Agile and PLM: a ‘Platform of Things’ for Competitive Advantage

Lionel Grealou Digital Innovation Platform PLM 3 minutes

The Need for Business Agility

Business agility is a source of competitive advantage – allowing organisations to adapt to new business imperatives, technology changes and various other industry forces.

The ability to adapt quickly is the name of the game in today’s business climate

Build a business that is adaptable and it will become better positioned to swiftly make the mid-course adjustments required to seize opportunities and respond to challenges. Adaptabilityflexibility and balance are three qualities essential to long-term business agility. More specifically, agility can be assessed across three dimensions of adaptability:

  1. Leadership adaptability: senior management must be able to link business objectives and priorities to the required execution capabilities to enable its operations and differentiate how it stacks-up against its competition in regard to its offerings, price and service delivery
  2. Cultural and change adaptability: it is important to understand the ability of the teams to embrace new ways of thinking and doing, how they deal with complexity and whether they are comfortable in continuously exploring new ways to get things done
  3. Delivery adaptability: operational teams must be able to align to new requirements and external forces in times of uncertainty and respond well under pressure; this requires a robust foundation and platform foundation to build against

A Platform for Innovation and Growth

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the product development platform to improve sustainable advantage through agility and innovation. PLM aims at driving cost reductionand business growth through the adoption of digital and technical solutions to improve product development practices and operations. Engineering and business leaders rely on PLM to help them collaborate internally and externally, innovate, and manage intellectual property, across multiple functions and disciplines.

Innovation is the engine that drives a company’s growth and profitability

Developing and continuously maintaining the PLM transformation and digital roadmap is critical to realise business benefits. It is important to define how PLM ‘sits’ in the overall enterprise digitalisation agenda so that its implementation and integration roadmap are not underestimated.

PLM as a Dynamic Capability Platform

PLM is to be integrated into the enterprise landscape as a dynamic capability, the ability to move fast – speed, nimbleness, responsiveness. Agility also requires stability, a stable foundation – a “platform of things” that don’t change. Like other enterprise solutions, deploying PLM is usually a complex and lengthy process. In addition, PLM implementations covers a wide array of interdependent technical and business disciplines (ref. the ‘Periodic Table of PLM‘) which bring further deployment and transition challenges.

The PLM transformation journey is as important as the PLM solution design and build itself. Most PLM challenges include addressing concurrently one or more of the following considerations:

  • Business and technical requirement ongoing discovery, especially due to multiple unknowns
  • Technical architecture, use case and end-to-end process mapping alignment (linked to master data management and business object modularity, from requirements to Bill of Material, production configuration, CAD-BOM alignment, business change, material management and Enterprise Resource Planning integration)
  • ERP integration and legacy data migration, which require a detailed understanding and iterative design of the solution requirements, technical architecture and process interfaces; also aiming at minimising the number of interfaces and customisations
  • Business changes and cultural adoption, to align people with process and technology

The above suggests the need for an iterative approach to build and adopt a dynamic platform for change. It requires alignment of ‘fit-for-purpose’ industry practices with Out-Of-The-Box (OOTB) processes while controlling application customisation to fit business needs.

An Agile Approach to PLM Implementation

Using agile and SCRUM methodologies to implement PLM allows for continuous delivery, build and test through ‘trial and error’ iterations. The benefits of adopting agile PLM implementation methodologies include:

  • Quick-win iterative capability deployment and early benefit realisation; each product increment or sprint is to provide value to the business
  • Lean development and implementation practices which promote open collaboration and process adaptability
  • Stage deployment and phased transition
  • Open collaboration and innovation

Finally, it is important to define the right use case level to be continuously aligned with the data business model and object architecture. Agile implementation of PLM is to liberate business agility and adaptability. Typical challenges of such approach include defining incomplete or poor quality requirements, focusing on operational or functional workflows rather than capabilities, writing implementation (HOW) rather than requirements (WHAT), over-specifying the solution and aiming for unattainable perfection.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 4 November 2017.

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.

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