In the company’s environment it is common to meet manager who are always afraid that someone will mess up their data, or who don’t trust their users enough to let them play freely with the information. If this can be understood, this also has to be taken down when you enter projects like PLM where users, permissions and context can create an almost infinite number of interactions options between the user and the application. I’m not saying you should forget this kind of feature, of course not, PLM is definitely made for this. But it is not an easy task and you need experience on the implemented software in order to understand how to manage these restrictions.
Your colleagues are smart
Sometimes it’s not even a question of privacy control or protected information, it’s just a matter of this manager wanting to make sure that this guy will not touch this document he shouldn’t touch because it’s not his job to do so. Well look at the real world, I’m in a factory, I can manually take some screws from a batch and mix these with another one. This is possible. Why I wouldn’t do it? Because I know it’s wrong, because that’s not part of my job (supposing that I work in a PLM implementation team and not in the manufacturing zone which I ‘m just visiting. And also because I may be caught by someone who will tell me that what I’m doing is wrong. That’s the problem with software, people want things to be secured 100%. We want 100% of the possible failure to be tested where 90% of these might be very stupid actions. A PLM solution is a company system, it’s not a blog or an e-commerce website where you know people will do every single clicks and navigation you haven’t thought of.
Not mandatory on first version
To me it is important to have some kind of introduction of access management for the users. They should, from the beginning, start understanding why they may not have the same screens and data visible as other users. But it is not mandatory to put to much effort on blocking users. Unlike physical actions like my previous example, you could think it is not easy to see someone doing a mistake, but yes it is easy as every action is recorded in a PLM solution. Every change as a date and a modifier. So focus and allowing the right person to get the data and wait for a second run where you might add more restrictions on information access.
I guess one day with computer learning technologies it will be much more easier, during the testing, whenever you’ll see an item you will be able to define why you should or should not and who should or should not access it. After some training, the software will understand how to behave with the rest of the information. But as of today every software I found were still not always easy to maintain regarding roles, right & permissions. So to avoid wasting too much time of right & access customizing, you should start by opening the access to the right persons and invest on training to let people know the right things to do. It will be a much better investment than spending time customizing restriction you will need to change many times later.
…Unless your product is documentation and in this case your document management system is your PLM. This is a very usual question which we either get from our customers or which we have to solve when we implement a PLM solution in an environment that already contains a Document Management System. Many companies compare our features with the ones provided by their document management system.
Capture the main focus of the company…
What is a document management system? Wikipedia gives the following definition “A document management system (DMS) is a computer system (or set of computer programs) used to track and store electronic documents and/or images of paper documents”. These solutions like Alfresco, Nuxeo, and many other popular solution are offering a lot of opportunities to manage electronic content in the company. But everytime I face this question about these software, I ask the prospect: “what is the main focus of your company? what is the common item that everybody is working for?”. Answer is: your product. Your product can be services, manufactured goods and also as previously said documentation and in this particular case you might not be so wrong about having a DMS in place for your PLM strategy.
…and allow the whole company to be involved in your PLM strategy
So this is to me the most important thing which is also part of most discussion about “what is PLM”. Back to our first stop-motion video about this topic, we were clearly saying that everybody was potentially related to the PLM startegy as long as your were in some way interacting with the product related informations. Some example:
– HR will need to know from the product developments if in 10 month we might move to a product that requires much more soldering manufacturing steps. They will then be able to book trainings and make sure they have the competencies on time.
– Purchasing is definitely impacted with PLM to manage the suppliers relationship
– Quality needs to have their reporting looking at all the data from the PLM.
With these statement it would be much more difficult to get people around a same document management system implementation project. They all build different documentations with many processes while at the same time everybody is working for a same goal. the success of the company delivering its product.
Hey if you’re sick of receiving updates from our blog about messages you don’t have time to read because they are too long, this should be a much shorter article. I wanted to get back to that topic because school is about to start again in a few weeks. The title sounds like Aras corp just launched a brand new program for universities. Well, I guess they did that without really noticing, when they started delivering Aras download for free on their website. That’s cleary when it became available for all and made it a very good argument for Universities to start looking at the solultion and start building some course on PLM using Aras Innovator.
Benefits for Universities
The first time I realize it was important to let universities know about Aras was when I called, a few years ago, someone from Airbus who asked me if there was any university using Aras and if not, this would be the first step to get them to use it. So as a first benefit, by using Aras Innovator, universities will get the interest of companies.
Then the software is free to download. You do not have to meet ten sales person or ask for more licenses or try to see how students could use it from there home, just send them the following link and they will be able to get it, install it on their own computer and start using exploring it. Plus, tons of code is available and openly shared in the community page.
One more thing, Aras created a free program for Universities to let them benefit from updates and service pack. And we, at Minerva, provide Aras training with special discount for universities.
Benefits for companies
As mentionned in the previous section, companies are interested to know if a software is used by universities because they know they can get new ressources already trained on that system. And that’s what recently happened with one of our major customer who came directly to the closest university to tell some educational program manager to start looking at how they could start teaching Aras and starting students projects to create new modules. This is clearly because they know they have a long term strategy with Aras and they want to make sure they’ll never run out of resources.
Benefit for Myself
It always comes back to me ! And yes of course it has a benefit for me because it brings student to talk to me about developments they made or about things they think Aras could handle, it brings me more ideas, and it let me write more articles of this kind. So once again, I encourage the existing community to amplify our messages around Aras to let universities know that there is a PLM solution waiting for them right there : Aras Innovator Download page
I’m starting a serie of article which might be spread over multiple month or years (in fact as long as I feel like I’m not asked with the right questions from PLM prospects). This serie is about the questions that I think are important to ask when you select an IT solution to support your Product Lifecycle Management initiatives, but questions that I don’t quite get from prospects. Competitors will be happy to read that they will say: “nice! the guy is almost insulting the prospects for not asking the ‘smart’ questions! Thanx for his help”. Well, I don’t think I’m insulting anyone when I provide results of projects insights that are only visible by consultants jumping from projects to projects. These questions are usually impacting the long term cost and management of PLM but we see nowadays that the impact on initial implementation using Lean implementation methodology is approximately the same. This serie is then starting with “PLM Evolutions administration” which is something that I don’t get asked many times and which not only involves the software but also the integrator’s methodology.
What are PLM Evolutions in our implementations?
For our PLM implementation, as you can read it in our previous article “Applying a lean strategy for PLM solutions implementation”, we are used to run through quick iterations. This is also mentionned in most agile methodology for software deployment. So every time we have delivered a new release, we look at the new feature request entry list, we select the important enhancement request or pending bugs and from that we build a list of tasks which will be attached to a milestone. During the development, for new feature we make sure to communicate heavily with a sample of future users in order to make sure we go in the right direction. These developments can be made on one or multiple up-to-date Aras instances. Once we believe it is all set, we update the staging database, we push our new devs on this stating instance and we get some users, key-users and ourselves to test. Once the test is validated we push the new content into production.
A well understood process but varying from on application to another
So the process is pretty common to most software implementations, this may be one reason one prospects are not asking. This is not so much, in appearance, a software issue but more an IT project best practices management. Issue is that software have different architectures, rely on different technologies and cloud added an other important alternative to managing software evolution. For Aras Innovator you have different things to take into account when pushing a new version. Here are the main components:
- The web-application files
- The Database
- The Vault
As a result, web-application files are versionned controled, the configuration of your Innovator instance are stored in packages that are applied to the database though the Aras Innovator application using the Import/Export utility tool and the Vault is usually not changed through evolution.
Tools to manage the evolution release
With our experience using other systems, we believe Aras Innovator allows a pretty straight forward process for evolutions. But still we realise today that if you’re not having good established process and automation tools, you end-up with a lack of visibility on your changes and difficulties to track the full integrity of your change chain from development instances to production. This can make it complicated to replay changes.
But these tools are not easy to set up and that’s why we believe at Minerva that our increasing experience in Aras Innovator provides us with great capabilities to build these tools taking into account that changes are not always perfectly handled. We will always have very simple change made directly in Production (permission change for example). So we need to take these facts into account to make sure we maintain the integrity and impact other instances by bringing impacting our version controlled system with these quick fix in production.
Cost of the administration
The cost of the administration is the reason why I’m wondering prospects are not asking for the questions. This can be so much different from one system to another. In the past I’ve been working for a company who was providing PLM ressources and some of these ressources were in teams from 2 to 10 people to maintain PLM instances of competitor products. Tuning the database, building queries, working on evolutions, working to process evolutions from devs to production. I’ve always been amazed by the amount of people needed for these projects. We have Aras projects with users spread over the globe (Instance in France with people connecting in Brazil, USA, China…) and we’re hardly reach the load of a full ressource on the project. And by keeping a high daily rate, we even encourage customers to get trained on the system and reduce even more the administration cost.
System administration is key and if you go to reference companies provided by editors, make sure to get the information about administration. Who is doing what and how long it takes to make changes in the system. Compare multiple customers (just call them)to understand if there are differences and to know if the difference are based on the team’s processes or from their activity. Remember that most actual PLM major vendors are based on old technologies and changing colors or UI is not helping so much on the administrative side. Prospects! If you don’t ask me this quuestion next time, you can be sure I’ll provide an answer anyway 🙂 !
As mentionned is my short résumé, I’m an entrepreneur and I like to read about other entrepreneurs’ experiences whatever the result they are, all experiences which could be understood and converted into inputs for future initiatives are good experiences to share. These last few weeks I was reading “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. This book covers different experiences related to the Lean manufacturing and applied to startup companies and also a larger scope of entrepreneurship. In many PLM marketing materials you will read that a PLM strategy helps supporting lean engineering and lean manufacturing processes but it is not usual to see mentions of the editors or solution’s integrators own use of lean methodologies. PLM has the particularity to be exposed to almost everybody in the company, with different needs it is difficult to create a system which will fit perfectly at first try for most people and the pace at which companies’ organisation change makes it even more difficult. After thinking about all these facts I realised that this lean process would definitely fit for PLM software implementations. So here are some hints.
Start with an MVP
One of the things we learn from Eric Ries is the way his team launched their product IMVU. They started with what they call a Minimum Viable Product. They realised how important it is to confront as soon as possible the users to the software to understand their needs. And that is quite important for new systems for which there is not a rich history record. We should do the same with PLM providing some first approach, first contact to the software in order to get as soon as possible what your users (AKA your internal customers) will be willing to use. At Minerva we are actually running a very nice project where I can clearly see a perfect parallel between the lean methodology. Where most editors would have started to specify a large scope of the project, we started with a small scope on change management. We’ve been then able to limit the risk of misunderstanding the users need and delivering the wrong product.
Proceed with small batches
Think big but iterate by small cycles. That’s a recurring fact mentionned by Eric Ries in his book. Once the MVP has been delivered it is important to quickly enhance the product, not necessarily by applying directly the users request but by understanding the needs and adapting the solution. Small batches means not only a small amount of features but also to quickly confront the changes to the users. In the same project we’ve been talking about, every time there is a feature developped, we quickly involve the main users even if most methods are not developed yet. Aras helps us a lot in this process has it makes possible to have very active reviews in which we can make changes live on forms.
Learn and Adapt
And that is exactly where things can get critical in a PLM implementation. Adaptation needs your IT system to be able flexible enough to let you pivot easily. This is somehow very related to the previous point but it is true that as much as possible you need to get users point of view. In Eric ries’ book he mentions that to innovate in this lean methodology, you need to be good at getting the informations frequently from you users. And test various evolutions for various type of users. We did it with Aras by opening new features to a small selected amount of users before doing a full opening of the feature.
With that being said, and giving the example of the project we are running using this methodology (without really noticing it so far), we clearly realize that we would have much more difficulties to follow this path with solution that wouldn’t be as flexible as Aras Innovator is. It also involve a good management of instances with a clear process on how we move changes from development to production through a staging instance. This methodology is not only a best practice for us, it should also be a best practice for our customers’ project manager. It takes confidence and a strong management to be able to explain that we move feature by feature and prioritize items that other managers may think are not first priorities. We will try to publish more information on that methodology as we need to clearly share it with our customers.