How a Strategic, Big-Picture Approach to PLM Pays Off

Even with the best of intentions, it’s easy for organizations to lose sight of the big picture when embarking on a PLM program. Program and IT managers get bogged down in the weeds of tactical project management; business sponsors move on to other priorities once the basic direction is set. But it is the companies that sustain a strategic approach to managing long-term transformation with PLM that reap the real rewards.

A global manufacturer of parts for automotive, industrial, and aerospace industries provides a great example of the benefits of shifting from tactical to strategic.

Bogged down in phase one. The company began its current PLM journey back in 2008 with the general idea of improving efficiency in product development and production as it expanded in key markets around the world.

In practical terms, however, the actual program focused on replacing an old product data management application with a new one. In other words, program leadership zeroed in on a narrow IT project with little attention to the potentially more valuable issues of improving business processes and fleshing out a longer term plan to achieve strategic advantage with a new approach to product development.

Refocusing on the strategic. In what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the company put its software migration project on hold when the economic crisis hit in 2009. During that time, the company was able to step back and reassess its approach to and goals for the program. Working closely with PTC Global Services, business leaders realized that they needed to shift focus from an IT replacement project to one focused on transforming the business with PLM.

The new, more strategic focus empowered engineering and IT leadership to be more ambitious in planning to achieve the company’s ultimate business goals of realizing improvements in product development efficiency. Rather than focusing mainly on near-term software migration at company headquarters, the program agenda broadened. This expanded scope included the longer term development of a common PLM platform and harmonized processes to decentralize and accelerate product development across all of the company’s business units worldwide.

Over the next several years, the company invested in strategic planning and alignment to enable this vision, including:

  • Developing a detailed, multi-year, multi-phase roadmap
  • Recruiting the necessary resources – including the CTO and VP of Corporate Engineering – to ensure executive-level governance
  • Defining a value scorecard to measure business impact and success

Managing strategic transformation. By 2012, the program was in solid shape, with governance working well and process transformation moving forward. The early-phase migration was complete with strong adoption across the organization and follow-on capabilities being implemented. An updated roadmap outlined the next major steps through 2014. A new focus on systems engineering was integrated into the overall plan, with initial steps underway.

Overall, the company is on track and confident of achieving significant gains in product development efficiency, as desired in its initial vision. Looking back, it seems clear that the shift in mind-set and focus from near-term migration to long-term transformation has made all the difference.

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