PLM implementations are often referred as “transformation journeys” as they imply an ongoing learning experience; one which often carries on once the solution is deployed—as part of continuous improvement and maintenance initiatives. The learning process can be “full on” during business and technical implementations, especially with regards to organizational change, platform replacement, enterprise integration and complex data migration. This is notwithstanding the combined business change and process design, coupled with new operating model development, organizational learning and re-design, user-end education and change adoption.
Preparing for it implies understanding and learning about how the enterprise operates, its culture and behaviors towards adjusting to change, how IT, HR, procurement and other support functions contribute to the value chain, how employees learn and contribute to making the change a success.
In this post, I discuss the learning experience of implementing PLM solutions, from process improvement to technology integration, including operating and tool “best practice”, but also from the perspective of organizational design to change management. Basically, learning about PLM can be combined with learning about how an organization operates and wants to change… and vice et versa.
Broadly speaking, PLM is the discipline to govern how people collaborate alongside the product development lifecycle—joining up product, customer, technical, marketing data along the way. PLM initiatives contribute to how organizations learn about themselves, and in turn how they learn about PLM:
Learning where to start a new change or PLM improvement journey.
Learning about the so-called PLM “best practice” (or practices).
Learning about how to implement change in a given situation / organizational context.
Learning about PLM: where to start
Changing how an organization operates starts by understanding how it currently operates, why it has been operating as such until now (to avoid repeating past mistakes or carrying past limitations), how it wants or needs to operate in the future (from its vision to how it wants to evolve going forward).
Learning about PLM “best practice”
There are certainly different perspectives to consider when learning about PLM and the so-called best practice(s). Some argue that these are commonly used or “good practices used elsewhere”, rather than “best practices” that can be replicated out of context elsewhere—let’s not debate that here. The point is that it is possible to learn from other experiences across the following 5 perspectives:
Industry perspective: how do leaders and laggers differ; how do new technologies and business models contribute to process and product innovation?
Organizational perspective: how does an organization want to differentiate itself from its own past or from others, from its competitors; also, how does it learn and leverage its cross-functional knowledge?
Process perspective: how can a user workflow be improved, what value will it derive, and how will the related functions learn from any improvement; how does such process relate to the bigger picture at a wider operating level?
Data perspective: how do people learn from data, how data is created and used, how data is converted into insights that enable effective decision-making process?
Tool perspective: what can people learn from technology advances, platform capabilities and embedded industry-specific practices?
Business model perspective: how do people learn to transform, define and implement new ways to operate, maximizing value creation across the business and its supporting functions?
Learning through change
PLM practitioners often refer to “learning through the change journey”. This includes learning about new requirements, about how these requirements are discovered and cascaded into storyboards and use cases; but also, learning about how an organization learns, how it manages its employees, suppliers, customers; how employees behave and feel valued by the organization, and how they contribute and fit within the overall product development lifecycle.
Most learning is often implicit or tacit: it is reflected in behaviors, collaboration patterns, and ultimately translates into organizational growth. Learning PLM practices and related business change sometimes comes the hard way by “learning by doing” and “learning by failing and doing it again” until reaching success.