From PLM Education to Benefit Realization

Education is critical when deploying enterprise digital platforms, with associated processes, data standards, automated workflows, interfaces, etc. Education is often directly translated as “end-user training”, though it also includes many other things: from executive awareness to key user engagement in business change and continuous improvement, design workshops, change leadership, knowledge transfer to operations and support teams.

Value from change truly materializes when organizations fully embrace the change; this is when end-users and management converge to new ways of working. Benefit realization comes from new process, tool and technology adoption, working more efficiently, leveraging automation and new digital capabilities to enhance how teams collaborate.

In this post, I elaborate on what it means to realize business benefits, how end-users get trained and what it means for organizations.

Business value is created through many ways: from resource efficiency (improvement pro-rata the resources required to do the work), process efficiency (to more with less, increase throughput and productivity, do it faster), quality improvement, automation, cost reduction, etc.

When implementing new processes, integrations and digital platforms, end-users are central to PLM, ERP or MES change programs. They contribute to a combination of:

  • Existing contextual knowledge of how their respective functions actually operates.
  • Improvement ideas and alignment with new solutions and platforms (not just the IT tool, but everything else that comes with it, such as the OOTB industry processes).
  • Fit-gap analysis of what needs to change, either an organizational process or for digital platform to be configured, integrated and customized to fill a gap.

Key users contribute to aligning the relevant organizational language and terminology, communicate with peers and act as “change ambassadors” across the business. Change initiatives are also opportunities for some of them to become change agent and support ‘floor-walkers’ in supporting other users in learning and adopting new working practices. They are typically involved in ‘design workshops’ with the implementation partners so that they can understand the rationale and expected value from the change. They typically drive the ‘bottom-up’ assessment of the business benefits, which feeds directly into the ongoing validation of the business case.

Training end-users can take place at various stages during a change program, and be deployed in multiple formats:

  • Awareness sessions about new processes, tools and technologies.
  • Design workshops as part of a PLM (or other) digital platform implementation.
  • UAT validation cycles.
  • Formal training prior to solution deployment, which can materialize as a combination of e-learning (basically self-learning, structured or at one’s pace) and more formal types of training (such as instructor-led classroom and other certification programs).
  • On-the-job training, which can be delivered in the form of mentoring sessions by more experienced users or dedicated trainers, combining at-elbow or over-the-phone specialized support.

End-user development is typically coordinated by HR partners as it affects user performance, quality compliance, onboarding, skill management programs. Over the past decades, there has been a rise in e-learning and especially distance learning, further amplified in the past 12 months with the global pandemic. Technical users can be resisting modern ways of learning as they might fear that they won’t be able to get the relevant level of support once they leave the classroom; or due to lack of human interactions from e-learning programs. This is however not the case anymore as blended e-learning has become the norm, presenting levels of flexibility and as everyone can adapt to the relevant learning pace, based on their experience, motivation and prior-knowledge.

It is important to consider the ‘human factor’ in learning programs, giving end-users easy access to a people-based helpdesk when needing new or more information. There is often a balance between motivation for self-education, curiosity and ability to learn from existing knowledge database; before logging a support ticket to request help in finding the relevant information.

When ‘going live’ with new enterprise solutions, a short-term dip in productivity is often anticipated, before new working practices fully kick-in towards realizing business benefits. This accounts for the learning curve required to adapt to the solution, including how end-users and their management transform their operations accordingly. As a matter of fact, process re-engineering sometimes comes with new operating models and / or organizational change management to fully realize expected benefits.

 What are your thoughts?

This is an original publication by:

Momentum PLM and written by Lionel Grealou

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Lionel Grealou

1st March

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