Strategic PLM Implementation: Understanding the Value of Out-of-the-Box Software

Most companies that invest in major PLM programs want to minimize customization when deploying their new software. Customizing enterprise software like PLM is expensive, time consuming and often results in systems that are costly to maintain and less flexible in supporting business growth and change.

Meanwhile, the top PLM software vendors have greatly improved out-of-the-box capabilities in recent years. Current versions of leading PLM applications provide built-in support for manufacturing best practices based on years of experience with thousands of companies and end users.

The implementation challenge many companies face, however, is fully executing on the vision of out-of-the-box configuration. All too often, the vision of the board and the CEO gets diluted when you move down a few levels in the organization to the directors, managers and team leads who are actually responsible for ensuring improvements in business productivity.

At the operational level, managers and directors certainly want to improve the way they do business but they also have to hit their targets for growth and profitability. Understandably, they get uncomfortable with the idea of learning new systems and processes.

Faced with the implementation of new PLM applications, you often hear things like: “We can’t have any downtime.” “We can’t have any slips in productivity.” “I know how my system works today – why don’t you just put my current processes into the new system so we avoid any slowdown with learning – the new system will be faster so we’ll get productivity gains that way.”

To make the issue even more complicated, people often miss the forest for the trees. They’ll focus on the lowest level of productivity instead of the larger view. They’ll say: “It takes me five minutes to do this task today but it will take seven minutes in the new system if we don’t customize it. Multiply that by hundreds of users and that’s a huge productivity hit.” But they ignore the fact that the new system allows you to skip the next three steps in the process leading to an overall productivity gain. They want to optimize individual steps but at the risk of sub-optimizing the whole system.

The key to preventing this resistance and minimizing customization is strong executive leadership that stays active throughout the implementation and steps in when the work hits a roadblock or goes off course.

Maximizing the use of off-the-shelf applications can pay tremendous dividends in cost, time to value, and longer term flexibility, but program sponsors need to pay careful and consistent attention to lower level pressures that can undermine the vision.

Photo: Empty Box, z287marc’s photostream, Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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