If you are considering how to establish a successful Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution strategy, you can:
- Do what you did before (if that worked out well for you and the company)
- Contact your favorite software and/or service provider and buy what they sell you (if you have the funding already and if you totally trust them to act in your best interest)
- Binge-Watch popular shows for inspiration (if you want a fun yet practically grounded approach)
I hope you picked the last one. If you did, you’re going to get to binge-watch hours of TV to uncover the secrets of the great PLM strategists!
Okay, you don’t really need to binge-watch any TV. However, I’m going to describe how you get real value from lessons learned in several of today’s popular TV shows but applied to the art of developing a successful PLM Solution Strategy.
For the sake of this paper, let’s assume the scenario where you do not yet have one or more:
- A final idea of what will be included in the PLM solution
- Full funding for your initiative to implement the solution
- Full executive and stakeholder support
This is the most common starting point. If you already have one or more of these points covered — great. As a Gartner study reports: process and technology problems caused only 8% of project failures; while people, leadership, and organizational shortfalls were responsible for 92% of project failures. Thus, we’ll focus on the strategies that keep people, leadership, and organizational issues from sabotaging your PLM solution before you can get it off the ground.
Hopefully, you’ll still find some take-aways from the shows below.
The first thing necessary in any major corporate endeavor is to secure enough funding and the support of protective ‘angels’. Nothing embodies this more than the show ‘Shark Tank’. Take your cues from what the successful Contestants do:
- Know your audience – Contestants who get funding know the backgrounds, interests, and possible contributions (in addition to funding) of each Shark. To secure support and funding for your PLM solution initiative, know who can fund all or portions of your initiative, what help they need (more on this later) and what support you need from them.
- Develop your Elevator Pitches – In each show, the Contestant only has a short time to convince the Sharks that what they have is worth investing in (to the possible exclusion of other Contestant’s product pitches). Like Shark Tank, you’ll have limited time to make your points and convince busy decision-makers you have something valuable to them. However, unlike Shark Tank, you will not need to pitch to a panel of decision-makers; you’ll have the freedom to have multiple one-on-one meetings with each decision-maker. This gives you the freedom to tailor an Elevator Pitch for each decision-maker so that your solution initiative aligns your needs with their needs.
- Discuss Value and Returns before Investment – During the show, Contestants showcase their products, discuss their previous success, and then after they have the interests of the Sharks, they get into investment discussions.
- Go Big or Go Home – Another aspect of Shark Tank to take note of, is that the Sharks are interested in investing in products that they believe have significant returns on their investments. They have no interest in me-too products or products that don’t move the needle. They are interested in, and capable of, applying their investments to improving the necessary business fundamentals or infrastructure in order to hit the Entrepreneur’s audacious goals. So you should paint the big picture, even if you need only a small amount of funding to get started.
Another show to take some notes from is Undercover Boss. You are probably not the company “Boss” like on the show, but you will likely be the boss of your PLM implementation. So, you’ll certainly benefit from acting like the ‘Undercover Boss” to understand the various stakeholders within your organization and how to align employee goals with corporate goals.
To describe the show if you’ve never seen it, usually, a CEO, disguises their physical appearance and their intentions and goes around various organizational locations and job functions and seeks to understand the day-to-day work, problems, and aspirations of each stakeholder. They literally walk in another person’s shoes. Then at the end of the show, the Boss reveals him or herself to the organization and puts in place solutions to many of the stakeholder’s issues that also serve to reinforce the corporate values.
How does this help in developing a PLM strategy? Here are some comparable approaches:
- Go Look and See – The Undercover Boss first goes out to where the action is to see for themselves how various stakeholders perform their work and discusses with them topics that may not be self-evident; like their pains and goals. Unlike the Undercover Boss who must travel “down” the org chart (since they are already at the top), you will need to travel “up” the org chart and learn the problems, aspirations, and goals (i.e. performance measures) of each of your funding sources (aka “Sharks”) and those that influence those funding sources (aka “Bosses” within their areas) in addition to “across” and “down” the organization. This across-the-corporation investigation will provide the key value points for aligning the PLM Solution’s goals with User/Manager goals and with Executive/Corporate goals.
- Align Stakeholder Goals and Corporate Goals – The Undercover Boss tends to reward those employees who embody corporate goals and values and has occasionally punished those that worked counter to corporate values. As the person wanting support for your PLM initiative, you’ll need to repackage your initiative so that your decision-makers (i.e. “Bosses”) see alignment between the initiative and their goals. That is why it’s beneficial to tailor different elevator pitches for each decision-maker.
- Bosses Fund What They Value – As mentioned, every episode of Undercover Boss ends in the newly revealed Boss funding someone or some department to highlight their support of the values demonstrated during their walk-about. This is a truism that all PLM advocates should take heed from: people pay for that which they value. Your PLM initiative is probably not able to completely solve one or more boss-level goals (aka “ends”). However, if your PLM initiative has been developed and communicated as a “necessary means to an end”, you will have much greater success in defining the Goals and top-level Business needs and as well having your PLM initiative (or initiatives) get adequate funding.
Game of Thrones
Now that you’ve identified business Pains, Needs, and Goals “up”, “down”, and “sideways” across the organization, it’s time to select a PLM technology. There is no easy way to say this, picking a PLM technology is like living life in Westeros (the fictional continent in the HBO series Game of Thrones).
For those who haven’t followed Game of Thrones (or GoT), at the risk of oversimplification, the series is about a struggle for power among several noble “Houses”; all the while an existential threat is just over the horizon (a literal Wall in the show) that will make these Houses’ internecine warfare a distracting exercise in futility.
How might you apply lessons from Game of Thrones to PLM implementation strategy?
- Know the Map – Each episode starts with a fly-over of the GoT world’s map and key power base. For those that have watched closely over the seasons, this introductory sequence changes as the story’s powerbases and House alliances change. Similarly, power struggles, alliances, and competition for resources exist within your organization. If we continue this metaphor, consider that each major power player within your organization probably has their own ‘Champion’. This Champion is their preferred PLM-related solution and may or may not be aligned with your prospective Champion (if you already have one) or other Houses’ Champions. Some of these Champions (and their PLM analogs) are:
- Old and past their prime, but their people are comfortable with them
(e.g. an existing PDM/PLM system)
- The bastard children of other Champions
(e.g. the ERP provider’s PLM system)
- Mercenaries who’ve impressed the House Lord with tales of their deeds
(e.g. a new PLM System)
- Old and past their prime, but their people are comfortable with them
Ensure that you can map out who is supportive of your PLM initiative, who is opposed (and what they prefer), and who influences them. You should begin to understand this as you are playing the ‘Undercover Boss’. Once you know the map, you can much better play the “Game of Thrones” and win.
- Solicit Outside Support – In GoT, most of the series’ protagonists have sought and benefited from the help of outside experts. In the fictional world of Westeros, these outside agents have been mercenaries, spies, assassins, and dragons (yes, dragons). In the real world of PLM office politics, the outside support isn’t so fantastical. Similar Companies and Consultants are the best forms of outside support. Similar companies who have gone through what you’re about to go through can help you avoid some pitfalls. Consultants should be selected who can build rapport and earn the respect of the various “Houses” within your organization. Consultants can act as impartial facilitators outside the existing power map.
- Develop a Battle Plan – Now you must develop a plan. In GoT many leaders have the world mapped out where they move troop figurines around to plan battles. To pick your PLM Technology, you’ll also want to develop a plan. A good PLM Technology Plan should include:
- A Uniform and Fair Evaluation Process – As previously stated, each “House” is likely to begin the process with its own preferred technology “Champion”. You will need to provide a uniform and fair evaluation process to reduce the risk of the most powerful or vocal “Houses” forcing their will on the rest of the organization. If this happens, the rest of the organization tends to resist the use of the technology within their areas of responsibility. The PLM solution then becomes more localized, and hence less impactful and less well-funded. Thus, to build wide-spread consensus, it’s imperative to have all decision-makers agree upon a uniform and fair evaluation process that helps to make the subjective objective through weighting, voting, and informed discussions.
- A Balanced Scorecard – To reduce the influence of existing bias among your stakeholders, you’ll want the “Houses” to agree on the rules of engagement, so to speak. These rules should be documented in a Balanced Scorecard that includes (but is not limited to):
- Business and IT needs
- Specific use cases to be demonstrated
- License models and costs
- Configurability evaluation
- Quality of References
- A weighting and voting system
- Use-Case Based Demonstrations – All PLM technology vendors have developed polished demonstrations that show their software in its best light. These demonstrations may be necessary but they are not sufficient. A good plan should include the requirement that the PLM Vendors demonstrate use cases specific to solving some of your tougher business challenges. This will minimize the razzle-dazzle factor of a pre-defined demo but will also provide insights into the PLM technologies’ ease of configuration and flexibility.
- Elevate the Existential Threat – Lastly, in GoT, there is the seasons-long slow-encroachment of an evil so extreme, that all of the warring factions will be wiped away if they don’t put aside their comparatively petty differences and band together. In the real world, most people do not enjoy conflict so, to keep the peace, the default reaction is often to maintain the status quo. This attitude will typically kill the chances for a transformative PLM solution. For the success of your PLM implementation, it helps to repeatedly remind the different power bases that PLM is a means to an end when it comes to mitigating much greater threats to the organization. If your team reacts more strongly to unicorns than monsters, you can emphasize the benefits of working together and the glorious future that PLM will provide (NOTE: If you’ve seen Game of Thrones, you’ll know that it’s not a world where unicorns exist).
Once you’ve selected a PLM technology, it’s time to select an implementation partner. Much like the NBC series “The Bachelor” and much like your technology selection, your organization will have many suitors for its affections business. How do you eliminate the pretenders and select the one that could be your ‘significant other’ for quite a long time?
- Know what you are looking for – Before you entertain solicitations, it’s wise to determine what partner qualities you are seeking. It should be a given that the implementation partner have expertise and experience installing the specific PLM Technology you selected. What other factors might you look for?
- Supporting skills – Should they have expertise in Project Management, Business Process Modeling, and Organizational Change Management? If you think you won’t need these, your project is either very small or you’re something like the Bachelor who is looking for a partner who can’t manage their own finances, plan for the future, or tend to your emotional well-being.
- A Good Reputation – How do others view each potential Partner? Customer references Partners provide are good starting points. These references are necessary but not sufficient. Have you spoken with others who have worked with them? Have you interacted with them outside of this ‘courting’ period (at conferences, perhaps)?
- Get to know each one – The best way to get to know each potential implementation partner is to run a very similar process as you used to select a PLM Technology (the ‘Develop a Battle Plan section). In both cases, you start with a Request for Proposal or Quote (RFP/RFQ). Many organizations, combine the selection of the PLM technology and the implementation partner into the same process. Please do not fall into the trap of selecting the lowest price provider assuming all vendors are interchangeable. My advice is to select “The Total Package”.
- Negotiate the Agreement – The Bachelor series doesn’t focus much on the happy couple after the Bachelor’s choice is made, but there are certainly negotiations after the show. In fact, many if not most of the pairings fall apart before the wedding bells ring. So, in real life (unlike reality TV), it’s time to negotiate the “Pre-Nup”! You, as the PLM initiative’s champion, your Legal and Purchasing departments will all want to weigh in on an agreement that is beneficial to your organization. Likewise, your selected implementation partner will also be interested in terms that are beneficial to them as well. The key to any good negotiation, especially one in which both parties must continue to work together, is to create agreements that are win-win for all. In this way, neither party feels that they were cheated.
Whether you watch some of these shows or not (I must admit I’m not a fan of all of these), hopefully, you’ll find some points worth applying to your PLM initiative. Since most projects fail because of people, leadership, and organizational shortfalls, the mitigations must involve people, leadership, and organizational dynamics. Now when you are planning your next PLM initiative, ask yourself: “What would they do on Shark Tank, Undercover Boss, Game of Thrones, and The Bachelor”?
Whether you’re just beginning the PLM journey, looking for ways to optimize an existing solution, have poor adoption or no significant ROI, ArcherGrey is here to assess, guide and help you deliver along the way. ArcherGrey’s comprehensive PLM service offerings span a system’s complete life cycle – from initial strategy and planning, through design, development, and deployment, to ongoing system maintenance, upgrades, and support, then finally, retirement. We strive to provide highly effective solutions that are aligned with your environment that enable your business objectives while equipping your staff with the proper knowledge and training to be self-sufficient moving forward. Contact us today to learn more.
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