Thursday, June 6, 2013

Change Management: The Ghost in the Machine

I recently read a post by Peter Schroer, President of Aras PLM: Change Management: One Size Will Never Fit All. I agree with the challenges he brings up in his post. The practice of change management is very complex, and it varies greatly from one company to another. However, I don't think the biggest challenge is finding software that will accommodate the vagaries of each individual change management requirement. I think the biggest challenge for any company is to take a hard look at their processes, and then find ways to make them more innovative.

In my experience, most companies have inefficient processes, or processes that are not followed, or processes that are traditional and that do nothing to support innovation. The truth is, when it comes to engineering change and other processes, most companies have a real mess. So, before a company runs off and finds a great piece of software that can automate their mess, they should clean up the mess.

Step 1: A company must do an evaluation of their current processes. This means to map out the business as it really happens, not as management thinks it happens. Most companies have large books of rules and processes that people are suppose to follow, but often they are not followed. Find out how you really do business, and carefully determine the optimum way of processing changes and other activities. This will not be easy, or fun, or quick, but it will pay big dividends for your business.

Step 2: Look for software that can accommodate your business. This is where the flexibility of the PLM software is a real benefit. The PLM vendor should not tell you how to manage your engineering change processes. You should be able to tell the vendor exactly what you want. If you are unsure, there are best practices that can help fill in the gaps, like CMII, but it's YOUR business. No one knows better than you what your business needs.

Engineering change management is a complex process. The time you spend making your processes more innovative will have a positive impact on your business. A good PLM system should provide the tools to support complex and innovative processes, and assure compliance in each case. But, it cannot make up for inefficient processes, or for users that are not required to follow the rules.

What do you think?




  1. Hi Jim,

    Great to read your thoughts on this topic. Couldn't agree with you more that companies have a long way to go in cleaning up their mess. Critical that they be able to articulate what process truly brings them innovation.


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  2. Jen,

    Thanks for your comments.

    It is easy to blame the PLM solution when innovation is not achieved. Most of the time, in my experience, the problem is not technical; the problem is usually cultural or organizational. Fixing these problems first leads to a much smoother PLM implementation.



  3. Hy Jim,

    Good thinking, I agree with you, these two steps are definitely essential. People need solutions for their specific problems and the way they do business.
    What do you think of custom made (tailored) solutions, systems with specific options and possibilities based on demands employees made in the questioning before implementation, for making a solution for specific company, even specific group and projects?

  4. Thanks for your comments.

    I think the challenge with customization is that it can get out of control. If you ask the users what they want, they will come up with all kinds of crazy ideas. There must be some standard way of doing things that everyone can easily follow.

    Customization can also lead to software updates that require additional expensive software development, or you can find yourself many releases behind.

    If there is a good business case behind a custom solution, then go for it. If there is not sound business reasons for any custom software, then avoid it like the plague!



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