PLM is neither easy nor straightforward. It involves defining and communicating complex concepts, running cross-functional projects, managing organisational change – and, at the end of the day, changing the way people work. So if your new PLM program doesn’t get off to the best start, hang in there!
Traditional project management approaches fall often short and don’t adapt well to the complexity and duration of large PLM initiatives. Typically, they combine several parallel complex projects, which can present challenges to coordination and overall success. It’s not easy to orchestrate several large and interconnected initiatives. It’s equally tough to get people from many different parts of a company to work together and to share a vision.
But good program management definitely is a great place to start. With that in mind, here are 12 steps you can follow to manage your PLM program effectively.
1. Appoint a program manager
Your success is in the hands of the program manager. This is the individual who manages the entire PLM program, from conception through delivery and beyond. Most importantly, they are the face of the PLM program of your organization’s management team and other stakeholders around your enterprise on both the business and technology sides. Choose someone with a solid mix of communication, technology and business skills.
2. Define a business case
You need to build a business case to demonstrate why your PLM program is needed and how it will benefit your organization. What will your organization get out of it? Focus on describing how the program will help the business. Generate buy-in with a well-defined ROI, and get the green light from your management to start the program.
3. Secure executive support
Executive support will make the difference between the success or failure of your PLM initiative. If you want to make it work, start at the top. Strong senior leadership support will help you convey the message and secure the resources you need for your program to run smoothly.
4. Set the program’s direction
Aim high, with a vision that aligns with your organization’s long-term goals. A flowery vision statement won’t be enough—make it specific, and communicate it to all the stakeholders. Set prioritized and tangible program goals. The Program Charter is a key deliverable from the visioning process and describes all aspects of the program at a high level. The main purpose of the program charter is to outline what is to be done, authorize the program manager to proceed, and to release organizational resources for the program.
5. Define the program team
- Core Team:Your core PLM team will be in charge of turning your PLM vision into reality. It’s imperative that every core team member understands what their role is in the program.
- Extended Team:Beyond your core PLM team, you’ll also be interacting a great deal with people across your organization who will be part of your extended team.
- Steering Committee: A steering committee is a group of high-level stakeholders who provide support, advocacy and enablement for the initiatives they oversee.
6. Determine the current and future state
If you don’t understand where you are right now, how can you demonstrate where your program will take you? Clarify where you are now. Carefully evaluate the processes, tools, data and main challenges of the areas you’re focusing on. Once you have documented the “As-is” situation, define where you want to go. Challenge the assumptions, and assess the main target areas in detail. Be realistic. Set achievable and measurable expectations.
7. Define program milestones, and organize them into projects
Now that you have a good grasp of the “as is” and “to be” states, it’s time to define the steps that will take you to your destination. There is a tendency for PLM initiatives to shorten the planning process and jump right into system implementation. This is a mistake. Most PLM programs fizzle rather than fail due to ambiguous targets and deliverables definition. Well thought-out planning will result in clear objectives and deliverables, as well as cost savings.
You must have a clear understanding of the milestones and accomplishments your PLM Program must deliver. Break down your program into projects. Take your list and organize the projects by functional area within your organization. Use concrete, sharply defined milestones to track the progress of major program activities.
8. Identify your allies and enemies
Anyone running a large corporate program must deal with both allies and adversaries, and your PLM program is no exception. It’s important for you to gain a comprehensive picture of all your allies and adversaries across your organization, and to know the influence and power they wield. Understand who these individuals are and why they fall into one category or the other. It will help you develop a smart, thorough plan to manage your initiatives wisely and avoid getting into trouble because of bad stakeholder management.
9. Manage the work plan, and monitor the schedule and budget
Review the work plan regularly to determine how you’re progressing. Keep a close eye on the schedule and budget, ensure that program activities are on track, and check that the money your program has consumed is in line with the budget. Sometimes you might be late, or your actual spending might be more than originally estimated. If so, be proactive. Work with the team to determine how to get back on track and complete the planned work, or confront the risk that you might be late or exceed your allocated budget.
10. Monitor progress
At any given moment, you must be able to answer someone who asks: Is your PLM program successful? Your reply must be grounded in facts about your program’s health, not a subjective or emotional assessment. To be accurate, define success, and make sure you can measure it. Focus on a small number of metrics that will become your key performance indicators (or KPIs).
11. Manage Risk
Even after your PLM program is underway, you’ll probably encounter significant risks throughout the program’s lifecycle. Financial and budgetary risks are always present, even after your program gets underway. But in a PLM program, technological risks should always be considered. PLM solutions and platforms evolve quickly, and there are risks you need to beware of (such as system upgrades or lack of vendor support for certain capabilities). Identifying and analysing risks and looking for signs of trouble on a regular basis can help you stay on track and avoid a bigger crisis.
12. Organize a Program Review
You need to review your PLM program regularly to keep you and everyone else up to date on how your program is doing. Use status reports to reflect the accomplishments your team has made since your last reporting period. You also need to be realistic about where you and your team may have fallen short and the main issues you’ve faced.
Review your KPIs and discuss the key challenges to consider. Review and discuss the latest version of your PLM program roadmap with an emphasis on changes, especially major ones that have occurred since the last review meeting. After the program review meeting, everyone should feel they’re on board with the program direction and that their issues and concerns have been addressed.
You might also consider organizing webcasts and sending monthly newsletters. The main purpose of these is to keep the entire organization—and not just the people who participate in your program reviews—informed, engaged and enthusiastic about the program.