PLM: Why Agile is the only way

What are your strategic pressures and how can the digitalization of your organization help solve those?

My concern today is so many organizations are challenged with cost/budget, time availability and a resistance to change.

Many want to advance their Product Lifecycle performance, be that at a macro-level in becoming more sustainable, faster innovators or product introduction speed or optimized product profitability.

We look at everyone as to their maturity with Digital Continuity and the creation of the enterprise digital thread from design through manufacturing, through service through recycling.

And then when it comes down to it, most need help with:

  • CAD management & release
  • BOM management
  • Configuration / Change Management
  • Process Planning
  • Factory Layout
  • Work Instructions
  • Production Scheduling

Just to name some common business/IT challenges all on the critical path to an effective digital thread delivering an optimized product lifecycle.

How do organizations address the digital continuity “elephant” through the pursuit of an unbroken digital thread, via the delivery of these Product Lifecycle projects?

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start-up failure rate

Only 13 percent of companies successfully execute their strategy they set every year. 87% fail – that’s a lot of time, energy and valuable money wasted by corporates.

In the startup world, this was well known, 85% fail, but it’s surprising to know that the same is true, for most corporate new product development, or strategy execution.

Furthermore, 61% of CXOs acknowledge, that they fail between strategy formulation and its day-to-day implementation.

The era of information asymmetry leading to lack-of-strategic ideas, is long resolved. Information abundance and availability and formulation of strategies is now the norm.

It’s the inability to execute and implement the strategy is where the failures are.

momentum is everything

Execution & Momentum is everything

All good things starts to happen only when you start executing. In business, no matter how good your product/innovation, they don’t design, manufacture or sell themselves.

Momentum is everything

If you watch sports, you’ll realize that momentum is everything. Most winning streaks, most successes in sports are all attributed to momentum.

Success and wins are what every businessperson, for that matter, even every individual strives for, isn’t it?

So clearly momentum is everything. To maintain momentum, you need to continuously execute.

But, how do you continually execute and build momentum? While at the same time, overcoming the cost/budget, and time availability issues?

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Agile PLM

Agile Product Lifecycle Solutions

You may have heard of Agile. Let’s be honest, it’s a very commonly used term, often inappropriately!

Essentially, an Agile methodology breaks down a development project into smaller cycles, called iterations. In every iteration, the team develops a specific working version of the software, called an increment, which stakeholders (for example, the customer, product owner, manager, etc.) review and provide feedback.

The feedback is then incorporated in the requirement analysis for the next software development iteration. This continual feedback loop and iterative process allows changes to be made as the software is being developed to ensure that the final developed product will meet customer and market requirements.

By contrast, traditional software development (SDLC) models, such as Waterfall, use a linear approach. Stakeholder interaction or feedback is not available until close to the end of the entire development process when the working product is available.

This lack of flexibility means a lengthy planning process is required before the development process starts, with extensive documentation to specify product requirements – which cannot be modified along the way.

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agile PLM

Advantages of Agile Product Lifecycle Management

The widespread adoption of Agile methodologies speaks to the importance of flexibility and adaptability in today’s fast-paced digital world. The benefits of agile PLM implementations include:

Goal focused:

starting by working with the customer to establish “user stories.” These stories are prioritized and lined up into “sprints.” After each sprint the customer received working features that can be used immediately.

Stakeholder engagement:

Agile provides opportunities for stakeholder engagement before, during, and after each sprint. Delivering working software early and frequently increases stakeholders’ trust in the team’s ability to deliver high-quality working software and encourages them to be more deeply engaged in the project.

Quality of solution:

Testing is integrated throughout the process and enables early and regular inspection of new features. A completed feature can be used immediately. If an issue is found, it’s resolved in the next sprint.

Predictable costs & schedule

the cost is predictable and limited to the amount of work that can be performed by the team in the fixed-schedule time box. Combined with the estimates provided to the client prior to each Sprint, the client can more readily understand the approximate cost of each feature, which improves decision making about the priority of features and the need for additional iterations.

Overall Agile works on an iterative, incremental approach to improve predictability and thus controls or lowers down the risk at every stage.

Allows for change

allows for the introduction of previously unthought of requirements turn on a dime. Change is expected and accepted. Because features are completed within a sprint, the focus on subsequent sprints can be changed to include features that have become more important, or maybe were needed sooner than later.

People change:

and one of the greatest benefits of Agile is the ability to make quick wins and show people that “out of little acorns, big trees can be grown”. It allows people to change gradually, and to build momentum.

I couldn’t imagine implementing PLM in any other way!

And perhaps some of the challenges

  • Agile implementation of PLM projects demand critical and focused customer involvement due to its iterative delivery style and constant feedback; thus, having limited or timely access to the customer can adversely affect the project delivery plan.
  • Not suited for larger corporations where the decision-making is complex and resistance to change is predominant.
  • Sometimes, it becomes difficult to predict efforts like cost, time, and resources at the beginning of the project as things evolve when various iterations are delivered to the customer.
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PLM Ecosystem

Agile Methodology characteristics

Agile is a set of methodologies that help your team to think more effectively, work more efficiently, and make better decisions. Beneath it all, it’s also a mindset.

Agile has the following 12 characteristics as described in the Agile Manifesto:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Agile is driven by “user stories” which are very specific, short, user needs/scenarios that can be described in only a few lines with a brief discussion.

One of the first and more well-known Agile methodologies is “scrum” in which a product owner creates the product backlog, which is a list of requirements to be developed.

The team then runs time-limited sprints which normally last for 2-4-week cycles – the team picks a 2-4 week’s-long list of needs the team thinks it can develop within the limited sprint cycle.

A daily status meeting (10-20 minutes) is held to review the previous day’s work and any issues. The scrum master guides the team through the process.  Upon the sprint completion and review, the changes are deployed into the environment.

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The Product Lifecycle Approach

An Agile approach that brings cost flexibility, speed and Outcome Based, relies on a highly experienced Systems Integrator.

Many PLM installations are very difficult to maintain by agile methods due to their monolithic software architectures and structures. These can evolve over time to include numerous customer-specific adaptations and the many interfaces to other systems. We take a “build momentum” approach each time; always looking for quick business/process wins, all as part of the digital thread and all leading to improved manufacturing.

There are various approaches that we look at, in delivering real results in rapid timelines with a consistent monthly cost, pre-agreed with our customers:

  • Identify modules that have only few interfaces to their environment. These can often be developed and deployed separately, and therefore be iterated faster
  • Utilizing intelligent branching in configuration management
  • Frequent integration of product lifecycle and manufacturing modules as soon as development is stable, even if not finished
  • Shortening feedback loops by frequent demonstrations in staging systems without validating all details every time
  • Linking the EBOM to the MBOM to the Process Plan to Work Instructions and into Manufacturing Execution