Aligning Your Organization for PLM Success: What Does It Really Take?

As veterans of any enterprise software implementation know all too well, risks to program success increase dramatically if the organization isn’t aligned around key objectives, investments, and timelines.

But what does organizational alignment really entail, especially for large-scale PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) initiatives that cross multiple functional, regional, and process boundaries?

In a recent survey with business and IT leaders from 200 manufacturing firms in North America and Europe, analyst firm Tech-Clarity and PTC explored the alignment issue in depth. The survey identifies how the highest performing firms ensure program success. High performance in this case is defined as those companies with the best results in three key business areas:

  • Improving time to market
  • Increasing product development efficiency
  • Reducing product cost

According to the research, two aspects of organizational alignment are especially significant:

  • High performers create detailed implementation roadmaps that tie desired outcomes to specific process and software improvements (76 percent of high performers vs. 36 percent of average or low performers).
  • High performers manage their implementation with business value metrics or scorecards rather than just program or project milestones (51 percent of high performers vs. 34 percent of average or low performers).

Detailed Implementation Roadmaps

Few companies would embark on a major PLM initiative without a project roadmap. But what’s in that plan, and who should be involved in creating and agreeing to it? That’s the real question.

For example, a large industrial equipment company recently had to redesign its PLM program because its initial two-year roadmap failed to take into account several critical deadlines for its products to comply with new environmental regulations.

The initial planning had appeared to address a full range of budgetary, organizational, and IT requirements, but the end result was an implementation plan that would fail to meet essential business needs. The problem was that the planning and alignment process had failed to cast a wide enough organizational net and dig deep enough into business strategy requirements.

Six months after going back to the drawing board, the PLM program team produced a more detailed and appropriate plan. A four-phase program based on implementation across four business units was broken into smaller phases based on product families and tied to regulatory deadlines; the overall timeline was extended an extra six months to better address financial restraints; and the learning and adoption program was redesigned to better ensure rapid adoption within each product group.

Looking back, the program manager realized that the initial high level approvals for the program plan were based on insufficient review and agreement. “We got the approval but they didn’t understand the consequences a level or two down for certain decisions. You can’t get into too much detail with executives but we needed to do more education so the decisions were more informed. Ultimately we got to a better approach but it took a six month delay to get a better handle on resources and requirements.”

Business Metrics and Scorecards

PLM programs generally involve large IT implementations, among other things, and there is often a tendency to measure the outcome with IT project-type scorecards. Did we migrate all the data from the old system? Is the new software integrated with other systems? Have we trained all the users? And so on.

These metrics are certainly important, but they are only means to a business end. High performing companies are much more likely to use business metrics and scorecards to evaluate progress and outcomes for their PLM initiatives (which, of course, requires that business objectives are clearly defined up front!).

For example, if accelerating time to market with new products is one of the rationales for investing in PLM, then improvement in time to market needs to be measured and used to assess program success, with interim milestones defined and delivered along the way. Similarly with other business goals, such as reducing product cost, improving product quality, or increasing regulatory compliance.

Building organizational alignment around the details of a big enterprise initiative is one of those time-consuming, “soft” projects that most of us sense is important but the ultimate dedication of time and energy often gets cut in favor of seemingly more tangible investments. As the research suggests, however, it may be one of the most important determinants of ultimate program success.

How do you plan and manage enterprise change programs? Do these two success factors make sense?

The Tech-Clarity/PTC study will be available later this summer. Contact for more information.

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Strategy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 thoughts on “Aligning Your Organization for PLM Success: What Does It Really Take?”

  1. Jim Brown says:

    Rob, great to see you getting the word out on the research. Your case study example is a good one! Sounds like they had a great plan to “go live” but no plan to actually gain the business benefits they probably turned to PLM for in the first place! I wish that wasn’t a common story, but at least you guys helped turn this one around. I know that is an important part of PTC’s implementation strategy with your customers, here is my take on it (from an article titled “Successful PLM Starts with the End in Mind.” Of course the survey shows you need to not only start with the end in mind, but keep those business metrics front and center to manage your implementation. Maybe I need to go back and update my article…

    1. Rob Leavitt says:

      Thanks Jim, great addition to the discussion with your earlier article. It is often surprising that we see companies struggle to put enough energy into the up-front planning and alignment, and then the ongoing measurement and review, but I guess we all know that the “soft stuff” is the first to go when time gets tight – unfortunately. It was definitely heartening to see the research data validate what we generally assume, that program management is critical, that executive alignment is critical, and that relentless focus on business value is critical…and that the companies that do these things absolutely get more business value as a result.

  2. Mahesh Beri says:

    It was nice to read insightfull post ..

    I often see customers shying away from the question of “business value metrics”.
    One particular case, I found organizational boundaries

    to strongly inhibit the true vision of PLM.
    Systems designed by the Parent Japanese company were so rigid, that
    all processes (with new PLM) were surrounding
    the legacy system.

    That is why perhaps despite of several years of implementation effort, user adoption is a challenge in many large deployments.

    1. Rob Leavitt says:

      Thanks Mahesh, I’m sure the experience you describe has been frustrating, and although it’s not much of a consolation, the situation you describe is certainly not unique! One of the key challenges, as you suggest, is getting beyond the idea of PLM as simply an IT issue and building understanding and agreement on the business vision and value that can be achieved. I don’t think there’s any magic formula for this; it’s mostly a matter of pushing and prodding the right people to spend the time up front building the business case, tying program plans to business value, and holding everyone accountable for business results. Easier said than done, of course.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s