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Successful PLM Projects Start Here: Stay Sharp Episode 19

By March 7, 2024May 7th, 2024No Comments

In Episode 19 of Razorleaf’s Stay Sharp podcast, hosts Jonathan Scott and Jen Ferello welcome special guest Eric Smith, Razorleaf’s VP of Services, for a deep dive into the complexity of product lifecycle management (PLM) projects. In Episode 19: Why PLM Projects Fail, Jonathan, Jen, and Eric discuss what can go wrong with PLM projects, common mistakes and how to avoid them, as well as how the same pitfalls can occur to any enterprise-level project, not just PLM.

Alignment Is the First Step

Making a project a success means doing plenty of work up front. The first way projects can get off on the wrong foot involves alignment with other departments or teams, IT, executives, or other stakeholders. Alignment, the trio agrees, means being clear on the need, the goals, and the scope of the proposed project, because that feeds into who needs to be involved, who needs to be informed, who needs to be part of an approval process, etc. “There are a lot of things that need to be done internally ahead of time … how are you going to get some return? What are the costs going to be? Making sure how it’s going to impact everybody else along the path,” Eric says. “That certainly is one of the big ones up front: trying to get a breadth of approval, a breadth of buy-in across an executive group.”

Determining who the stakeholders are—and therefore who needs to have buy-in and who needs to approve, among other functions—centers on the project originators knowing their company or organization. Knowing who they need to involve to determine if their project will have impacts to other parts of the organization, especially in global companies. Knowing, as Jonathan puts it, “Where you fit in the overall org chart. Are you going to influence people or are you the driver?” Eric adds, “That’s a good thing for people to do. The more that company understands themselves and can help us—help a partner like Razorleaf—the better off everyone is.”

Conversations Are Critical

Eric points out that even before a company selects a partner to work with or picks a technology to implement, there are a lot of “hard, slogging miles that have to happen in communication.” No one wants to have all the conversations that need to occur to get alignment from everyone who needs to be involved. But, he says, “It’s hard work to have the right conversation … talking it out and helping understand what the demands and constraints are going to be is big.”

Jonathan also points out that what’s critical is talking to someone with experience in the kind of project you want to run—whether that’s internal or external. An experienced partner can help you figure out your scope and stakeholders and other criteria that are important for your project. And a department like IT will have information and advice about the last enterprise implementation done. Jen adds, “It’s about the technology, it’s about the project, but it’s also about your own organization. It’s really about understanding your organization, who needs what, and how to get things done.”

The trio also agrees that technology isn’t the biggest challenge of a project. As Jonathan puts it, he never hears people say, a year or two after the fact, that the in-depth technical analysis of software platforms was the most important aspect of the planning process. “But,” he says, “I’ve heard lots of people say things like I wish we’d talked more, wish we’d understood more about the vendor themselves, not just the tool.”

Project Management Tidbits

Eric also addresses some aspects of the project management process that can make your project sink or swim. One is ensuring that whatever partner(s) you choose to work with have management styles and delivery cycles that align with yours. Another is defining the project management boss—an internal project manager that works with the external partners and is responsible for keeping all the players aligned. Lastly, Eric identifies a challenge that people often miss: defining the end of the project. It’s hugely important for organizations to define what “done” looks like—not defining the end would be like running a race without knowing where the finish line is.

Learn More About Making Your PLM Project Successful

The full podcast episode offers plenty more discussion about avoiding project failure and ensuring success, including how the quality of your data will affect your project, how poor communication or a lack of training can doom it at the last minute, and why it’s important to be flexible in how software interprets and enhances the manual processes your company is used to.

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