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How PTC Change Maker Doug Johnston Optimizes the Arena Customer Onboarding Experience


Companies of all sizes are now investing in product lifecycle management (PLM) software to gain better control of their product development processes and reach their commercialization targets. Yet, industry surveys indicate that some companies struggle to implement PLM successfully.1

Doug Johnston, Solution Architect at Arena, a PTC Business was a recent recipient of the PTC Change Maker award for going above and beyond to make the PLM implementation process seamless for customers. I sat down with Doug to learn about his team’s approach to onboarding Arena PLM customers and setting them up for success.

Shelly: Doug, please tell us about your professional background and how you arrived at Arena.

Doug: I started my career working as a Project Manager for Spar Aerospace Limited. In that role, I oversaw the development of the robotic arm used in the NASA Space Shuttle. I also project-managed communication satellites that Spar built for Hughes Aircraft Company including Anik C & D, Brasilsat, Aussat, and Morelos. During that time, I enrolled in advanced engineering software design and development courses available within the aerospace and defense framework. This enabled me to gain a much better understanding of the new product development process.

I went on to work as a Materials Manager and eventually landed an IT Systems Analyst position at Spar’s ComStream division. My primary role was selecting and implementing new technologies for the business. We were looking for a PLM solution at the time and finally chose Arena. I remember that the Arena team was very knowledgeable, and our implementation was exceptionally smooth.

After 32 years at Spar/ComStream, my position was dissolved due to several acquisitions. Shortly after that, I learned about a solution architect job opening at Arena and was extremely fortunate to get the position!

Shelly: Describe your role as a solution architect.

Doug: I’ve been a Solution Architect at Arena, a PTC Business for the past 11 years. Solution architects are typically the first point of contact for customers once they join Arena. We ensure that product and quality information is successfully transferred over to Arena PLM/QMS from the customer’s legacy system(s). This involves weekly calls with the customer to understand where their information is coming from and to explain the steps involved in the data migration.

In preparation of loading the information into Arena, we guide customers in configuring the Arena workspace to meet their exacting needs. We also provide customers with resources that they can review in advance of their formal Arena training to help ease them into using the new system.

As a past IT professional and customer of Arena, I understand the trepidation our clients might have during the implementation process. We make our customers feel confident that their product information is being handled in the best way possible. Our goal is to get them to the finish line quickly while being mindful of their other business priorities.

A happy customer is our top priority.

Shelly: What key traits help you excel in your role?

Doug: I’m a data person and problem solver at heart. If someone says it can’t be done, that’s an invitation for me to get it done.

Because I’ve worked in the manufacturing space for over 30 years, and collaborated closely with engineering, contract manufacturers, quality, and other product stakeholders, I understand their challenges and can relate to their specific needs.

Shelly: How do you work with success coaches, engineers, and other groups across the organization to support the customer

Doug: Once we’ve completed the implementation and the Arena workspace is live, we transition our customers to their customer success coach. I frequently collaborate with our coaches and support teams to address technical questions. When customers voice suggestions for PLM/QMS software enhancements, I pass them along to our product development team to consider for future releases.

Again, it’s all about keeping the customer happy for the duration of their partnership with Arena.

Shelly: Can you provide an example of an onboarding experience that went extraordinarily well for a customer? What contributed to the fast implementation, adoption, etc.?

Doug: Earlier this year a leading manufacturer of music and audio equipment joined our customer community. Due to their global operation and large volume of product data, we decided to use a multidisciplinary approach to execute the implementation. My manager served as the project lead. Our solution architect who is based in the United Kingdom (UK) was the main contact for the customer. Another representative who is based out of Germany was responsible for training the customer. Lastly, I was responsible for handling the data migration.

Through weekly meetings with the customer, teamwork, and our 20 years of collective PLM implementation experience, we completed the onboarding to meet the customer’s go-live target. This was a tremendous feat, considering the size of the company and the extent of product information.

The customer was extremely happy with the results, making it a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

“We make our customers feel confident that their product information is being handled in the best way possible. Our goal is to get them to the finish line quickly while being mindful of their other business priorities.”

-Doug Johnston, Director, Technical Solution Delivery

Shelly: What tips do you provide to customers to help expedite the Arena implementation process?

Doug: I offer customers these three tips:

  1. Include at least one staff member on the implementation team that has some level of data experience.
  2. Dedicate two hours per week to focus on the project so that you reach your implementation deadline.
  3. Configure your Arena workspace according to our industry best practices. This will further enhance the system’s ease-of-use and drive user adoption.

Shelly: What key characteristics should companies look for in a Cloud PLM/QMS vendor to get the best results?

Doug: When evaluating different Cloud PLM/QMS vendors, companies should look for the following:

  • An impressive, well-established customer base
    Does the vendor have customers that are like yours in size, industry, and product type? Also, is the vendor willing to provide you customer references?
  • Industry/domain experience
    What support teams (success coaches, solution architects, etc.) will be assigned to your account? What is their level of knowledge as it pertains to PLM/QMS and industry best practices?
  • Ease of implementation
    Can product information be easily exported from your legacy system(s) and imported into the PLM/QMS software? What data formats does the PLM/QMS solution support?
  • Education and training program
    What does the vendor offer in terms of training and educational resources? Do they provide virtual training sessions to support your remote teams?
  • Integration capabilities
    Does the PLM/QMS solution easily integrate with other enterprise systems? Does the vendor provide an industry standard API (e.g., REST API) that is readily accessible?
  • Ongoing customer support
    Does the PLM/QMS software vendor provide support beyond the initial implementation phase? Will a dedicated support team be present to guide you for the duration of your business relationship?

Shelly: What excites you most about the Arena PLM/QMS platform?

Doug: I’m excited by Arena’s ability to connect with other enterprise systems. We’re constantly optimizing our APIs and improving our ability to connect Arena to anything and everything, whether it be computer-aided design (CAD), enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution systems (MES), customer relationship management (CRM), or electronic component databases. Our APIs make integrations fast and simple. Our goal is to make the integration a non-technical, uncomplicated process.

Shelly: You recently won the PTC Change Maker award. What does receiving this award mean to you?

Doug: I’m always the happiest when our entire department is recognized for our achievements at a company meeting because I know that serving our customers is a team effort. I feel that the PTC Change Maker award could have gone to any of my colleagues. Everyone is so deserving of it!

Being recognized in this way for my individual contributions is truly humbling. I am so thankful for the support and praise from my fellow colleagues and the management team. It means everything to me.

Doug and Shilo

Shelly: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Doug: On most evenings you will find me and my Cobberdog, Shilo, volunteering as Reserve Park Rangers for the city of Poway. We walk the park trails to make sure visitors are safe and assist with search and rescue. I’ve been volunteering for the past 19 years. Prior to Shilo, my dog Murphy also volunteered as a park ranger.

Shelly: Doug, thanks for walking us through the Arena PLM implementation process. And congratulations on your PTC Change Maker recognition. We look forward to catching up with you soon!

Interested to hear more from Doug and the Arena solution architect team? Submit your comments and inquiries on social.


  1. Koomen B., Hoogeboom M., Schellens V. PLM Implementation Success Rate in SME. An Empirical Study of Implementation Projects, Preliminary Findings.