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.

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.

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!


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