PLM Implementation: Ingredients of a Successful Change Management Initiative

plm implementation

Organizations embarking on a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) transformation should expect to achieve a step-change in business results. With this initiative businesses can provide access to clean data, streamline product development processes and improve efficiency. Organizations set bold expectations for their PLM implementation plans—yet after large investments and efforts, they often fail to leverage the promised benefits of PLM.

With broad, cross-functional activities spanning processes, systems and culture, PLM transformations are hard to get right. McKinsey & Company’s The Inconvenient Truth About Change Managementstates that roughly 70% of all change programs fail. And PLM is no exception.

What can we do about it? Is there a secret recipe to address the common threats to successful change?

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Jumpstarting your change initiative with the right ingredients

Crafting a compelling vision for the change is key to get your PLM initiative off to a good start. Begin with the result in mind. Your vision is a “picture” of what you aspire to achieve with your PLM transformation program.

Your vision must go beyond the change initiative itself. And often beyond the problem it’s solving, to a larger and more meaningful purpose. Articulating your vision statement is the first step to provide direction, inspiration and engagement for the change. A good vision needs to be clear and simple. Try to get rid of buzz words and explain what success looks like, and why it’s worth the change. “Developing better products and better experiences,” “be the first company who is fully digital end-to-end,” or “collaborate with our customers and suppliers with easier data sharing” are examples of visions for your PLM change implementation plan.

Once you have aligned stakeholders behind the vision, set the initiative’s goals and describe how to get there with a well-rounded strategy. By setting sharp, clear goals, you can measure your breakthrough and continuously motivate your organization to progress toward the vision. A good strategy answers the question, “How do we get there?” Your vision is useless unless it can direct action. Describe how you are going to get things done, and figure out how to achieve your goals.

You’ve crafted your vision and defined your strategy—it’s time to finally build your lead team. This group will be in charge of designing the program, communicating the change and ultimately guiding the implementation and rollout, championed by top management. Leadership support is vital for PLM transformation programs. Executive support will make the difference between the success or failure of your PLM implementation plan. Make sure you count on strong senior leadership support to help you convey the message, and secure the resources you need for your program to run smoothly.

The building blocks to make it work

Process, communication, training and support are key for your organization to make the change over.

Well-defined processes, with clear roles and objectives, help people overcome the awkwardness and discomfort of changing their way of working. The new processes need to guide them step-by-step through the change to make it stick.

Communication plays a powerful role in PLM implementation. Regular communication is essential to keep people engaged, get buy-in and commitment. Choose a variety of communication paths to reach your audience. Consider emails, focus groups, webcasts, updates on the company portal or feedback sessions. Be creative. Use multiple channels to communicate the same message once again. Regular and proactive communication can reduce resistance and make employees feel part of the process.

Change initiatives repeatedly fail because of short falls in the training and support strategy.

Training sessions are often delivered too far in advance and thus forgotten when the implementation is finally underway. Organize the training sessions as close as you can to the real implementation. Invest in engaging training materials. Make sure you provide the right combination of written documents, video recordings, classroom training, short use case video demonstrations and cheat sheets with straight-forward instructions to accomplish relevant tasks.

Helping staff and ensuring they get enough support is equally crucial. Hold your organization’s hand through the change, at least during the first months after the implementation. When questions arise, address them rapidly. Nothing will kill a PLM change initiative quicker than a drowsy support system.

The engines of change

Program Management is a commanding engine of change when it comes to PLM. A well-organized PLM implementation program, with clear-cut connected initiatives and a strategically thought-out roll-out plan, sets the ground for a successful transformation.

To motivate change, you must spell out why the current situation is not working, and contrast it with the benefits of a better tomorrow. Focus on helping your organization see that they’re dissatisfied with how things are, and that change can make things work. Create a sense of urgency to alert the organization that change must occur here and now. Provide employees with the opportunity to give feedback and vent their concerns, as well as their compliments.

Finally, measure progress with KPIs that relate to your vision, goals and objectives. Metrics must focus on key indicators that can gauge the overall health of your transformation program. It is important to celebrate successes along the way as changes are made.  Celebrating the small changes and building momentum for bigger changes is what makes employees want to participate in the process.

Understanding and overcoming resistance to change

Resistance is a natural part of change. Resistance to change may be rooted in fear, lack of trust or just confusion. Sometimes, employees might be focusing only on their part of the operation, and may fail to see the big picture and recognize the positive impact of the change on the organization. Thus, they may find the change disruptive and totally unnecessary.

Asking people to change is asking them to move outside their comfort zone. By understanding the causes of resistance in your organization, you will be better off and will be able to turn that fear into cooperation.

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