man walking on sidewalk near people standing and sitting beside curtain wall building

7 Things Executives Don’t Need to Know about PLM

Lionel Grealou Leadership PLM Strategy Talents 3 minutes

man walking on sidewalk near people standing and sitting beside curtain wall building
Image Credit: PEXEL

There are many views about what PLM is about and how it insects with the modern world of digital transformation… Let’s look at the glass half-empty for once: what “PLM is not about” and “what executives don’t need to know about PLM”. In other words: what they should entrust their teams to do (assuming they have the right teams to deliver) and without trying to micro-manage them.

Looking at PLM (or whatever it is called in a given organization) from the C-suite, typical considerations include return-on-investment, business value and operational efficiency across product development activities and quality control, how and when these products are brought to market. Basically, it concerns top-line and bottom-line related to the product creation funnel towards operational realization, process and data excellence. 

In this post, I discuss 7 things that business executives take for granted when defining PLM (and alike) strategies, and what they ought to entrust their team with, rather than trying to make sense of certain details themselves.

Executives tend to operate differently depending on whether or not they master themselves the subject matter; this really stands for everyone: people tend to express opinions and influence which solutions are selected and how they will be implemented. However, when it happens at an executive level, it can have signifiant implications as people look up to their leaders and mirror their behaviors; similarly to children looking up to how their parents behave, rather than listening to what they say. Clearly, the “do what I say, not what I do” approach rarely works.

Executives need therefore to “lead by example” rather than trying to mandate “others to do differently when they are not changing themselves”. Applying this to the PLM discipline:

  1. Executives should not try to (re-)define PLM, or try to make it fit what they might have seen in a different organization; it is important to make it contextually relevant to their aspirations.
  2. PLM is not just another random TLA (three letter acronym), as it is multi-dimensional, hence executives must recognize the wider scope and sphere of influence of the discipline.
  3. PLM is not about “IT vs OT vs the business”, hence executives should structure their PLM leadership and delivery functions / programs with a holistic enterprise architecture perspective—based on how teams interface.
  4. Executives should not “bury the pain”, they should instead face the music when it comes to PLM: avoiding “it was already implemented it 5 years ago, so let’s not mention it for the next 5 years”.
  5. PLM is not just for bloggers to debate and share evangelistic propaganda about their favorite apps and tools; executives should look for independent advisory with experts who can truly join the dots across all the PLM dimensions (e.g. do not ignore the tools and technologies aspects, do not ignore the industry specific requirements, do not ignore the cultural resistance to change, do not ignore the link between strategy definition, justification and execution, do not start from the TO BE without understanding the AS IS, do not leave the data transition and migration strategy for later, etc.)
  6. Executives should not be overwhelmed by new technology, or on the contrary, dream that PLM platforms will “just update themselves, like apps on a smart phone”; embracing modern tools does neither mean assuming product creation is simple, nor that the associated processes and digital solutions will be simple. They should be made simple for the end-users, with the relevant teams to manage complexity “under the hood”. Dedicated business transformation functions should be untrusted to lead and manage this.
  7. Executives should have clarity of their overall capability improvement portfolio to avoid unmanaged overlaps or duplication across different initiatives; due to the wider PLM scope, multiple functions are likely to drive parallel improvement projects and implement redundant or contradicting solutions.

Communicating to executives about PLM is not just a PMO job; it is in itself a leadership function in both business and digital—with the ability to link business imperatives, portfolio management, budget, vendor and supplier management, with ongoing expectation setting while openly reporting on technical risks and issues. With such leadership, executives must understand what it takes to “make PLM work” for their organization, and always keep an open mind with a big picture perspective on how it can be done, especially as neither their organization nor PLM are static in time.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on Momentum-PLM on 10 March 2021.

Disclaimer: articles and thoughts published on v+d do not necessarily represent the views of the company, but solely the views or interpretations of the author(s); reviews, insights and mentions of publications, products, or services do neither constitute endorsement, nor recommendations for purchase or adoption. 

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

You may also like: