Get Savvy about PLM

September 8, 2014

PLMSavvy Blog – back in business

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laila Hirr @ 3:40 pm

I’m very pleased to confirm today’s announcement by CIMdata ( that I have returned to the world of vendor neutral analytics and consulting.  Keep your eyes open for a renewed emphasis on providing PLM focused topics and updates.

November 21, 2011


Filed under: Lessons Learned,Mythbusting,Organization — Laila Hirr @ 12:11 pm

I have observed some interesting dynamics around the use of consultants – what makes them valued, what makes them effective, reasons people avoid them.  Note that I DO make a distinction between Consultants and Contractors – Consultants should be bringing value, business level expertise, leadership, and a point of view and should be considered as a partner of the company engaging the Consultant.  Contractors are typically brought on for task level activities, specific technical solutions, to address gaps in capacity to complete a given level of effort (commonly thought of as Staff Augmentation).

1) Team member and Partner?? In this economy, when engaged on a project/program, having deliberate endorsement of the consultant is mandatory.  On this engagement – a contractor was frequently pointed to as a shining example of a success while the consultant not –  yet the consultant brought more to the table at a strategic level.  So why was the customer perception reversed – first of all the two were handled differently by the customer in terms of how they were introduced and engaged with the program stakeholders.  The contractor level resource was escorted by the director to every program meeting, introduced and given a vocal endorsement.  The consultant, interestly enough was viewed as a leader and therefore was let loose to go it on his own – having to forge a relationship path to every doorway.  Only after several months did the customer realize the impact this had on the consultant’s ability to drive for strategic results.

2) Not Invented Here – is the resistance to leveraging the knowledge of a consultant team related to NIH mentality or is it fear of revealing one’s laundry?  Both are motivations that are based upon the desire to prove one’s value at the cost of missing strategic opportunities.  One group was so focused upon doing it themselves that even when offered knowledgeable consulting support that would yield millions on ROI the team was adamant that they could not even spare the time to use the help (even though the help was funded).  Another team, realizing that they could leverage the help, made the same consulting team integral to their work.  The value of the consultant is only realized if engaged.

3) Can’t afford it – resource, time, or dollars.  Repeatedly I see organizations say this – and as a result they end up requiring years instead of months to gather the knowledge, the practices, and the expertise required to execute major strategic initiatives that can be easily documented as having tremendous ROI and business impact.  By proper identification of the business value, the benefits, etc – the cost of the consultants can be clearly offset by an accelerated path to delivery of the solution that is bringing value.

4) Disregarding the counsel given when it is unpopular – this one always surprises me.  Why pay for a consultant who has industry knowledge, expertise, and understanding of the myriad of complexities for the area of their specialization, and then minimize the importance of the issues they call out – whether risks, costs, recommendations, or opportunities.

If you are interested in further perspectives on the use of consultants, I recommend the book “Taking Advice: How Leaders Get Good Counsel and Use it Wisely” by Dan Ciampa

May 17, 2010

Quality Management Systems (QMS), Document Management (DMS) or PLM? What are the differences?

Filed under: Mythbusting,PLM,System Selection — Laila Hirr @ 1:55 am

Copyright 2007, LRHirr

Definition of QMS/DMS/PLM

This topic has been sitting in my notes as a to-do for a very long time.  From a very high level perspective, terms like knowledge management, document management, quality management and product management just create confusion for folks – are they all referring to the same thing?

Quality Management Systems (QMS) are considered to be focused upon a company’s quality records, often including the ability to manage basic workflows around corrective actions/preventative actions (CAPA), statistical process controls, non-conformance reports.  Most QMS systems are industry focused and are often tied to the medical device industry and the pharmacology industry.  QMS systems may or may not have document management system (DMS) level capabilities.

DMS systems are focused upon managing documents electronically.  The systems are typically structuring to support “file folder” based information and have workflows to support revision history and change processes around those electronic files.  DMS systems typically cannot support product structures and the more complex relationships of tying documents to a bill of materials. Some document management systems will “build” a compiled content site for large scale web environments that are sensitive to rollouts of new art, press releases, special offers and such.

Product Lifecycle Management(PLM) systems  may or may not have QMS level templates, however they support a broad range of workflows, are highly adaptive and handle the change management of documents, folder based file management and the product structure related file management.  PLM systems often include capabilities to manage CAD data, Bills of Material, program management, requirements management, view and markup capabilities, and supplier access to key product related data.  PLM will not “build” a content site.

November 18, 2009

Fundamentals of PLM Seminar Video

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laila Hirr @ 5:51 pm

I was recently asked to speak at Portland State University for the School of Engineering Technology Management’s Graduate Seminar.  What was unexpected was that they filmed the session to post on their site which is viewed internationally by the PICMET community.  PICMET stands for Portland Information Center on Managing Engineering and Technology (an annual conference attended by academia and industry from around the world).


The seminar series is found at

The recording of my seminar is listed at



April 22, 2009

Successful Implementations – Invest in Phase 1 – Establish the Business Case for PLM

A reader recently asked me to share perspectives on successful PLM deployments – what are the common themes across successful implementations.

The thought that comes to mind first and foremost is the upfront planning.  By planning I don’t mean the development of a project schedule or of the system requirements – it’s the investment in taking the time to really make sure the business justification is well understood.

There is a process I have used repeatedly that involves managing expectations very carefully before engaging the software vendor.  Too often it seems that the PLM decision is reactive – as sold by the software vendor, not based upon a clear set of business drivers.

To be successful with the process steps executive level endorsement is critical as it has a lot in common with a business process assessment in that it probes the entire organization, however, the assessment is focused upon the product record, not operations or production.  The challenge for many however having someone who knows  PLM well enough to be able to see the opportunities is often not a skill set contained within your company.  The cost of having consulting done for this stage is often well worth the initial investment when taking into account the overall investment you may end up making in the implementation.

The single most significant thing to be done is to look at the PLM project with the same kind of rigor as a product development project.  Too often IT projects (coming from a non revenue perspective) fail to use simple PMO types of processes.  It all starts with the business case phase.


But on the successful implementations – the business case stage would include the following activities:

  1. Take your organization chart and mark every department that handles product related information, identify key external partners that are also interacting with your product records (note – do not count your financial transactions here – just focus on the product information).
  2. Evaluate each department around it’s  handling of product information or the product record look for manual transactions, duplicated entries, printouts, markups, shadow databases, network storage of product information.  Include examining what IT infrastructure components are involved.
  3. Dollarize the impact of the “non-value” added activities associated with these product record related transactions – the caution is that executives will readily let you turn this into a blame game rather than a financial business case – so be careful how this is framed (Read the Dollarization Discipline for more on this).
  4. As in product development project management practices – develop a high level specification (similar to a Market Requirements Document) that ties business objectives to the functionality requirements – this is NOT where to say it must run on xyz database, or have n tier architecture.  This is a market level specification for executive consumption.
  5. Obtain executive buy-in for the next stage – do not go too deep into specification definition until this phase is approved.

January 7, 2009

Today’s economy and the enterprise: Now or Never

Filed under: Cost and Benefits,Enabling Technology — Laila Hirr @ 11:57 am

I watched Charlie Rose last night as he met with Leo Apothekar, co-CEO of SAP AG, and Andrew Mcaffee of Harvard Business School as they discussed the state of affairs with the economy and IT. Mr. Apothekar at the end of the discussion stated that in today’s economy there are two behaviors in IT: Now or Never. That companies recognize that either they must invest now in the process factories (his description of the enterprise applications) for efficiencies or they risk not surviving.

Some of the key points they discussed that I found very pertinent are that:

1) the Lack of Integrations of systems has been an Achilles heel to the IT industry. This was most clearly brought out in the examination of the intelligence community after 9/11 and in today’s banking situation. Too many systems and too isolated systems have led to breakdowns in critical functions. The good news is that more and more of the enterprise applications have been making the access to the data structures simpler and thus easier to build integrations.

2) the need for flexibility to foster use. As Andrew Mcaffee stated it was once thought that to get a good outcome you had to tightly control the process, yet wiki and open source show us that the organic controls are working.

3) the connectivity inside, outside and across boundaries is through process. Leo Apothekar gave a very visual description of this environment. To add to his words I’d suggest you take a look at code swarm Code Swarm videos give a very good sense of the complexities and interactions of product development (for code) – after watching it – just imagine the interactions that include electrical and mechanical design, not just software – and you begin to get a sense of how crucial access, vaulting, and change management are across both the internal and external enterprise.

4) the emergence of “cloud” computing for the enterprise. The use of the internet or the “space out there” as the environment for the enterprise operations.

In their discussion they covered other topics such as the challenges of employee retention and the viability of open source for the enterprise. I’m pleased that Charlie Rose programming posts the replays on their website, since he is on so very late at night.

November 26, 2008

18.5% improvement in profit margins with PLM? Sign me up!

Filed under: Cost and Benefits,PLM — Laila Hirr @ 4:50 pm

PTC sent my husband the following Aberdeen report today

    The Best Kept Secret of Top SMB Product Developers?

published in July 2008, that confirmed what I see every day in the SMB market and in the SMB perception of PLM. What was interesting was that they concluded that SMB Executives are still struggling with perceptions.

SMB executives under estimate the level of effort associated with implementation yet they largely overestimate the overall cost of PLM. Aberdeen has a very good chart in the report showing the difference between reality and perception.

The best in class SMB’s see a 26.5% improvement in profit margins after deploying PLM showing that definitive ROI is available. To be that successful, the execution of planned implementation, out of the box systems, and conscious adaptation of business practices all being spearheaded with executive buy-in is critical. But even the “average” SMB implementation of PLM is yielding an 18.5% improvement in their profit margins.

What is heartening to me is that Aberdeen confirmed that the PACE framework that I’ve adhered to for years, is the primary means for a successful PLM implementation, namely
– Executive goal setting/workshop
– Requirements gathered from across the enterprise (not just engineering)
– Prioritize PLM plan to address top pain points
– Executives remain involved throughout process
– Address business process mapping prior to implementation
– Measure/track estimated deployment costs to actuals
– Establish success criteria prior to implementation

Thank you Aberdeen for providing one of the best business based perspectives on PLM I’ve seen in a long time.

July 30, 2008

IT invests in Collaboration Tools – so where is PLM?

Filed under: Cost and Benefits,Mythbusting — Laila Hirr @ 5:36 pm

I was reading this weeks issue of Information Week – following an article on one of my favorite topics – IT spending (in an uncertain economy)…and was heartened to see several key comments. See

In the article from July 28th, 2008 – Stare down the bear it is stated that companies are viewing the present uncertainties with a view to “leap ahead of weakened competitors” and are “plowing ahead on collaboration technologies” while conserving in the tactical areas.

This should hearten those of us who work extensively in PLM – yet it doesn’t. The frustration is that too many executives view PLM as an “engineering system” not as an enterprise necessity. While many PLM systems get implemented within engineering departments it’s typical to find that in short order, the rapid access to product information, the supply chain enabling, the multi-site collaboration capabilities – more employees within a company will be accessing the PLM environment than any other enterprise application.

Many of the PLM systems enable design reviews, assembly instructions, site specific component designations, hazard tracking, safety notices, policies, and processes all to be maintained across the business. Any business that has multiple facilities and produces products, should not forget that PLM is a highly critical collaboration solution (some even include conferencing systems embedded within them).

If your business is looking for efficiencies and reduction of costs associated with communications and collaboration – hopefully you are looking at your information flow in that context as well and examining what can be done to eliminate the overheads associated with transfer, loss, duplication of product information. After all – your business is based upon your products, right?

July 11, 2008

The importance of a long term roadmap for PLM

Filed under: Cost and Benefits,PLM,System Selection — Laila Hirr @ 10:28 am

One of the big project level benefits of a PLM implementation is that most PLM solutions can be rolled out to the users in stages. New PLM processes and workflows and modules can be incrementally added after the foundation is laid – this is GREAT and it is TERRIBLE.

It is great that PLM can have core functionality within weeks or months of starting a deployment – systems like Arena Solutions or Teamcenter Express that target the small businesses can be rolled out literally in 1-2 weeks if your business can accept out of the box workflows for change management. For the mid-sized businesses systems such as Agile and Windchill can typically be deployed within 3 to 4 months with core functionality in place. What adds time to these types of deployments is typically dealing with preparing the training program and process documentation associated with implementing these solutions. With the larger enterprises implementing Windchill, Teamcenter or Enovia the enterprise complexities come into play earlier and take longer to deploy at 6-9 months, but even the large enterprises tend to only see a small piece of the PLM vision and only obtain limited benefit due to stopping at change management.

What is terrible is how many PLM systems get implemented without an enterprise roadmap that takes the implementation beyond the foundational deployment. Change management is put in place without enabling the part classification (to enable reductions of duplicated parts). BOMs are built without enabling Multisite or BOM variants (tracking the site specific build data or the engineering vs. manufacturing BOM). Manufacturer and Supplier data is managed with the product information, yet the external partners are still sent CD’s or paper and kept outside the loop on major changes that impact their contribution to the finished product.

Why is this? It is the curse of the initial success of a PLM deployment. When an ERP system is rolled out for the first time (after 2-3 years preparation) it gets turned on with 90% of the functionality in place and then is very cautiously modified mostly for tuning purposed. PLM on the other hand can be rolled out successfully with only 40-50% of the business functionality implemented and considered successful at which point the senior management often thinks the project is done – losing the vision for the other 50-60% of business benefits that have yet to be obtained.

It is this tendency that makes the initial long term roadmap so critical. Without defining what the long term business objectives are that the PLM deployment is to address the execution typically halts after the “engineering” system is in place yet the enterprise enabling capabilities have not even been tapped into. The selection of the system is often targeted at a short term objective, then the longer term benefits may be hindered or require a second PLM system to obtain the next tier of benefit. (See Gartner’s Predicts 2008: Manufacturing IT Becomes More Than Business IT, December 2007)

No company would deploy ERP without a 5 year plan. Yet PLM, which impacts 30-40% more end users than ERP, typically is deployed without a similar long term plan. Then the users and the management end up stymied about why the benefits expected from PLM have yet to be achieved. (See Aberdeen’s July 2007 report – Profiting from PLM: Strategy and Delivery of the PLM Program)

What is your PLM roadmap?
Have you tied the PLM implementation to true business benefit or are you just implementing a data vault?
Do you have a phased plan that identifies the business value obtained from each and every phase?

What many companies will find is that for true understanding of what is possible and what to do to build that roadmap – it takes experts in PLM and in your industry issues to help you build that vision. To expect the IT or Engineering department to vision cast is often not possible – as internal resources often do not have the subject matter or process expertise to cast the PLM initiative into a plan that ties the implementation to direct business strategy.

December 1, 2007

PLM challenges according to Dr. Grieves

Filed under: Enabling Technology,Mythbusting,PLM — Laila Hirr @ 7:16 pm

I attended an incredible meeting of some of the top minds in PLM at Purdue University’s PLM Center of Excellence last week and while there was far too much discussion to cover in detail, I found Dr. Grieve’s closing comments to be worth noting. With his permission, I am including just a few highlights – very paraphrased as he is an orator worth taking note of and I just can’t take notes that fast…

Some of the key points he raised were:

  • The need to understand that PLM involves a paradigm shift – from atoms to bits – as our technology allows for more and more simulation of the real world – we can do more “virtually” to pre-build our designs and even our manufacturing plants – without physical prototypes – a savings of time, material, energy and more.
  • People issues with PLM are bigger than the technical issues – to extract value from PLM means educating people about the possibilities that the PLM tool training alone does not provide (investing in the subject matter training is as important as the software training and perhaps more so).
  • The absence of PLM related metrics is concerning but we should not allow the absence of metrics to paralyze us.
  • The CXO’s who are investing in PLM KNOW it is NOT optional and they KNOW that business survival depends upon their execution of PLM.
  • Multicultural teams and virtual teams pose new challenges to business. Isolated groups of people are not equal to globalized teams where literally everyone is working on the same development work around the world. Dealing with the time zones for globalized team communication is a problem we haven’t even begun to address.
  • The vendors have been focused on PROCESS – yet innovation does not conform to processes. By definition process stifles innovation. PLM needs to enable PRACTICE – the creative side of product development. Innovation does not come from workflows and process maps.

I enjoyed meeting the folks at Purdue and the participants of their PLM Advisory Board. Keep your eyes open for good things in PLM from Purdue.

Copyright 2007, LHirr, All rights reserved.

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.