Moving to PLM is a transformation process for the whole organization

01/03/2013 20:44

At the PLM Innovation Congress, Product Innovation 2013, some presenters reported about a second phase in the PLM deployment into an organization, which were described as a new beginning. Their stories about introducing PLM into their companies follow the same pattern of actions: We started (INITIATION) and it did not work (STRUGGLE). Obviously we did something wrong (MEDIATION), but now after giving ownership to the business we are confident it will work (VICTORY).

I remember lessons in psychology about fairy tales following a specific chronological pattern of actions, which is basically the same in all fairy tales. (Please, do not conclude that I mean these presenters told fairy tales.) Vladimir Propp identified 31 functions. Here are the functions 25-31 describing the end of fairy tales:
  • DIFFICULT TASK: Difficult task proposed to the hero (trial by ordeal, riddles, test of strength/endurance, other tasks);
  • SOLUTION: Task is resolved;
  • RECOGNITION: Hero is recognized (by mark, brand, or thing given to him/her);
  • EXPOSURE: False hero or villain is exposed;
  • TRANSFIGURATION: Hero is given a new appearance (is made whole, handsome, new garments etc.);
  • PUNISHMENT: Villain is punished;
  • WEDDING: Hero marries and ascends the throne (is rewarded/promoted).

Fairy tales describe transformation processes. It looks like the deployment of a PLM system as defined by CIMdata is a transformation process as well, a transformation of the whole organization.


I propose a different pattern of actions than the one mentioned before (INITIATION, STRUGGLE, MEDIATION, VICTORY). I propose to describe the PLM deployment as a transformation process of an organization based on theories that purport to explain the mechanics of new methodology rollout  (Everett Rogers, Geoffrey Moore):

  • INITIATION: A few people in the organization, the innovators take the initiative for PLM deployment seeing the benefits of such a system for the execution of their tasks, their departmental tasks and for the whole organization.
  • RECONNAISSANCE: Supported by external consultants the innovators learn how to apply a PLM system to these tasks and get an idea of how to use the system in other departments and the whole organization.
  • DONATION: The innovators manage to get the project approval for PLM deployment. Supported by external consultants and consulting the business experts, the innovators configure the PLM system following their view of business processes executed in the organization.
  • DELIVERY: After going live early adopters, quite willingly to perform trials and tests, adopt to the new PLM system. The rest of the organization is risk-averse – the new practice looks for them bringing more pain than solving issues. They will only adopt it once they know their experience will be hassle-free. As a consequence levels of the organization (e.g. middle management) and/or specific departments reject using the PLM system. User friendliness is one of the claimed issues.
  • LACK: Gaps are made known to the project approvers. The expected ROI is not realized. People are working in several systems: the new PLM system and legacy systems. Real collaboration is not achieved. Instead of realizing benefit the organization's productivity is decreasing.
  • VICTORY: The early adopters are able to show to the project approvers (C-level people) the benefit of the PLM system in their field and for the organization and convince them. The project approvers insist on acceleration of the deployment of the new practice.
  • BEGINNING COUNTER-ACTION: Pragmatists on C-level (part of early majority), not having supported the PLM deployment up to now, decide to act in a way that will resolve the gap. This is a defining moment for them and the success of the PLM deployment project as this is the decision that sets the course of future actions.
  • DEPARTURE: A new project organization is set up representing the pragmatists. They claim a new start in choosing a PLM system from another vendor or at least a different configuration of the PLM system. The most difficult step is making the transition between early adopters and pragmatists. (The chasm that Geoffrey Moore refers to.) Having reached this step the organization will be successful in the PLM deployment.
If the PLM deployment is not understood as a transformation process following mechanics of new methodology diffusion, then there are 2 risks:
  1. An organization does not understand the value of early adopters in a change process. If an organization fails to provide recognition for the early adopters it causes frustration in them and creates backlash in setting up a culture of change.
  2. Organizations moving to PLM may think that if they do everything right from the beginning they will not have any issues: Transformation processes are painful, why not just jump over them? But PLM is not a methodology in which an organization can just follow a best practice. The organization has to find, in a collaborative activity, a unique practice which works for them.