Thursday, May 30, 2013

PLM Implementations: Start at the Beginning!

Starting a PLM implementation activity can be a daunting task for anyone. I have been reading a couple of articles that mention some of the challenges on this "PLM journey". Read this example of how one company did it. Why is it so hard? Why does it take so long? And, why is it often not as successful as planned? I think there are several reasons why people get less from their PLM implementations than what they hoped. Here is what I think:

Cost

The first thing that most companies under estimate is the cost of a good PLM implementation. After spending multiple millions of dollars on ERP, most companies think that they can spend a small percentage of that on PLM. Why? You should be planning to spend enough on PLM to make it work properly. PLM is at least as complex as ERP, and in some cases it is more complex. Make sure you have allocated enough money to do a good job planning your PLM activities, and you will be much happier with the results.

Remember the old programming adage: garbage in, garbage out? Well, the same applies to your product design activities. If you don't manage the information in a very strict way at the front end of your design process, you won't get good information into ERP; ERP cannot fix that. PLM is the head of the product design beast; don't let the tail wag the dog!

Time

It can take a good amount of time to do all the tasks that are needed for a good PLM implementation: process re-engineering, business requirements gathering, solution selection, cultural change management planning, data migration planning, user acceptance testing, training, and others. These plans take time to create and implement, and if you don't plan well, you just might fail. Spend more time on planning and you will likely spend less time fixing mistakes, and living with disgruntled users.

Knowledge

Most people don't do large scale PLM implementations often. Finding people that know what to do is hard. There will be those that think they know what to do, but you may miss many aspects of a successful implementation. It never hurts to get help from those that do this kind of thing for a living. Often the PLM vendor can be helpful, but outside help from a third-party is often very useful. There are two keys to getting people with the right knowledge to manage your PLM implementation properly: education, and getting outside help from experts.

Education 

Get education for your key PLM people! Let me say that again: get education for your key PLM people! If the PLM team is not on the same page, it will be hard to direct a cohesive PLM implementation strategy. That includes educating your upper management and some executives. Many implementations fail because management has unrealistic expectations, or they do not see the expanded view of PLM. Not one PLM implementation I know of has ever failed because of too much education.

Keep these key items in mind when planning your next PLM-related implementation, and you will have more success and happy corporate PLM users.

What do you think? I would love to hear your experiences.

Cheers,

Jim

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