Today, global organizations are rethinking how they use product data. They’re turning to more open and flexible approaches to creating a more digitally connected enterprise, attempting to use product data across the entire lifecycle to drive their business velocity, increase their customer centricity, improve their use of data to make data-driven decisions, strengthen their ability to innovate and execute, and to quickly adapt to changing market realities.

The shortest path to meeting your future customer’s unmet needs is to “Own the Lifecycle”.  This is at the heart of any organization’s digital transformation journey.

One of most important things a manufacturer can do is own their customer’s experience. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make the best product in a marketspace, you want the customer’s journey to be a round trip right back to you, whether it be in the form of upgrades or new products.

But, who actually owns the customer’s experience? Is it sales, services, or the engineers who design the product? Is it the supply chain—or perhaps marketing? I’ve heard executives say, “Everyone owns the customer experience.”

When your PLM does not flow your product data across pillar systems such as CRM, ERP, MES, and SCM, you’re either performing redundant work or rework. If your PLM doesn’t work effectively with your ERP and people are using spreadsheets because life without them is too painful to bear, you have issues. If services uses their own disconnected tools, then the processes become even more disjointed. The result is that no one owns the lifecycle, which makes it impossible for anyone to own the customer experience.

I maintain it all starts with the CEO. If the CEO fails to set a strategy that connects product data throughout the product’s lifecycle, including delivery and field service, then product data will break down into disconnected silos. This causes redundant tasks, defects, and rework which results in higher costs and dissatisfied customers.

The deeper issue is that you leave yourself vulnerable to competitive pressure. Frustrated customers could contract with alternative service providers or buy from competitors. It’s never just sales, or marketing, or service, or a call center. Underlying it all should be a connected Product Lifecycle—a Digital Thread that connects all product streams along with their digital assets from concept through design, manufacturing, and service. When a change is made to a product or process in one part of the thread, that change should be automatically disseminated to each stakeholder along the chain. These updates allow the entire ecosystem to collaborate using data and analytics from all of the connected systems to increase your operational efficiency and improve the quality of the product, services, and responsiveness of the organization to your customers.

Anyone can talk a big game, but to really own the customer experience, you must own the product lifecycle. This is easier said than done due to the complexities of existing legacy systems—based on outdated architectures and sub-optimal processes—that exist in many manufacturing organizations. The answer is not a monolithic PLM system with static integrations pretending to be some type of backbone. Rather, it is an open platform approach that provides the flexibility to optimize your processes and select technologies you need with customizations, where applicable, to connect your product data across the lifecycle. We tend to picture PLM as a linear progression from conception to end-of-life, but I maintain it should be a recursive circular Digital Thread—a cycle that leads to additional business, more competitive products, a reduced time to innovate, and a much tighter relationship with the customer.

Forward-thinking companies are beginning to connect their underlying ecosystem into a continuous Digital Thread, enabling closed-loop product feedback, predictive analytics, and connected Digital Twins configurations with full traceability. They are eliminating redundant work and utilizing the benefits of their data and analytics to make data-driven decisions with speed and agility.

The days of making decisions in the dark are long gone. Managing data in silos and making products in a vacuum has no place in your customer’s future—it’s about providing complete connectivity throughout your business’s lifecycle and using that product data to drive better business decisions.

Regardless of industry or whether you’re an OEM or an owner/operator, I believe that, with the right leadership, culture, and an open, flexible, scalable, and upgradable platform approach, you can own your lifecycle, enabling you to transform your business.   Those that can own their lifecycle will innovate faster, achieve greater operational efficiencies, as well as greater flexibility to react to market conditions, and sustainably deliver an exceptional customer experience.

The future belongs to those organizations connecting everything, everywhere, all of the time. The expectation is instant, personalized, and incremental value, achieved easily and at scale.

It’s never easy to execute while digitally transforming your business. My advice to you is to proactively disrupt yourself. “Own the Lifecycle.”