emails to help your users advance into the deeper stages of their journey.

You might also try out event-based emails: as users start to see success and hit milestones, communicate with them, let them know what comes next, and encourage them to continue the journey.

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2. System training

Are you looking for a way to quickly teach your users how to use your system? If so, interactive system training would be just right for you. You can guide your learners through a workflow by having them click through various core systems to complete a task with system training. System training prepares your learners in a safe environment and helps them to master the new workflow.

Here’s one example:

3. System walkthroughs

System walkthroughs are a powerful way to give support and guidance in context. The idea is to get users right into the system, drawing their attention to key features with visual cues, and encouraging them to interact. Once they click the visual cue, a popup with explanations and tips appears. The advantage of this is that it’s contextual—part of the natural workflow.

Slack does a great job of walking users through their product:

If you’re using a cloud PLM application, there are specific user IT onboarding tools available, such as WalkMe or Appcues to ease the process of creating your product walkthroughs. If not, you’ll probably need custom development.

You might also want to consider preparing a short “Getting started” eCourse to cover what happens when your users first log in. What do they need to do in order to log in? What do they see? How do they navigate the user interface? Our Autodesk Fusion system first login demo does a nice job of this. Check it out here!

4. eLearning

Users don’t care about your processes and systems as much as you do. They care about how those new processes and systems are going to make their life better. You can prepare an eLearning course to help them learn about your products, processes, system landscape, and any special skills or workflows they’ll need.

You can break down complexity and let them slowly get into greater detail through interactive learningeLearning can help you explain concepts in a practical and user-friendly way.

Looking for ideas and inspiration? Check out our FREE eCourses at Share PLM.

5. Documentation and training materials

Your documentation and training materials are the basis of an onboarding experience that thrives. When your users need help, can they find it? Is it clear what they need to do? Try to keep it practical, and prepare learning materials that help your people understand the theory and get the job done.

6. Personal support:

It’s easy to make PLM onboarding exclusively about systems. But onboarding is really all about people. So when you’re laying out your PLM initiative, make sure you take the right steps to prepare your people as much as you prepare your systems.

In my experience, PLM users are usually worried that you won’t be there to help them out in the future. Therefore, it’s crucial to introduce and highlight the team of people dedicated to helping users with their support issues.

Schedule a first coaching meeting, and sit down with the users to help them get started. You can show how to log in to the system, set up their preferences and search for a part, as well as view their product BOMs and models. Share your contact details and let them know how they can reach out.

Schedule a couple of follow-up sessions more to cover the key features and answer their questions, while also making them aware of the broader support network dedicated to helping them master PLM.

Asking your users for feedback is a delicate dance. Use these meetings to get feedback straight from the users’ mouths. Observe how your users interact with the systems, and find out improvement ideas for your future releases.

You might also schedule a follow-up call to learn how it’s going a month after your users have started.

Emphasising human support throughout IT onboarding will reassure users that it’s a safe bet to jump into PLM for the long-haul.

6 steps to craft a PLM onboarding experience that works

Now that we’ve covered the basics, and the building blocks of user onboarding are at your disposal, let’s look at how to put this all together into an onboarding process that feels tailored to each one of your users.

Below are six steps to guide you when you’re setting up your user onboarding process.

1. Know your users well

You can’t plan a great onboarding experience if you don’t know who your users are, the products they work with, and why they need that data to do their jobs better.

Define user segments by categorizing their needs. You could segment using business functions, roles or disciplines. Or you could devise a broader categorization, and group your users into viewers, editors and admins.

By knowing how your users think, and what they value, you can craft an onboarding experience that helps them see value right away.

2. Craft a strong value proposition

What does ‘success’ look like for each of your user segments?

The focus of the onboarding process should be to guide the user towards the core value proposition of your PLM program. Every step along the onboarding process should help boost users towards that value proposition.

Take the time to make it very clear why each of your defined user segments should join your company’s PLM journey. This information will give you a solid understanding of your users’ motivations, and help to design the actual onboarding flow.

3. Outline your users’ lifecycle

Much like the seasons of the year, your users go through a series of stages as they engage with your PLM program. User lifecycle maps represent the journey a user takes to move from first learning about your PLM program, to becoming the one telling others about it.

Your user lifecycle maps will probably look different for each of the segments you’ve defined.

This is an example of a user lifecycle map for a “designer” role:

4. Walk in your users’ shoes

Now that you’ve identified and broken down your users’ lifecycle for each of your segments you can begin to map your onboarding activities to each stage.

Start by breaking down tasks into the smallest possible pieces. Examples of these tasks could be “search for a part,” “send a notification,” or “save a design.” Small tasks like these are simple and easy to complete.

For each lifecycle stage, try to really put yourself in your users’ shoes: What’s important to them? Where do they need to head next? What other insights might be useful?

Try to anticipate the next question your user will ask, and provide it only when they need it. Keep going through the entire process, documenting every step that’s relevant.

5. Design your user onboarding flow

At this stage, you’ve framed your onboarding process, and you’re ready to start mixing up the user onboarding ingredients to “cook” an appetizing onboarding flow.

Storytelling is the first essential component of a great onboarding flow. Remember who you’re talking to, and combine several onboarding elements wisely, with the “why” always in mind. People learn in different ways, so make sure to give them options that fit each one’s learning style while keeping them engaged.

6. Iterate and experiment

Gathering feedback and tracking user interaction is vital to improving your PLM initiative and its onboarding. Measure your users’ onboarding experience by getting their feedback and assessing their activity during the onboarding flow. This will give you insights on adjustments required to create an onboarding experience that means the most to them.

Striving for long-term user engagement

User onboarding isn’t just for first-time users. Once you get your “newbies” onboard, your job is to make sure that your old users are still there, and continue to engage with your PLM initiative.

Regular online and in-person meetings are great to keep users motivated, as they deepen their engagement with your PLM initiative. Use webinars, discussion tables and information rounds to demo new features and answer questions, as well as keep your users up to date and share experiences.

PLM user onboarding is not an exact science. Keep trying new things, and then leverage metrics to find out when your efforts are paying off.

Your onboarding program must keep up with system updates, new features, process improvements and perhaps even more importantly, people. As your users change and become familiar with your PLM journey, your user onboarding will evolve as well.

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Spicing up PLM with eLearning

Training isn’t in the budget this year. We don’t have the resources to put together an internal training plan either. It would take too long to train the whole organization. Sound familiar? If it does, you’re clearly not alone. Have no fear, there’s an answer to your problems: a PLM eLearning course!

Despite the fact that a strong learning culture drives competitive advantage, many companies fall short when it comes to training. Executives question its return on investment, and training is often seen as a bore and a chore. Let’s face it: training is not cheap. It requires skilful instructors who understand both technology and people. It needs to be planned with care. And most companies get it wrong.

Most corporate training programs are dull and lifeless. They’re arid, PowerPoint-heavy monologues, delivered by external trainers who are unfamiliar with the company’s products, culture and people. They are painfully boring marathon sessions where information goes in one ear and out the other.

But what if there’s a way to make it better?

More and more organizations are ditching their old training programs in favour of personalized PLM eLearning experiences. eLearning has the potential to connect people to products, technology and processes through self-paced, digital, modern learning.

And it does it by lowering costs, reaching learners in even the most remote locations and putting training in the hands of the people. Good eLearning breaks up information into smaller learning bites, invites you to interact with the content and practice the skills you’ve learned.

What exactly is eLearning?

In short, eLearning can embrace any form of electronically delivered training or education.

In traditional education, a teacher passes on her or his knowledge in a physical classroom. Learners listen, attend and interact with the teacher in person.

With e-learning, learners access and receive educational content through computers, tablets, and smartphones.

And learning can happen at any time, at any speed. It’s learning, delivered right to you.

And for almost any company, it’s directly tied to better performance and results.

What kind of “educational content” are we talking about?

Well, it can be many things! A series of webinars, interactive training materials, video tutorials, system training, or a well-structured eCourse – just to mention a few!

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the most important eLearning components and how they can help you explain complex concepts and boost your learners’ engagement.


Rather than just reading through a series of text-filled screens, eCourses invite learners to become a part of the game. They click and touch the screen. They drag and drop graphics. They make choices to select the content they read. They solve practical challenges. They get to use their heads.

Good eCourses combine bite-sized chunks of learning with practical exercises such as quizzes, games or sorting activities that encourage learners to think critically. They’re a great way to immerse your people in complex concepts, bring the theory into action and keep your people on board.
System trainings

No matter how good your systems are, you won’t see the outcomes until your employees have learned, practiced, and mastered them.

You’ve likely heard the expression “practice makes perfect”. Hands-on system practice enables acquisition of new skills and provides a safe environment to learn, which lowers resistance to change.

Whether you’re transitioning to a new system or just want to improve employee performance using your current systems, system trainings help your people get comfortable with the system and lose their fear of using it.

You can demonstrate a new workflow, get your learners to practice it and assess whether they’ve got it right.

Interactive Graphics & activities

The most effective eLearning includes a good dose of interaction. Interactivity keeps your learners awake and engages them in a way that allows them to digest the material.

Interactivity makes your courses appetizing. By combining beautiful graphics, good design and interactivity, you’ll appeal to your learners’ visual senses and keep them devouring your content.

PLM eLearning Is No Different

Product Lifecycle Management can sometimes get a bit too abstract. Systems to manage product information are not easy to navigate. PLM — and keeping up with it — can be confusing, even to those who understand its importance. 

eCourses are great for documenting PLM concepts, explaining product development processes or getting new employees on board. You can guide your learners through a workflow by having them click through different core systems to complete a task with system training. And you can let them think about how to solve a real-life challenge using interactive activities.

eLearning works for the PLM folks as well. You can break down complexity and let them slowly get into greater detail, following a storyline to keep them hooked.

Find inspiration for your next PLM eLearning project using these 9 ideas

eLearning might sound like a good thing, but how do you come up with an eLearning idea that actually works for your organization?

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of seven fresh eLearning examples to get you inspired!

1. Onboarding

Help your new employees get settled quickly and easily with an onboarding course. Let your newcomers know what your PLM applications and core systems are, how you’re organized, what kind of products you work with, how to get help and where to find instructions.

The good thing is that an onboarding course is not just for new employees – it helps your team to build a transparency culture, where internal processes are documented and everyone works towards a common way of working.

Check out our PLM Basics eCourse and get inspired for your first onboarding PLM eLearning!

2. PLM Concepts

A concept should be more than just a document. Bring PLM into motion with an eCourse that guides learners through key PLM components in your organization in a modern way, and let them come back to it every now and then. With eLearning, you can tie together theory and practice and make PLM a bit easier to navigate.

Browse through our Agile Foundations eCourse to get an idea of what your “Digital PLM Concept” might look like!

3. Project /program management

You finally managed to get that CPQ study into the budget to replace your out-dated product configurator. After a productive kick-off meeting, a part of your team gets to study the existing functionality. “Why is the workflow this way?” “Who needs this functionality?” “Who defined the original requirements?” “Why can’t I access the code?”

Situations like this are common. Without the product’s requirements and specifications, no one knows who to contact and the backend system seems to be locked in.

Create a blueprint to make your life easier with a digital project journal. With a project journal, your project’s team, objectives, requirements, priorities, scope and lessons learned won’t get lost.

4. First login

You sit in front of the computer and open the new PDM application. “Where do I need to click?” “What if I break it?” “This is difficult. The old system was better.”  

We’ve all been there. You don’t have to be a technophobe to feel reluctant about adopting new technology.

Shifting gears is rarely easy, but a “first login” eLearning course – one that holds your hand while you dip your toes in the water – definitely makes it a bit easier. Make a simple, step-by-step system tour through the system to welcome new users. Create a basic system flow that welcomes users and encourages them to start using the system.

With practice you’ll get better, and it won’t feel like you’re hit with a stress bomb every time you sit in front of the new PDM app.

What does a “First Login” system training look like? Get inspired by our “Fusion Teams – first look” eLearning course.

5. Product training

Get your employees to understand your products better with eLearning. With product training, your employees can learn about the product and practice common procedures in a risk-free environment. You can keep your sales force trained on new-product knowledge, related services and updates, create virtual product catalogues and help your service personnel serve your customers better.

6. Process & workflow training

At the heart of every high-growth organization is a strong process. It’s the backbone that supports organizational scale. But to make new processes work, people need help to make sense of them.

Change freaks us out. Handling a change in the way we do things every day requires work.

Walk your employees through the “why, how and what” of your processes in an interactive way. Let them try and experiment with the new workflow in a controlled environment, where they can jump from system to system and focus on the workflow outcomes, not on the system itself.

Here’s an example of the internal processes we created to explain how to create and upload a blog post into WordPress.

7. Interactive data models

Propel your information into action using interactive data models. Build interactive visualizations of your information flows and document integrations in a user-friendly way.

Is eLearning right for you?

The ever-increasing pace of digital transformation can be especially demanding for your people. It forces them to understand and quickly respond to big shifts in the way they operate and get work done.

Don’t sell yourself short. Your people don’t need Product Lifecycle Management—Product Lifecycle Management needs your people. Getting Product Lifecycle Management to work is really all about getting your people on board. And PLM eLearning training can get you one step closer to connecting people to your products, technology and processes.

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So You Want To Learn PLM?

PLM Certification

So you want to learn Product Lifecycle Management? Are you new to PLM? Have you thought about getting a PLM certification? Do you need tips for a good PLM book or PLM blog? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, this blogpost is for you!

I’d like to share some of the tips, advice and good reads that helped me to become better at my work. What follows is a walk-through of the steps I’d take if I was once again at the beginning of my career. It would have been great to have a list of relevant information and resources to guide me when we started.

5 essential skills to master PLM:

Understand CAD modelling

CAD is widely used today to design and develop products. From 3D modelling to surface design and 2D representation, it’s all about CAD. But CAD software goes far beyond design to offer advanced simulation and analysis features that support virtual prototyping and manufacturing and production processes.

Building a solid foundation in 2D and 3D modelling and understanding the data structures and concepts behind CAD will make your life easier. Speaking the designers’ language is very beneficial when dealing with PLM implementations. It will also help you define information flows and integration better.

I recommend the CAD learning paths from Lynda. They will provide you with an excellent foundation and are easy to follow online.

Learn to code

Programming will help you put yourself in the developers’ shoes. Understanding system development challenges can streamline your PLM implementation projects and help you in the long run. But it’s more than that – learning to code also enhances your problem-solving, logical thinking and organization skills.

Codecademy is a great starting point. Codecademy offers free courses in 12 different programming languages. Their courses are interactive, so you can learn while you practice online. First, you will want to figure out what language you want to focus on. There are plenty to choose from, and each has its own uses. A good place to start if you’re interested in programming is Python. Once you understand the principles of one programming language, it becomes much easier to pick up new ones!

Explore SQL

Learn to communicate with databases using SQL, the standard data-management language. SQL is widely used today across web frameworks and PLM applications. Knowing SQL gives you the power to ask questions of your data and to make better decisions. Again, I also recommend codecademy SQL courses to get started.

Database principles

Databases provide an efficient way to store, retrieve and analyse data, and they are essential to every PLM implementation. Understanding the basics of relational databases is a must if you wish to design and implement PLM solutions effectively. If you want to know more about basic database principles, check out Simon Allardic´s Foundations of Programming: Databases, an online course in Lynda. It gives a good overview of how databases work and why we should care about them.

Project management

PLM projects are complex, and you will need good methods to keep them under control. Defining project outcomes, establishing milestones and preparing a roadmap are some of the things you will need to learn to ensure your project execution is successful. Udemy and Coursera offer very insightful project management courses.

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Join our FREE 7-Day email crash course, and explore the building blocks of Product Lifecycle Management.

5 Essential Books about PLM:

  1. Product Lifecycle Management, by John Stark

This book is a bible for every PLM professional. Volume 1 provides a holistic view of product development, support, use and disposal based on the author’s long experience. Volume 2 goes into detail, providing in-depth descriptions of the concepts introduced in Volume 1.

  1. Product Information Management, by Abraham Jorij

Do you want to learn more about Product Information Management? Here’s the book you need. Abraham Jorij provides a solid information-management foundation, touching on concepts ranging from product classification to system implementation.

  1. Information Management: Strategies for Gaining a Competitive Advantage with Data, by William McKnight

Boldly and concisely, William McKnight sketches a blueprint and action plan for a corporate information-management strategy. It’s a great overview of the new technologies that will drive your organization to digital.

  1. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

This book started a revolution in product development and provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups. Applying lean testing and pivoting techniques to PLM development will help you bridge the gap between business and IT, and save money by not running into slow and expensive initiatives.

  1. Getting things done:The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen

In a field where complexity, uncertainty and information overload are our daily bread, getting organized and prioritizing tasks is worth millions. These simple guidelines for getting things done will help you be effective and reduce stress.

5 Must-Read Blogs to Keep You In the Know

If you’re looking for inspiration and want to keep up to date with industry news, following these industry influencers on LinkedIn can give your career the edge it needs.

Virtual Dutchman

Every PLM pro has likely visited regularly Jos Voskuil’s, a blog that’s done a fine job of solidifying its position as a leading resource for PLM news and insights. With a dozen years of experience, Jos walks us through through the latest trends, shares best practices and provides tips from his practical background. His archive of posts is well-categorized and tagged, making it easy to find information about any specific topic.

Beyond PLM

This blog has been around since 2008, when Oleg Shilovitsky started writing it to help engineers find information about PLM software. Beyond PLM has developed into an established information source for PLM and related technologies.


This the go-to site for anyone looking to know more about plant and building information management. With in-depth experience in the process and oil gas business, Bjorn Fidjeland is a leading industry-recognized PLM expert. His blog provides insights based on his wealth of experience in the field. He explains complex concepts in layman’s terms to bring PLM to a practical, actionable level.


CIMData is a household name in PLM, and this blog is among the most well-known and respected in the space. Articles here are published by senior experts who discuss their specific topic of expertise, and the articles consistently offer in-depth technical analysis ranging from tips and tricks to detailed system implementation.


This is another one of those must-haves for a list like this. Engineering helps you to stay tuned, get inspired and learn about the latest advances in technology for product innovation and manufacturing.

And you, what books & blogs would you recommend to learn PLM? Tell us your tips and tricks for newcomers in the comments section below.