When working to improve product lifecycle management, companies often struggle to gain full value from their initiatives because they fail to focus on cross-enterprise change. For example, companies seeking to accelerate product development often focus on improving tools and processes for collaboration. But they put most of their energy into changes within individual departments instead of also looking across them.
Here’s a typical scenario: Change management is a key aspect of product development, and it’s generally “owned” by the engineering department, which is focused on minimizing the time it takes to engineer a product change order from start to finish. But other groups are involved, and they have different concerns. Procurement looks at the cost and time it takes to procure needed parts. Manufacturing focuses on how long it takes to implement the change in the production process.
When engineering focuses just on its own internal metrics, of course they want to keep others out of the way. They’ll look at accelerating completion of change orders in isolation and then hand off the results to the other departments, which typically require additional changes in procurement and manufacturing. Engineering gets faster, but the whole process can get bogged down.
Moreover, opportunities for the company to realize savings and efficiencies disappear. If the purchasing group was involved earlier, it could have accelerated procurement of the new parts. Similarly, if manufacturing could have begun planning sooner for changes in the production process, it could have been ready for production of the revised product as soon as the final change was passed along.
In sum, including “downstream” organizations such as procurement, manufacturing, and even service in the key engineering processes enables the company to shift from sequential to parallel process execution, with great benefits downstream. While cross-functional involvement in engineering change orders might slow down that piece of the process, overall time to production could be shortened dramatically.
To ensure the highest value from investments in PLM or other enterprise application-based initiatives, companies need to tackle these types of cross-organizational issues. This means designing business processes to embed cross-functional collaboration – which, in turn, means building cross-functional alignment on overall goals from the very start.
In the case of product development, the first step is to bring together key stakeholders from across the organization and determine if department initiatives align with enterprise goals. A great way to do this is to review how well departmental scorecards roll up to the enterprise level. Often they do not and executive leadership needs to step in and fill the gaps.
It’s not surprising that functional heads focus mainly on their own departmental goals and improvements. Absent a concerted effort at the executive level to build bridges across the organization, however, initiatives like PLM too often fall short of their potential for overall business change.