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  • plm-bad-people

    For decades People, Process and Technology triad was a foundation to solve business problems. Entire frameworks  and methodologies were created around the simple concept that getting each of these three areas correct and functioning in concert will ensure smooth business operations and cross discipline alignment. Billions of dollars were spent on people  in consulting groups mastering the “art of alignment” and providing solution to biggest business problems out there. And… businesses continue to face the same well-known problems spending an impressive amount of money to fix them.

    Last week discussions at PI PLMx conference reminded me People, Process and Technology discussions. While people are unhappy from PLM projects in general, many presenters talked about the value of PLM investment. Unfortunately, people don’t connect value of PLM directly to PLM projects.


    Michael Wendenburg’s article –PI PLM x in Hamburg: roller coaster of sensations brings few interesting points captured from PI PLMx congress I attended last week. The article is originally was written in German. But Google translate made a decent job for me to read it.

    After a certain disillusionment on the first day, on the second day of a series of lectures on successful PLMProjects the present again future-oriented. It was largely agreed that the problem was less the technology than the change in the processes. Or as PLM consultant Jos Voskuil said: Not PLM is complex, but the people.

    The real challenge of the PLM implementation is not the implementation of the technology, but to get people to accept the accompanying change in processes.

    Above all, the realization that at least 38 percent state that PLM is not part of their digitization strategy is appalling , and only 15 percent associate PLM and big data strategy. Equally frightening is the fact that the results of the study did not particularly surprise the participants in the event.

    What has gone wrong in the last 20 years? The root cause research in the panel discussion revolved around the question of whether it makes sense to measure the value of PLM , or whether it should be considered as a strategic investment. Also not a whole new discussion. It was widely agreed that a major reason for the lack of PLM-Readiness of companies is the lack of clear responsibilities. According to the survey, only 8 percent of companies have an executive ownership of PLM.

    PLM professionals, vendors and especially consultants and advisors are pointing on a process and strategy as a core problem of PLM success or failure. Their position is clear. The technology doesn’t matter, we need fix process and company strategy. Then technology will have a chance. Welcome to consulting world.

    I’ve been talking to industrial companies at the conference. Many of them are looking for technologies and products as part of the solution. Innovation is often associated with technology. And technology is giving us headaches and doesn’t solve the problem despite huge amount of money spent on it. Then companies are finger-pointing on vendors and wrong products. And very rarely on themselves.

    The reality is that businesses are chasing the wrong buzzwords, buying the wrong solutions, solving the wrong problems. From a perspective of PLM implementation, the work of consultant, service provider and IT people involved into PLM business is all about asking single question – ‘what business problem are we trying to solve?’.  Process is not the answer to the problem. People are at the root and core of our businesses driving processes and making decisions.

    Here are 3 main problems with people I’ve seen during PLM implementations:

    1- People are resistant to changes. The problem of people and changes are everywhere. It becomes the top topic in discussions about product lifecycle management implementations. The reality is that resistance to change is normal. It is still the biggest cause for failure, but from people standpoint it is a normal behavior. Change represents a loss of control and can be associated and related to survival instinct. Change is associated with unknown and people don’t like it. Also change put people in the place where they can be wrong in a very visible way.

    2- People can get emotional. All people decisions can be influenced by negative or positive emotions. Perception of risk influenced by emotional state and often leads to bad decisions. People often become defensive and stubborn when angry pouring more effort and money into that failing project they personally defined, abandoning project when discovering a slight bump and finding themselves out of comfort zone.

    3- People are driven by self-interest. People are also confused about their self interests. Also people version of self-interests is often incorrect. In addition to that,  ego can misinterpret the world around us. People are not listening to feedback and may not include information that doesn’t fit our narrative.

    What is my conclusion? PLM technologies are very sensitive to people. Probably more than some others technologies I had a chance to meet in my professional life. PLM technology more often than others can make other failures visible. Just think about engineering change orders and the ability to track who was responsible for changes and delays. By itself it can terrify many people in an organization and they will emotionally resist the change. At PLMx we’ve heard the example of people not interested to share about efficiency PLM brought to the company because that would expose how inefficient process was before. People don’t like new ways of doing things and they obstruct, delay and cause problem. Because they are people. But don’t get me wrong – we cannot fix people. We need to figure out how to work with people and how to get around the people with the right processes and technologies people cannot resist. Just my thoughts…

    Best, Oleg

    Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

    Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.