How to get engineers, to do PLM?

Enterprise software is a complicated beast. PLM is not an exclusion from the list. Despite demands to be simplified and become user friendly, the majority of PLM implementations require long preparation, planning and implementation phases. However, this is only a visible part of the iceberg. The invisible part (and probably mostly important) that many people are rejecting to use data-management software. If you speak to engineers, they can tell you how they hate everything that makes their lives very complicated. Here is the question I can hear many times in industry discussions, conferences, dispute and blogs – how to get engineers to use PLM software?

I’ve been thinking about different approaches. The following TechCrunch article caught my attention – Ways to get people to do things they don’t want to do. Read the article and make your conclusion. The analogy with kids is pretty funny. At the end of the days, engineers like kids… (excuse me, engineers, but it was a compliment :)). This is my favorite passage:

Unfortunately, the corporate norm remains drawing up a long list of what needs to get done and throwing it over the email wall to be completed… or else! There will always be tasks people don’t want to do. But there are better ways to motivate others, principally by designing conditions where people actuate themselves. Fundamentally, people resist being controlled and both the carrot and the stick can be tools for unwanted manipulation. Instead, designing behavior by putting in the forethought to appropriately stage tasks, providing progress indicators, and finally, offering celebratory rewards under the right circumstances, are easy ways to motivate while maintaining a sense of autonomy. Whether in the doctor’s office or the corner office, it is the job of the person inflicting the pain to do their utmost to ease it. Not doing so is intellectually lazy, whether to a kid or to a colleague. Considering how the receiver could more easily comply with the request is at the heart of inspiring action.

Here is my 3 ways of how software vendors can reduce the pain and to simplify the way for engineers to be involved into PLM activities:

1. One step at the time. This is a fundamental change, in my view. Most of PLM activities looks like multi-year journey, which involves the transformation of company business processes and activities. To make flexible software capable to be adapted to company processes. Then make a change "one process at the time" is the future of PLM software.

2. Improvements KPI. To develop tools that can demonstrate improvements indicators. These tools can be used by company to promote and appreciate people involved into the implementation of PLM programs.

3. Social Features. Implement "social features" and tools that can help people to promote what they do in the company. Imagine PLM software can help people to become more visible in the organization can help to develop additional incentives to use PLM software.

What is my conclusion? Technology is simple. People are hard. I’ve heard this conclusion couple of years ago from John Gage’s keynote at COFES and I like it very much. It precisely explains why software programs and IT projects are failing despite brilliant code and amazing technological achievements. PLM vendors need to think how to connect their software to an individual engineer to make it more successful in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit Angry Engineer.

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6 Responses to How to get engineers, to do PLM?

  1. Focusing on one process at a time makes sense but the process or opportunity for value must be something the user cares about and something they can achieve without extra effort (they must get value out of doing it).

  2. Alec Gil says:

    Nice entry Oleg. Very much agree with your first two points. Waiting for the big bang implementation is, in my mind, one of the primary causes of PLM failures. Pick a process or two, improve them, get some wins in the eyes of the end users and management and move on to other processes. PLM is a continuous improvement journey.

  3. Dijon says:

    I personally believe that social functions don’t belong in enterprise systems like CRM, ERP, HR, MES, PLM, SCM, etc. The OEMs that offer those enterprise solutions have been blowing the social horn for at least a few years now but I would rather that the sometimes excessive annual maintenance fees we pay to them get directed to research and development which is related to improving their core competencies. The jack of all trades / master of none condition comes to mind when they try to mimic Facebook or LinkedIn.

    It’s not that I’m anti-social, just prefer a singular “best of breed” solution for that activity instead of baking it into some other behemoth application(s). We use a Web 2.0 (blogs, communities, forums, etc.) platform from our ERP provider and it’s clunky.

    Another problem is social platform proliferation when those functions potentially begin showing up everywhere. It’s like trying to meet someone at a water cooler to chat but you miss them because there are between five and ten water coolers in the building and you each showed up at different locations.

  4. @Dijon, I think “social” cannot be disconnected from large system behaviors. It is a metaphor shift. In the past the communication was an email and message inbox. Today, information stream contains contextual data and communication with other people (very much similar to FB or twitter stream). It is absolutely must to bring it to the system and not to have it disconnected. Just my opinion, of course. Oleg

  5. @Alec, thanks for commenting! One process at the time – agree with you opinion. Best, Oleg

  6. @Vuuch, yes, the ideal situation is when PLM brings an improvement in process without additional investment or complication from users. Thanks, Oleg

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