Friday, June 29, 2012

The Tortoise and the Hare: A PLM Story

Everyone is familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. This fable recounts a race between two unlikely combatants: the very slow tortoise, and the fast and agile hare. On the surface, it seems that there is no reason to even have this race, since the hare will surely win. However, the story goes on to show that despite the speed and freedom of the hare, he is unable to beat the tortoise's focused, plodding approach to the race. I think we can learn something about PLM from this informative fable.

The first thing we learn is that there are two seemly conflicting elements in any PLM implementation: innovation, and control. We all want to be innovative and invent the next really cool product. To support innovation, we must provide a very flexible environment that allows our people to experiment, try things, fail, and try again. However, we also must make sure we carefully control our information so that we can find what we are looking for, support fully traceable processes, and provide the right information at the right time to the right people.

A recent book, "Great by Choice", highlighted the importance of very strict product data management to support the quest for innovation. They looked at many companies in many industries, and found that those who focused merely on innovation were market leaders only 9% of the time. Those who focused on managing their information in a strong, structured way, and who were not necessarily innovative were more likely to be the market leaders. Clearly, innovation just for the sake of innovation is not the right answer.

Today we see many companies that have no formal rules for how they handle information (or, if they do have the rules, there is no oversight to make sure people are following these rules). The very first, and in my mind, most important step of any PLM implementation is to provide a very strong and rigorous structure for your information and processes. The information must be managed in a PDM-type of system, and the processes followed by your users without fail. Product data management isn't sexy, but it is essential. Once the information is managed, and everyone follows the rules, you can deploy very innovative, searchable, collaborative environments, and you will see fantastic results.

What do you think? Are you putting the cart before the horse, or the hare before the tortoise in your business? Let me know!

See ya soon,


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