Once you've decided to implement PLM, make sure your employees understand and support the goals of the initiative.
The most critical first step in designing a PLM strategy is to talk to your peopleand not just the IT people. Because PLM can be leveraged across many departments, such as purchasing, sales and R&D, getting buy-in from every line of business is key. Segal spoke to nearly every department at Loewen to see how a PLM strategy could be used most effectively. "We met with different groups who could take advantage of PLM and had them give us their three or four pages of what they might get from the system." That, he says, helped the company understand and support the initiative.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is getting employees to "act locally and think globally." "Changing the mind-set of our designers is certainly a challenge," says Segal. "From day one, they have to build their files while thinking of all the other departments and processes that might benefit from it. Before, they were doing a specific function and designing databases for their own internal needs. Now they have to think cross-organization."
That, say analysts, underscores the importance of assigning a high-level business leader to spearhead the process. O'Marah points to a recent AMR study that found that only 8 percent of companies that are doing PLM make sure a top C-level executive owns the project, while fully 42 percent say the highest-level owner is a senior director or manager. "You have this incredibly important cross-functional process, and you're driving it down to a senior director? Well, no wonder you're having a hard time achieving buy-in. No wonder cultural barriers are a problem," says O'Marah.
At Loewen, the head of research and development originally led the PLM implementation, but "as soon as we looked at the broad implications across all the departmental groups, we immediately transferred the overall project responsibility to me," says Segal.
Many analysts stress that a PLM project should be spearheaded not only by the CIO but by a top-level business executive as well. "Ultimately, owning the architecture is the CIO's job," says O'Marah. "The CIO should be setting standards, ensuring adherence to standards, managing relationships with vendors and helping to resolve the integration among other systems. But as far as work flow and analytics and which ones you do first, that's not really the CIO's role. The CIO needs to work with a business owner." O'Marah thinks many companies will eventually create an executive position to manage PLM, as they have with supply-chain management.
Meanwhile, the sheer scope of getting everyone onto one system can be daunting. Dan Blair, director of worldwide technical standards and systems at Procter & Gamble Co. who helped create P&G's Corporate Standards System, which manages all the data relating to each of P&G's 300 brands, knows getting employee support can be a challenge (see "Viewpoint," page 84). When he installed the system in 1999, he says, "We had about three dozen standards offices around the world, and each had its own procedure. We had about eight electronic systems people were using; the rest were hard-copy systems." Blair says it took nearly three years to roll out the system to each business unit. "Your biggest issues are the groups that believe they already have a good system for their own needs, especially if they have an electronic one currently."
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