Thursday, August 9, 2012

What the Mars Rover Landing Can Teach us About PLM

Like many others, I watched with awe and amazement as the Mars rover, named Curiosity, landed safely on the planet Mars. When I watched the computer generated animation of how they would be lowering this large vehicle onto the surface of the Red Planet, I thought to myself "that will never work". But, it seems to have worked just fine. I am proud of what has been accomplished by the team that made this happen.

What is so startling to me about the whole thing is that they ran into very few problems on this very intricate landing. To quote the New York Times:

"The landing ran into fewer problems than any of the hundreds of simulations they had run over the last two years.
"It was cleaner than any of our tests," said Al Chen, a JPL engineer and member of the mission's landing team, shaking his head with amazement. "It was a blast."
The landing was suppose to be very tricky, and filled with challenges. This is how it was described in one blog just hours before the actual landing:
"Following “seven minutes of terror” beginning at 1:31 a.m. EST early Monday morning -- a reference to the nerve-racking landing NASA has planned, which involves Curiosity’s screaming race to the surface and a dangle off a rocket-powered sky crane..."
You can see a video of the landing here. I am amazed every time I watch this video. But, the landing went off without a hitch. I didn't understand all the jumping around by those brainiacs at JPL, but now I do: they were so happy to have pulled off a very challenging feat of space-landing magic; so many things could have gone wrong, but they didn't.
Do you ever look at your PLM implementation activities, and classify them as "seven minutes of terror"? For some, the selection and roll-out of PLM solutions can cause even the strongest person to shrink from the task. One of the important things the we can learn from the Mars rover is the importance of testing BEFORE we roll out our PLM solutions.
That is why CIMdata always recommends a pilot project environment to test your PLM solutions BEFORE they are ever rolled out to the masses. This allows you to install software, test integrations, perform and test data migration, do user acceptance testing, and a host of other activities. Installing software for the first time on Friday, and rolling it out to the users on Monday NEVER works.
The Mars rover didn't land on Mars by accident. It took years of trial, testing, and "hundreds of simulations" to make sure it would be successful on this very important and complex endeavor. Should you take any less care with your roll-out of PLM solutions?
What do you think? Do your PLM implementations get the up-front attention they deserve?

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