GPS for Selecting a PLM Solution
What Software Vendors Wished You Knew
Finding the “perfect” solution for your corporation can be extremely challenging for you, your team, and even your software vendors.
There are many unknowns to factor before you can properly create a rough sketch of what “perfect” would be in your company.
Let’s consider this scenario: You want to go on a vacation, not just any, but the best ever. If you call a travel agent, there are many questions to be asked:
- What is your idea of a perfect vacation? Relaxing or adventurous?
- Where do you want to go? Someplace warm and tropical or a ski trip?
- Where are you coming from?
- How do you want to get there? Train, Plane, Boat?
- What can you spend?
While implementing an enterprise system is not exactly a vacation, it needs the same questions asked.
5 Questions to Ask Before Seeking Out a Software Vendor:
1. What would your ideal solution look like?
This is a broad question with an equally broad answer to begin the process. You are looking for high-level concepts:
- Outpace competitors with new formulations
- Ensure compliance
- Control costs
- Increase security
- Elevate visibility
2. Where do you want to go?
This follows up on the granular level for each of your answers above. To get these answers, you must enlist a steering committee that will champion your new solution and increase user acceptance.
Your steering committee should include Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) who will use their expertise in their respective fields to create a clear outline of ideal functionality.
Before you can begin the process, you must select the right SME’s:
- Include more than one SME for each group (ex: a manager and a power user). The best SME’s will be the ones with the closest interaction to the software within each group.
- Ensure all major regions/divisions are represented.
- Ask for detailed functionality of what is needed to optimize their performance.
3. Where are you coming from?
Your current benchmarks are equally as important as knowing where you want to be. Just as you could never plan a vacation without knowing your departure location, you must clearly outline your current processes and evaluate gaps.
This step can begin as a broad overview in the initial software search:
- Limited visibility
- Isolated silos of knowledge
- Disparate systems (listing these will help define what you have now and where you want to be)
- Formulation/Regulatory delays
- Associated costs for overtime, manual entry, delays to market, regulatory fines, etc.
You will need to provide additional layers of detail as you move further into the RFP process.
- Outline current integrations and how they are synchronized.
- Current allocated resources (human, hardware, intelligence/data)
- Current processes (both manual and automatic)
4. How do you want to get there?
The success of your implementation is significantly dependent on how you structure the implementation.
Your best approach is to roll it out in phases, with smaller groups:
- Can create a “Train the Trainer” methodology
- Smaller groups allow for greater levels of support
- Can identify potential pitfalls for a mass deployment (ex: incompatible hardware)
- Create champions of the software for subsequent roll-outs
Next to consider is which phase will roll out first. You do not want to implement every module across the entire enterprise. The best beginning phase will create a foundation for all other modules: Data Management.
- Backup your current data
- Clean the data to rid of errors and duplications
- Harmonize the data with a closed connection integration with legacy systems
- Test with mirrored applications, using both the new and old solutions to compare for accuracy
5. What can you spend?
Budget seems to be the one objective qualifier in comparison to all of the other questions. But there are many aspects to consider:
- What is the timeframe for implementation?
- How soon can I begin to realize ROI and begin innovating smarter, better, faster?
- What is the learning curve for users?
- How much configuration will I need? Can this be done with internal resources or do I need a consultant?
- Will this solution be hosted on premises or can I utilize cloud hosting to save 60%?
The answers to these questions may surprise you. Your budget can expand and contract based on the level of disruption to your current processes and proposed benefits long-term. As with defining where you want to go, you will need your SME’s to forecast what the costs of a longer implementation are in comparison with a faster implementation.