Elements of a Successful PLM Project – 2) Use a Methodical Approach to Select a PLM Software

I already wrote extensively on how to go about selecting the best PLM system for your organization in my White Paper “10 Best Practices for Successful PLM Evaluations”, and I recommend reading it if you are in fact in the process of evaluating PLM.

Here I want to talk more about why it is important for the success of a PLM project to conduct a methodical system evaluation, and it has mostly to do with people.

Evaluating and implementing a PLM system always means change. Some people don’t know what PLM is and have never worked with a PLM system, and they are afraid that they will lose their job once it is implemented. Some other employees like the way things are and they will resist doing anything new or different. Again some other employees have already had some exposure to a PLM system in a previous job, they are familiar with a certain system and want to implement the same also at their current company. And lastly, some companies have several different PDM and/or PLM systems and want to consolidate into one, and there are employees who like “their” system more than others. And finally, PLM software vendors often court employees long before a company starts an official evaluation to influence them to favor a particular system.

In all these instances people have personal agendas, favorites and fears, and it is my experience that some of these people will work very hard to retain the status quo, prevent change, achieve what they want and get their preferred system, often even if it isn’t in the best interest of the company.

Recently for example I was brought in by a client because after spending months talking with vendors, looking at demos of different PLM systems and finally deciding on one, a group of employees in one department stated that they could no longer do their job if the company indeed implemented this system. Management of course stopped the project because the risk of failure was too high and they wanted everyone to support the decision. The results were a delay of the selection process and additional costs to redo the evaluation.

What could the project lead in this company have done differently to avoid this outcome?

The answer is to use a well-defined, methodical evaluation approach and define clear selection criteria, communicate these to all stakeholders, get buy-in from everyone for both the approach and the selection criteria before the evaluation starts and then involve key stakeholders or representatives from every functional department in the process. Or, in other words, focus from the beginning on facts and rational decision making and reduce the impact of emotions and biases.