Inventor In-Depth: Resistance Is Not Futile

6 Aug, 2006 By: Jim White

Leverage protests to successfully implement your PLM solution.

Anyone who has given a child a dollar to do something -- or to stop doing something -- soon learns that child is smart enough to come back for more. When children learn how to turn the bribery game back on you, $1 isn't enough anymore.

Bribery also isn't very effective with workgroups or entire departments that resist changes inherent in deploying a PLM (product lifecycle management) solution. You can't buy your way past reasons that are often legitimate, although that puts a wrench into your plans for a smooth technology implementation.

At Autodesk, we've worked with various companies to help them implement their PLM solutions. We've seen that if they listen closely to the arguments of the resistance, they gain valuable insights into how to make implementation much more successful. Those insights, when included in the deployment plan, can lead to commitment from all involved that is crucial to a successful implementation. This column discusses some of the challenges and the first step to take. Next month I'll discuss more techniques for successful deployment.

IT Resistance
The first area of resistance that most PLM solutions face is from a company's technology experts. If your implementation is going to move beyond a dazzling PowerPoint presentation or box of CDs, you need ongoing assistance and buy-in from your IT (information technology) department.

The biggest source of resistance from IT staff stems from a loss of control. Some engineering groups wait until they have already selected their PLM solution vendor before they consult their internal IT counterparts. Naturally, IT feels left out.

The IT team is responsible for network traffic, licensing issues and bandwidth maintenance across the enterprise. IT staff members also work hard to avoid data silos, or systems that don't talk to other critical systems across the company. If the PLM solution is brought in without any prior consultation, the IT team will soon be saddled with responsibility for a system it has not sanctioned or planned to support. To top it off, if the PLM solution jeopardizes the entire IT infrastructure, few people will blame the engineering group -- they will blame IT.

Business Resistance
Another area of resistance often stems from various business groups in your company. A PLM solution presents a strikingly different way to manage engineering data. With enhanced version control and the ability to re-use design content, PLM solutions can radically alter established information pathways.

To answer questions from your business units, present PLM as it relates to the day-to-day work of the extended team. AMR Research estimated that as much as 75% of a product's lifecycle cost -- from development through production, release, support and disposal -- comes from its design. So it makes sense for PLM to focus on product design data.

Another potential resisting force to consider in your business is the uncrowned "Keeper of Core Intellectual Property." Every company and every division has one. This is the person everyone goes to when they can't find data, answer a question or determine the correct procedure. Many workgroups put up with difficult behavior from the Keeper, as long as the Keeper keeps sharing accumulated knowledge.

A PLM solution puts the team on the same level as the Keeper. By granting anyone in the workgroup equal access to data, the PLM solution changes the Keeper's role. Once the sole possessor of knowledge, the expert now becomes part of the larger community.

Building Executive Level Commitment
Before you can overcome IT or business resistance, a successful PLM solution deployment must have an executive champion. This champion uses his or her position to tie the PLM solution to big-picture business goals, such as increasing profitability, maintaining competitive advantage, reducing product time to market, raising quality standards, reducing costs and improving processes.

Big-picture goals are a good start, but the executive champion must detail clearly how implementing the PLM solution will lead the company toward those goals. For example, the company can reduce costs by leveraging common engineering content across multiple product lines. Products can get to market more quickly through re-use of schematics from similar products. Under the new PLM system, the major goals should tie to daily individual processes and tasks.

Everyone in a company, from top executives to administrative assistants to IT programmers, wants to feel that his or her commitment to learning something new will have an impact. People want assurances that their short-term pain is leading toward long-term gains for the company. That's where executive commitment comes into play.

Employees who will use the new system need to understand the reasons why they should put up with process disruptions. An executive champion leads employees to identify with these larger company goals.

Next month I'll discuss how to overcome these challenges and begin building your PLM implementation plan.

About the Author: Jim White

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!