How Soft Skills Come into Perspective Based on the PLM Implementation Role
The importance of soft skills when delivering change does not only apply to business or IT leaders. Important soft skills relate in fact to multiple implementation-based roles as PLM and business experts assess, promote, design and deploy new or enhanced enterprise solutions: from business change leads to solution architects, functional experts, trainers, solution developer, infrastructure experts, project managers, etc.
PLM implementations are often about decisions and trade-offs: what to do now vs later, what requirements and scope to prioritize, what to customize vs what process to adopt out-of-the-box, single versus multiple technologies, which vendor and implementation partner to appoint, etc. Some roles will leverage certain soft skills more than others. As highlighted in a previous post, reflecting on the 7 valuable soft skills required when implementing business change, there are obvious role-based alignment requirements.
In this post, I elaborate on how specific soft skills can be valuable based on the role when implementing PLM.
In a previous post, I highlighted the following 7 soft skills are essential when it comes to implementing business change initiatives:
Flexibility and resilience
Problem solving and big picture thinking
Process-oriented and the ability to learn (and self-learn)
Negotiation (including commercial)
Ability to inspire others and show empathy
Some roles have overlapping competencies and skills; similarly, when it comes to PLM implementations, some individuals can leverage certain soft skills in their day-to-day activities. As a rule of thumb, let’s explore how soft skills come into perspective with a few role-based examples (non-exhaustive list):
Business analysts aim to gather, assess and communicate business requirements with the relevant SMEs and the technical implementation team. They can leverage their process-oriented and learning skills to align to a given business scenario or problem statement. They might also develop trusted relationships by demonstrating understanding and empathy for how the business currently operates and its challenges.
Solution architects must apply big picture thinking and pragmatic, yet platform specific, problem-solving skills at all times of a given PLM implementation. Their ability to negotiate “trade-offs” between out-of-the-box solution adoption and customization / extension is critical to value realization. They directly contribute to the managing complexity and driving technical decisions, with the associated non-technical implications.
Product owners and program managers focus on strategic communications, crisis management at all levels, especially with executive stakeholders, and including commercial negotiations. Soft skills come into perspective when mitigating risks or managing issue resolution; this includes advising the business on how to address non-performing suppliers. They must also exercise levels of big picture thinking to prioritize value-added delivery.
Technical leads and project managers must use soft skills to motivate, inspire and guide developers and technical SMEs, especially when facing decisions which might impact costs and other non-technical criteria. Inspiring others include taking some of the burden away from them when dealing with conflicting requirements from the business, supporting business analysts and change leads with effective and simplified communications.
System SMEs and developers need to demonstrate resilience and flexibility when it comes to aligning to changing priorities, business or management decisions which might directly affect their work. They must be able to communicate a simplified perspective on the technical options and related dilemma that they face when implementing technical PLM solutions.
Trainers must demonstrate the relevant resilience and ability to learn how an organization learns; adapting to how the PLM solution is implemented and considerations related to transition from legacy to the new process and technical platform. Understanding and adapting to the required learning curve is essentially about flexibility, process-oriented thinking and the ability to link to the bigger picture: certain trade-offs on one hand often balance with business benefits and the need for specific education on another hand.
Roles with higher responsibilities and those exposed to higher levels of complexity will certainly require more sophisticated soft skills—especially as their remit implies greater influence and involvement with others. Typically, soft skills can be developed or enhanced through experience and certain wisdom (knowledge based on organizational and industry cultures).
When used effectively, soft skills can genuinely add value. Self-awareness is also a critical soft skill to leverage toward greater individual “emotional intelligence”, especially when leading teams in difficult times.