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.