Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Executive Perspective: Successful PLM Starts with the End in Mind

12 Dec, 2011 By: Jim Brown

Business objectives — not the effort to deploy software — should guide your system implementation.

Editor's Note:Advantage for the Product Lifecycle introduces “Executive Perspective” by industry analyst Jim Brown, founder and president of Tech-Clarity. The recurring column will offer insight and advice about how to optimize the business value of PLM technology. This article was originally published in the 2011 issue of Advantage for the Product Lifecycle newsletter.

As we launch Advantage for the Product Lifecycle and “Executive Perspective,” it’s important that we start by focusing on the right things. Product lifecycle management (PLM) initiatives can offer significant, tangible improvement to top-line and bottomline business results. Too often, though, manufacturers invest time, money, and their best people on a PLM implementation that is poorly focused. That is, the team does not have the right end in mind while working on the implementation. The trouble is they focus on implementing software instead of improving their business.

PLM: Looking Ahead
On my Tech-Clarity blog, I discuss “The Four Dimensions of PLM Expansion,” which conveys the primary areas of development that I see for PLM going forward:
  • People. PLM is expanding to encompass a broader set of roles in the business, including technically oriented people such as engineers, manufacturing supervisors, and service technicians as well as business-oriented people such as program managers, product managers, sourcing specialists, and others.
  • Process. PLM is expanding to support a wider variety of processes, including product compliance, quality planning, manufacturing process planning, and others.
  • Lifecycle. PLM is expanding in two directions of the product lifecycle. Manufacturers are moving PLM into the earlier phases of product development to improve innovation and ideation as well as conceptual and systems design. Manufacturers are also extending PLM into manufacturing, marketing, sales, and the service lifecycle.
  • Product. PLM is evolving beyond its origins of managing technical data such as CAD files. Today it encompasses commercial information such as marketing materials, documentation, cost estimates, customer complaints, test plans, and more.
The goal of any significant software implementation should not be to go live with the software. As businesspeople, we should recognize that technology is simply a means to an end. The end game for a PLM implementation should be improving the critical business capabilities of product innovation, product development, and engineering to achieve the real end goal: more profitable products. PLM is uniquely positioned in the enterprise software market because it has the potential to impact profitability in many ways, including:

  • Increasing top-line revenue through better products and faster time to market,
  • Reducing product costs through better collaboration and design for manufacturability,
  • Lowering product-development costs through higher productivity and reduced design rework, and
  • Reducing service and warranty costs through improved product quality.

PLM can help you reach these goals, but the results don’t suddenly appear because new software is up and running. People need to take advantage of the software to improve the way they work. This is how the benefits start to add up. In short, set business-oriented objectives and keep those real goals in mind throughout the implementation process. Don’t fall into the common trap of implementing features and functions solely because they are part of the software package. Instead, adopt only the capabilities needed to improve operational performance and corporate profitability.

How do you begin to set business goals and avoid implementing software for software’s sake? Following are some questions to help guide you through the process:

Which of the following would provide the most strategic value for your company?

  • Improving the top line through more competitive/innovative offerings?
  • Improving the bottom line through reduced costs?
  • Driving Brand equity through improved company perception?
  • Something else?

Which of the following would provide the most operational value for your company?

  • More innovative product ideas?
  • Better product portfolio selection?
  • Faster time to market?
  • Lower direct product costs?
  • High product development efficiency and throughput?
  • Increased product quality?
  • Improved compliance?
  • Something else?

This column will focus on core values of PLM at the departmental level, as well as extend to new enterprise-level opportunities and the expanding value they can provide. We will explore using PLM to improve everything from product innovation to service performance. By keeping the end in mind, executives can ensure that their PLM investments aren’t clouded by the solutions, but are focused on business goals that are clearly understood by the implementation team. Executives must take the lead and raise the bar to get the most value out of PLM.

About the Author: Jim Brown

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