Monday, February 15, 2016

PLM Loyalty

So, what is the basis for commitment / loyalty you ask?

Peter Schroer of Aras posted a blog, MBA 101: Is that $10M you spent on PLM (so far) an Investment or a Sunk Cost?on about commitment to PDM/PLM/CAD.  I found it interesting and also felt that it warranted my comment.

Commitment / loyalty really has nothing at all to do with the amount of money invested to date.  However, to Peter's underlying point, executives get hung up on how much they have spent and do not want to view that money as being thrown away.  So instead, they continue to throw good money after bad.  Also, this phenomenon is not limited to PLM implementations.  The world of ERP, BI, and QA have even bigger horror stories when it comes to continuing to spend large sums of money on failing implementations.

If you want to build solution loyalty, you need three things:
  1. Understand and help the people who will get the greatest value from a new solution, the people who work with the tool set day in and day out.  Determine what their needs are.  Walk a day, a week, a month in their shoes.  Find out how much time they spend tracking the progress of their work in offline spreadsheets.  Watch them search through numerous folders, network shared folders, and document libraries just to locate a single file.  Find out how much time they spend sending and receiving email, making phone calls, and walking the floor trying to determine what the status is for various efforts.  Ask them how many meetings they sit it where the focus turns to how broken the process is, trying to make the process better, and still attaining no resolve.  Work with these folks on documenting their current struggles, listing their data, process, and system requirements, and give them a seat at the table, a voice in the discussion, and a vote on the solution.

  1. Assign an engaged executive who can make a decision and have the authority to implement.  And when I say engaged, I mean someone who admits they do not have all the answers.  Someone who spends time in the trenches with the people doing the work.  Someone who will listen and be active in the discussions, contributing not dictating.  Someone who will clear the field in front of the implementation team to ensure that barriers are removed and support is ready, willing, and able.  If you want to do all you can to ensure loyalty, buy in, and support, get an executive who will clear their calendar to make time for the effort that they and their people will have to live with for the next decade or more.

  1. Start now.  Start small.  Never stop.  PLM should not take a big bang approach to implementation.  You cannot define everything that will be managed through PLM up front.  PLM is not a one and done solution for businesses.  Nearly everything within a company looking at PLM is somehow connected and/or managed within PLM.  Existing enterprise solutions that may or may not be in place do not have features, functions, or modules to address every thing or every process within and organization.  ERP systems do a fine job of capturing a number of attributes about a part or a raw material.  However, ERP does a terrible job at rendering 3D images and exploded visuals of a component BOM like CAD systems do.  Therefore ERP and CAD need to share information about parts and components.  CAD systems do a great job with visualization, but not as good of a job with review and approval workflow management like PLM systems, that can also loop in manufactures and suppliers.

PLM loyalty is not about spending $10M.  PLM is about listening to your staff who is struggling every day to do things right and to do the right thing.  PLM is about empowering your staff to do something about their struggles.  PLM is about fighting in the trenches with your staff, assisting them with becoming more efficient and more effective.  PLM is about making a difference now by addressing the little things that have a big impact.  PLM is about continually managing, reviewing, and improving.  PLM is a living system that changes with the business as the business changes.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Starting a new project.  Starting a new position at work. Starting with a new company.  Starting a new business.  Starting a new goal or objective.

All of us have started something.  Sometimes with excitement.  Many times with apprehension, hesitation, and some level of anxiety.  However, as it is new, we begin with high energy and high expectations.  As hours go by, and days go by, and weeks and months go by, and sometimes as years go by, we become discouraged.   We all ask why.

I have heard about a particular parable many times in my life, "Pushing Against the Rock".  I recently came across it and have included a copy below (thank you R.K. Owen, Ph.D.)  It is not found in the Bible.  However, it does speak of God and faith, and I will refer to later in this posting.

Pushing Against The Rock
Author Unknown
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.

The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture - placing thoughts in the man's mind, such as ``Why kill yourself over this?, you're never going to move it!'' or ``Boy, you've been at it a long time and you haven't even scratched the surface!'' etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn't moving the massive stone.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. ``Why kill myself?'' he thought. ``I'll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.'' And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.

``Lord,'' he said, ``I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?''

To this the Lord responded compassionately, ``My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven't succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.''

Thoughts - we are often told that it is OK to call out what is wrong.  We should do this without hesitation and without fear.  The man in the story above calls out to God and essentially says he believes his efforts are foolish given that he is not making any progress with moving the stone.  We as leaders, managers, and owners need to welcome these types of discussions and not discount what our staff is sharing with us.  We need to embrace the feedback and respect the individual for their courage.  What they share with us is their perception.  And, as we have heard and said many times, perception is reality.

Challenge management to provide a venue to hear what is wrong in anonymity, and what we all believe could be better.  PSC has done this with their Tiny Pulse feedback loop.  Challenge management to provide a venue to discuss concerns, issues, and recommendations openly. Challenge leadership to positively act, truly addressing the concerns that have been shared.  And most of all, as leaders, managers, and owners, ask clarifying questions.  Dig deep into understanding why this point has been brought to your attention.

If your desire is to build a world-class team, practice, branch, company, etc., completing a single task will not provide you the results you are looking for.  Remember, it is not necessarily the task at hand that needs to be completed, but the culmination of many tasks to reach the end goal.  As Lone Watie (a Character in the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), "We thought about it for a long time, 'Endeavor to persevere'.  And when we had thought about it long enough, we. . ." .   What will your decision be when it comes to calling out what is wrong, or righting the wrong that was call out?  Whatever your choice, be persistent in doing the right thing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Picture This

Picture This

Not long ago I attended the Aras ACE 2013 Conference.  Some of the underlying themes included 'Be Different', 'Do More', and 'Resilient PLM'.  In one of the sessions a business need requiring a change or customization to an Aras Innovator feature was presented to a group of implementation and solution providers.  A number of possible alternatives and approaches were discussed, including one that was very elegant.  All of these would have addressed the business need in various capacities.  However, none of them filled the customer's wants.  What immediately came to mind though was a tire swing cartoon that I have seen over the course of nearly thirty years of IT experiences.  I recently ran across “tree swing pictures” which I will come back to the comic in a little bit.

Here was a room full of well-educated individuals. Many of them true software developers.  Others were engineers.  They all understood what out-of-the-box features and functions existed.  They felt that they understood the business need.  They felt they knew where in the system a modification would need to be made.  They felt they understood the desired end result.

What they did not have was the simple solution design. They did not have a process document or a use case.  They did not have a full set of requirements to work from.  This group of individuals, I included, set off to try and build a solution without some key artifacts and project collateral.  Isn't this at the core of what all of us in consulting services are challenged with when we engage a customer (internal and/or external)?  Are we not attempting to address and solve their business needs with tools, systems and processes?  Are we not attempting to fix “it”, whatever “it” happens to be?

So now let me go back to the tire swing comic.  As I read through the comic (see image below), I was reminded of a hundred key points that I could make.  However, two very simple points really stood out;
1) many times having a list of requirements is not enough to develop the desired solution
2) everyone has their own perspective of both the need/problem and the solution (see my previous Bulldozer post)

Requirements are very important.  Even more important is a clear and complete vision, (sometimes a picture) of the whole situation.  Having a complete vision, an image, or a picture of the end solution to start with can save time, money, and even extended periods of frustration.  Being able to clearly communicate a solution can be the difference between success and failure.

Lesson: In the case of the tree swing, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

Take Aways:
·         Spend the time up front to capture requirements, even a picture is necessary.
·         Get acknowledgement / confirmation that your picture matches the customer's picture.
·         Whatever tool you use to gather, manage, and collaborate requirements, leverage to deliver value.  For me, there is a very nice Requirements module for Aras Innovator that was developed by Nate Brown.  (Links to his presentations at ACE 2012 and ACE 2013)

Side Note:  The cost of change (time, money, and emotional capital) rises drastically the further along your development path you go and the closer you get to the end of your effort.  I came across the following graphic and felt that it (the image) gave an industry accepted visual.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bulldozers and Different!

All of us are unique. We have a way of looking at things in life from our own perspective.  With a bulldozer at your disposal, there is no truer statement than “it is a matter of perspective.”

I have sat in countless meetings listening to attendees attempt to convince others to;
- change the way they do their job
- change the way the team or department processes information,
- change the system they are currently using
- change where they get information from
- change what information they use
- change, change, change, change, change, and change

I can list hundreds of examples, but I believe the point here has been made. Everyone has an opinion about what can be better and how their way is the better way.  You hear this at work, at sporting events, in politics, and in religion.  Interesting enough, none of us will ever have an impact on most of those things.  However, at home and at work all of us can have some level of influence on change.  A story from my childhood really brings this into perspective.

When I was younger, much younger, say pre-teen, my grandparents purchased a small farm not too far from home. Many of my weekends were spent with my grandfather clearing brush, cutting down trees, running barbed wire fence along the property lines, mowing pastures with a tractor and brush hog, building ponds, and just hanging out together.  A boy outside in nature, getting dirty, using his hands, operating big machinery.  What more could a young lad ask for?  By the way, this was before Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, Wii, video games, and even Atari’s Asteroids.

Anyway, for years there was not a month that went by that my grandfather didn't see a backhoe, or a front loader, or a bulldozer for sale along the road to the farm.  He was really fond of bulldozers.  And every time he saw one he would make a statement along the lines of "if I had that bulldozer, I could do this or change that or make something different".  As I said, this went on for several years.  Then one day during a family gathering, my grandfather again made mention of a bulldozer he saw for sale just up the road and what he could do with it there on the farm.  Well, my dad or my uncle chimed in on his "If I had a bulldozer" scenarios and ask him a simple question, “if you had that bulldozer, would all the things you are talking about doing make things any better?” 

Take a moment to ponder that question.  How often do we find ourselves talking about what would make thing better. Or, at the very least, we find ourselves suggesting that by doing this or that, things would be better.  Think about it for a moment.

Well, my grandfather being the calm and reserved man that he was, and still is today, pondered the question presented to him. After a timely amount of silence, he responded with some of the most profound words that I, as a young boy, had ever heard in my life.  My grandfather, with a look of professorial wisdom simply said, "I don't know if it would be any better around here, but things would sure look a whole lot different."

There is not a week that goes by that those words of wisdom my grandfather spoke many years ago do not come to mind.  They apply to so many things in my life, from home to work, from government to church, and you fill in the blanks.  I find myself extending them beyond the original setting, and applying those words with humble respect to day-to-day living, "if I were in charge, I do not know if anything would be any better, but things would sure look a whole lot different."

Mixing is some profound words from a humble clown, Red Skelton would close each of his shows with the following! "It’s a lot of fun to try and make people laugh because regardless of what your heartache might have been, while laughing for a few seconds you have forgotten about it. I personally believe that each and every one of us was put here for a purpose and that is to build and not to destroy. And if by chance someday you’re not feeling well, you should remember some silly little thing that I’ve said or done and it brings back a smile to your face and a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled."

So in the spirit of a great clown, Red Skelton, and with unending respect I have for my grandfather, if there are times that you find yourself, or hear someone else, recounting the ways that they would make things better, and you remember my grandfather's words ("I don't know if it would be any better around here, but things would sure look a whole lot different"), then the message I hoped to communicate was fulfilled.


Saturday, May 4, 2013


So with all us being bombarded with blogging and tweeting, with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, and with Mobile advertising, why have I decided to add another voice to this mix?  It seems that the journeyman practice has perished.  Internships are in disguise, being more of a dumping of unwanted tasks onto unsuspecting students than opportunities to be mentored in a trade.  Today, if we don't know the answer to a question, we turn to our favorite search engine to surf the Internet  for the answer.  With nearly 30 years of experience in Information Technology, I have accumulated and maintained a body of knowledge that some may find useful.  With a blogging venue, I hope to share lessons learned, tips, tricks, and some best practice / common practices that I have found helpful in my experiences.

One of my goals will be to practice the KISS principle (Keep It Short & Simple).  There will be no attempts to complicate challenges and more importantly the responses to challenges.  Another goal I hope to accomplish is to have fun with my blogging efforts.  Quite frankly, if I do not enjoy blogging, neither you the reader nor I will experience much benefit or interest.

Although this blog will focus primarily on PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), I will occasionally sprinkle some project management, business process management, and collaboration concept postings that I feel apply to any or all of these disciplines.