Storyboards and Use Cases – Part 2: the Value They Bring to PLM Continuous Improvements

Lionel Grealou Digital PLM 3 minutes

Image Credit: PEXEL

Storyboards and use cases are essential deliverables of PLM implementations as they provide a framework for stakeholder alignment, process solutioning, business change enablement, user education and ultimately benefit realization confirmation. In part 1, we discussed how they contribute to critical, often complex and iterative, business requirements gathering and cascading into detailed implementation specifications. In this part 2, we debate how, as they mature, they open the door to operational continuous improvements and effective business change management by focusing on value realization and speed-of-delivery benefits. Additionally, it is interesting to note how these artefacts can support agile delivery. 

From business change deliverables to operating model representations

Organizations do not select and adopt PLM platforms in the same way that they select and deploy office or alike tools. Understanding key business drivers are essential to understand overall direction, though often not sufficient to create and dive into detailed roadmaps and business change details.

Whether they relate to greenfield or brownfield organizations (start-ups vs established businesses, small, medium or large enterprises), PLM implementations involve strategic alignment, sometimes deep-dive discoveries, always gradual enhancements of business operations through processes, data accessibility and connectivity, with enabling tools and automations. Starting somewhere relevant on the path to effective PLM requires a solid understanding of:

  • Business maturity and priorities, based on pain points, gaps, and growth plans.
  • Business change projections and roadmaps.
  • Business requirements, prioritization approach, testing and validation approaches.
  • Service transition model, from business change to business-as-usual operations, support and maintenance.

Storyboards must reflect business reality and aspirations to change, linking strategy, business model to capabilities (WHY and WHAT), whereas use cases inform about the type of change and new operating expectations, linking capabilities to operating model, people, processes and tools (detailed WHATWHOWHERE and HOW). They do not just refer to systems, but the actual operating model, representing how value is created by an organization or function, which roles are involved, by whom the information is consumed and for what purpose (across the relevant value chain).

Continuous improvement commands simplification, yet rigorous governance to track value creation

As most organizations shift their thinking away from product-centric to service centric, they need to continuously look for improvement opportunities. To support this, leaders must stay abreast of operating parameters and be pragmatic about their ability to implement change based on their ability to manage change expectations (including how effectively the organization manages operational efficiency as a whole).

Storyboards and use case can contribute to speed-of-delivery if they remain accurate, simple, focused on opportunities for improvement, flexible and open for discussion.

  • Every function or team should maintain their operational storyboard and seek to continuously align across functions.
  • Continuous improvement governance is essential to look at intersections and gaps, while coordinating overall prioritization and monitoring (perhaps even owning) implementation projects.
  • Both requirement and deliverable quality are critical, especially with multi-disciplinary operations that PLM typically covers.

Challenges in establishing effective continuous improvement boards can relate to poor understanding of operational context and macro-level implications (big picture view), lack of consistency, simplification, lack or poor quality of business storyboards and use cases.

Additionally, such artefacts must be continuously maintained, jointly and across functions; at the other side of the spectrum, external consultants parachuted on business change projects can sometimes take these inputs too literally and fail to convert the underpinning business intent into pragmatic solution elements. Other challenges include jumping directly to detailed methods or promoting PLM tool or infrastructure related methods without proper linkage to contextual business storyboards and use cases.

How storyboards and use cases can contribute to agile delivery

Agile is based on sprint delivery of increment change that can be deployed in a flexible way; yet aligned to business priorities and requirements. Each agile sprint relies on a given set of user stories, similarly to user cases, in describing specific interactions between the user and the system. User stories focus on expected value (and delivery effort unit) whereas use cases describe detailed granular operations for the same scope. They come hand-in-hand, having robust use cases will help implementing agile delivery models.

It is clear that mapping directly storyboards and user cases to user stories can provides a complete visual framework for agile delivery, especially as use cases can stack up future requirements for continuous delivery as part of a DevOps model. Supported with the right mindset, these can be effective artefacts and delivery models to delivery meaningful value to the business.


This post was originally published on Momentum-PLM on 10 September 2020.

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

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Lio is founder and independent consultant with Xlifecycle Ltd—helping organizations make the most from their digital enterprise strategies and manage the 'Lifecycle of Things' across PLM, MES, ERP, IOT, SCM platforms.

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