It has been said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” This is especially true when applied to PLM selection projects. Having a limited view of your company’s future requirements will not provide the kind of support that is needed to select new software. This is true particularly when you consider that PLM software touches many other parts of the company: sales, marketing, product development, manufacturing, new product introduction, maintenance, and so forth.

One of the biggest reasons technology projects fail is that many companies need to improve at defining requirements for their solutions. The more time you spend assessing your business before looking at new technology, the more likely you will be able to choose the best option. Skipping this step may lead to delayed projects, bloated budgets, last-minute changes, and angry users.

When a PLM selection program fails, it is often popular to blame the software or the PLM vendor, not the lack of clear requirements. In the end, the reason the program failed often boils down to these main reasons:

  • Failure to determine what the organization really needs in a solution
  • Failure to analyze specific business challenges for the company now and in the future
  • Failure to understand strategic business goals and how PLM can alleviate the challenges
  • Requirements not clearly mapped to the PLM solution under consideration

Requirements definitions are too broad and general

We have all seen RFPs (Requests for Proposals) from companies searching for a technology solution where the requirement definitions are vague and general. Without a more detailed view of your business, there is no way to determine if the chosen solution will work for you.

Examples of requirements types that are not useful are listed below:

  • Requirement 1: The solution must be easy to use.
  • Requirement 2: The solution must be able to perform Engineering Change Management.
  • Requirement 3: The solution must maintain data integrity and security.
  • Requirement 4: The solution must support customization.

Mistake 1: These requirements are not requirements at all. They are so basic that there is no value in putting them on a requirements list. Any PLM software vendor will say that they fulfill these requirements 100%. One of the problems is that organizations define requirements so vaguely that they fit every solution on the market.

Mistake 2: During the solution evaluation phase, the requirement definitions become more solution-specific. In effect, organizations are mapping requirements to the already chosen system. This leads to a chance of selecting a solution that may or may not support the business. In the worst case, a company may even ask the PLM vendor for a list of business requirements.

Mistake 3: Instead of looking at their own business and carefully considering how a solution could offer real business value, they hand off the responsibility for their own implementation success to the technology provider. NEVER ask the PLM vendor what the requirements are for your PLM solution. The PLM vendor can help you with the process of gathering requirements, and they can help you understand how their PLM solutions might support you, but it is essential that they understand your business.

It’s time to flip the script

Why is it that organizations need to spend more time building accurate requirements definitions? If you were building a new house, you would not just tell the developer to build four walls with a roof on top of it, would you?

Organizations usually have a solid understanding of their unique, foundational business objectives. Every business is unique, and so are its requirements. Generic requirements should never ever be the starting point of the selection process. Where organizations often need to improve is in translating business drivers into capabilities and features. The result is that they need to know which requirements are a must for their success and where to compromise.

If you need help understanding what you want and need, how can you know if you have chosen the right solution?

Understand your unique needs

It is likely that you may not know all the details in your requirements from the beginning, but you must understand what it is that makes your company unique, what your business drivers are, what challenges you need to address, and where to compromise in a PLM solution. A good understanding of where your business is headed in the future and what plans may arise will help to determine what is needed in a PLM solution.

There are many reasons that companies give for not spending more time up-front developing a detailed view of their requirements:

  • Not enough time
  • Avoid conflict between departments that present differing requirements
  • Just want a solution that fixes the problem right now
  • Pressure from executives to just get the selection done

Spend the time on developing a solid set of business requirements, so you reduce the time spent on the process of determining if a particular PLM software solution can provide a winning solution for your business.

Here are several tips that will help you improve your ability to define PLM solution requirements:

  1. Understand your own business.
    1. What drives the business forward, what challenges prevent your business from evolving, and where can a technology solution help you improve that area and provide you with real value? Maybe your engineers are spending too much time on documentation and less time on innovating. How can a PLM solution solve that?
  2. Involve people from multiple parts of the business.
    1. This will help them feel involved and increase the likelihood that they will accept the final solution.
  3. Seek out experts.
    1. Have them look at your business and give you advice on must-have requirements and where you can compromise.
  4. Get your priorities straight!
    1. Ensure that there is support throughout the organization, from top management to the individual departments, with clear priorities, clear objectives, and clear requirements.

For more information on the right way to approach a PLM selection activity, don’t forget to download and read our eBook. The time you spend preparing will pay you back in the end with a strong and dependable PLM solution that can last for many years.