When a certain Senior Platform Manager took the reins at a national nutrition brand in 2016, he likened his experience to playing Asteroids, the wildly popular video game that debuted in 1979.
“The system I inherited was our formulation development solution,” he said. Like in Asteroids, “there were bits and pieces flying around” in the many different releases of the many different systems being used.
The PM decided his first order of business would be consolidating the disparate formulation development systems in use into a single system. When he announced the decision, he expected pushback from teams who were using a different system than his own team. Instead, those colleagues actually expressed relief and thanked him. “They were feeling the same thing we were,” the PM said. “They didn’t understand why we seemed like four different companies, implementing this nice, integrated PLM solution in this disintegrated fashion.”
The plan was formalized as the “OnePLM” solution. The vision, according to the PM, was “one single source of truth for ingredients, package specs, formulations, label development, guidelines that drive our development in one place. Then we can use that to deliver to our internal and external customers, ministries of health, the information that we know is trusted and true.”
Devex PLM, the PM said, would be the foundation of OnePLM. He shared his lessons learned at the 2019 Selerant User Conference.
Lesson 1: Don’t customize if you can avoid it.
“People over process over tools,” he said. Every single requirements workshop we’re in, I always put this somewhere in the room. You’ve got to get the organization lined up behind it first. Once you get the buy-in, you can consolidate processes into a single process, then implement.”
There’s one caveat, though. Customization “makes your upgrades hard. Trust me.” Instead, the PM recommends trying to find a way to work within the system. “That’s a process we’re working on with Selerant."
Lesson #2: Know what done looks like.
“PLM’s a journey. You need to know at the end what done looks like before you start building,” the PM said. In his Asteroids reference, he likened each of the smaller systems that his OnePLM vision would replace to a swarm of asteroids floating around with no clear direction, bumping into each other. “Every one of those asteroids had a 'done’ vision, but it was a very narrow vision of whatever system or process they were trying to replace.”
A five-year roadmap very clearly outlined the project’s milestones so that everyone would know what “done” looks like.
Lesson #3: Make sure everyone knows the “why.”
“I can’t say it enough,” the PM said. “This is all about making sure that everybody at all levels understands why we’re doing this. Most importantly, listen to the people—what is it they’re doing, and how it is they doing it. They need to have buy-in to that process so that they feel ownership of it."
Lesson #4: Governance is key.
"PLM is cross-functional, and governance is key,” he said. “We didn’t really have a governance model The team was well aware that they needed one. Eventually, the foundation was laid. We’ve been working ever since to keep expanding the model.”
Lesson #5: Trust.
“When you have all those asteroids up there, your master data probably isn’t necessarily aligned either,” the PM said. “We’re not there yet. We’re working closely with our master data management team to cleanse all of the data coming from these different sources. Even if the team isn’t integrating with ERPs yet, these efforts will ensure that that we are aligned when that time comes."
Lesson #6: Practice doesn’t always match the process.
”What the SMEs are doing in their day-to-day job may not necessarily directly reflect the SOP,” he said. You need to talk to them and understand what it is they’re actually doing. Incorporate that understanding into the rollout plan, and you’ll hit fewer bumps in the road.
Before wrapping up, the PM emphasized that these lessons—if applied as part of a comprehensive plan—yield significant benefits in these key areas: efficient innovation, comprehensive governance, and speed and scale.
He cautioned, though, that those benefits aren’t reaped unless each lesson is applied as part of a comprehensive, holistic approach: “If all the asteroids are separated and bouncing against each other and aren’t one integrated piece, you don’t really get any of those benefits.”