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PLM Implementation Best Practice: Boil the Ocean or Slow Simmer?

water-boilingNature versus nurture? Methodical implementation or all at once? 2016 Warriors or the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls of the 1990s? While the answer to the latter-most question is obviously the Chicago Bulls (shout out to my Chi-town homies!), the middle question is a debate that wages on among solution consultants. In a recent blog post titled “The Business Case for Integrating All Product Design Solutions at Once” icon in his day and renowned super Solution Architect Scott Moisan explains why he believes implementing Nirvana out of the box makes good business sense. Taking a different perspective, Customer Success Manager Kraig Clark believes step by step implementation or “agile’ (as it is termed in software development) is preferred.

In many of my implementations both client side and with Arena PLM, we didn’t try to boil the ocean with our deployment,” says Clark. “We focused on key pain points and made a very concerted effort to develop and deploy solutions that addressed them for a quick win. Once we started seeing value, we moved on to the next set of pains, and the process continued.”

Part four of our interview with Clark jumps right into the conversation of PLM implementation best practices referencing his experience as a PLM manager to punctuate his points.

Arena: What do you think is better a big bang or incremental implementation?

Clark: At the most recent company where I worked internally, we did an agile roll out where we did a four-week push and then we launched to a small set of users. Over the next four weeks, we evolved to support a different business problem and launched to another small set of users. And all along we were gathering feedback from our user base and refining the tools that we were building.

Arena: What were the results of your agile implementation?

Clark: We kept that up for twelve-months and were blown away when we looked back at all that we had accomplished, and all the users that we had deployed. I believe we started with maybe fifteen users, and by the end of that twelve-month period we were well over 100 users in our deployment. And oh by the way, they were all functioning and were working very well together.

So, I would argue that incremental deployments are the best practice. Companies that try to boil the ocean before putting it in their users hands often fail, or get backed into an unwelcoming corner.

Arena: Cloud helps with implementation either way, correct?

Clark: Assuredly. It’s very difficult to do incremental deployment with an on-premise solution when your business processes are not well defined. Every time they change, you waste time rewriting code to accommodate your new thinking. If you want to do things a little bit different, you have to scrap a lot of work and build anew. With Arena PLM you can turn a few knobs and push a few buttons to adapt your system and you rock on.

Arena: So the system became our anchor for the way you wanted to do things?

Clark: Our teams would agree that this is what we’re trying to solve for, this is how we want to do it. We would put a system in place to try to do that and we would learn from them how it was working. Thereafter, we kept evolving it until it worked well. It’s essentially stripping a great deal of the risk out of the deployment as you never know what you don’t know. It’s a very powerful, fast approach to deploying a PLM system and getting to the ROI rapidly.

Arena: Did you talk to users directly?

Clark: We talked to our users, directly, and worked with them to design solutions for their problems. Together we developed a strong understanding of the pains we were solving for, and concepts around how we would solve for them. Had we not sought design input from our engineers, designers, marketers, operations, and contract manufactures along the way, we would have built solutions to the wrong problems, and failed.

What do you think is the best implementation strategy? Share your comment below and — if we like it — we’ll tape it to the top of the refrigerator in our cafeteria.

If it’s really good, I’ll share it with my leader and take credit as we have an upcoming performance review.