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Too often organizational change management (OCM) is an afterthought or a side-show in PLM projects. Why? Because in many instances the focus of the project team is on making the organization more efficient, saving money, creating a compelling business case for the project, making things easier for users (how many PLM requirements focus on the user interface and the ease of use of the new system?), and implementing the project faster and at lower costs. OCM does not only not support that, it actually seems to do the opposite: It adds costs to the project (and with that makes the business case less compelling), it makes the project more complicated and take longer with all the additional tasks, and it acknowledges that there may be difficulties using the system despite all the beautiful new and self-explanatory menus and buttons.  

So the project team decides to do the minimum. Let’s create a communication and training plan, send out some informational and educational emails to the users and stakeholders about what PLM is and what the objectives are of the project, and train the users on the new system. Done! Awesome! That should be enough, right?

The problem with this approach is that OCM is run like a separate effort. The project team proceeds with the solution design, the configuration, the testing, the data migration, the deployment and go-live preparation, and the post-go-live support. The communication to stakeholders and the user training are basically done in parallel: The project team, and maybe there is an OCM lead, sends out a weekly email to everyone informing them about the progress, and a few weeks before go live user training is scheduled to teach everyone how to use the new system. 

The much better and ultimately more effective approach to OCM is to integrate all activities into the implementation activities. Include users and stakeholders in the solution design, the testing, the data migration, the training and deployment preparation, and the post-go-live support. Make them part of everything, or even better, make them own everything.

Now of course we cannot have 500 users attend the solution design sessions or test the system. But like in a democracy, where we have a government that consists of representatives of different states or political areas, we can form a core team that consists of representatives of different business units and functional areas affected by the new PLM solution. 

These representatives participate in all activities and are responsible that the requirements of their functional areas are included and considered in the solution design, they ensure that the system meets the requirements when they test it during the sprints and UAT, they are responsible for communicating with and informing the stakeholders and users of their respective business units and functional areas, they participate in creating the training material and providing training to the general user community, they are responsible for cleaning up and testing the data during the migration, they make decisions regarding the deployment and go-live, and they are part of the support organization during hypercare and the ongoing user support after go-live.

Being a business unit or functional area representative in the PLM core team is a big and important role. It requires a significant amount of time of those individuals. It adds additional costs to the project and it makes the business case for the project less compelling. But it will significantly improve the probability of a successful adoption and acceptance of the system, because the business stakeholders and users are an integral part of the project from the beginning to the end, and not just a side show or afterthought. 

Andreas Lindenthal, the author, is the founder and managing partner of PLMadvisors. He is a passionate thought leader and recognized industry expert with over 25 years international, hands-on experience in innovation, new product development (NPD), and product lifecycle management (PLM). He has served a large number of leading global companies across various industries to sustainably improve their business results by helping them to drive innovation, increase productivity, shorten time-to-market, reduce costs, ensure compliance and improve product quality through the definition, evaluation, implementation and operation of best-in-class innovation, NPD and PLM strategies, practices, processes and technologies.

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