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?