There are many steps to complete and processes to consider when planning the deployment of a new PLM solution. Many PLM vendors will encourage you to choose their solution because it provides strong out-of-the-box capabilities that you supposedly need. This only makes sense if you want the vendor to dictate what your new PLM solution will do and what it will not do. For most companies, it makes sense to review your most important and complex processes and provide various scenarios that will support your business now and in the future. Gathering and validating complex use cases will provide a stress test of your future PLM solution and a strong platform for your most vexing challenges.
Your business is unique, and a PLM solution that supports your unique business processes will provide a solid platform for innovation. Studies have shown that companies that rely on innovation are more likely to achieve best-in-class products and drive customer loyalty. Developing complex use cases may take time, but in the end, these scenarios will guide PLM vendors who want your business to prove that they can provide what you need.
One of the most important items you should deliver to potential PLM vendors are scenarios that represent how you currently do business and how you would like to do business in the future. These scenarios are often referred to as “use cases.” These use cases can be simple or complex, but they should reflect an actual process that is important to your business and reflect the best case for doing business in the future. Making a complex use case will support a comprehensive test of the PLM solution you hope to implement.
If the use case is too simple, it will not adequately test the PLM solution you hope to implement. Remember, this is a scenario that you would like to execute in the new PLM solution. Time spent on developing complex use cases will not be wasted, as it will allow you to think about how your business should be run in the future and pay dividends throughout the PLM selection process. There are several considerations you should take when creating use cases.
Consider a clear objective for your PLM use case
Determine which specific process or problem you want to address using the PLM solution. For example, it could be a process related to change management, a challenging collaboration issue, or a new process around regulatory compliance. Please do not make the mistake of putting too much into one use case but make it challenging enough so that the PLM solution will be required to show significant capabilities.
Next, define the context. Determine in what situations the PLM solution will be called upon to deliver this process. Will many people do it often, or will it be executed infrequently? Choose processes that are vital and important to your business across the enterprise to get the best results. Select processes that will be recognized by your stakeholders so they understand the relevance of the use case.
Outline the steps of the process clearly so they are easy to understand. Indicate the inputs and outputs that are needed so that integrations and connections can be considered. Remember, the PLM vendor will need to understand how you want to deliver this process so that they can show clearly how the PLM solution will support your business.
Identify the aspects of the PLM solution that will be required to execute this process. This may be an opportunity to involve other organizations outside of the product development and engineering disciplines. Take full advantage of any chance to collaborate with others during the PLM selection planning process. This will provide another group of allies that can support your PLM activities and positively influence upper management.
Identify roles and responsibilities
For those involved in this use case, specify who initiates the process, who reviews and approves changes, who provides input, and any other important stakeholders in this process. A clear understanding of who is responsible for each step of the process will allow input from the proper people and eliminate the risk of missing something that can have an impact on this use case.
Identify the data and documents that will be needed to execute the process. Specify the types of information created, shared, or modified. Consider documents such as bills of material, 3D CAD models, 2D drawings, testing documentation, specifications, or quality control records.
Create clear criteria for the successful completion of this use case. These criteria should be measurable and aligned with the objectives of the use case. For example, it could be the amount of time it takes for a change to be executed and approved, it could be the successful sharing of documents with another organization, or it could even be the approval of and storing of an important document in a company archive. All of these should be clearly spelled out and leveraged as part of the overall use case.
Share and document use cases
Once the use case is developed, it will need to be shared with multiple people, organizations, and subject matter experts to make sure that it will work successfully. This is a chance to gather feedback and modify as necessary to ensure the use case clearly illustrates the required processes. Make sure that the use case clearly identifies the desired outcomes and addresses any risks.
Finally, document the use case in great enough detail so that a person unfamiliar with the process can understand what you are doing and see the purpose and goals of this process. Remember, the PLM vendor will not be an expert at your business, and if he needs help understanding what information you are trying to convey, he will not be able to implement and test this scenario properly.
Spending time developing a complex use case to stress test future PLM solutions will pay dividends and help demonstrate this solution's value and benefits. This approach provides a practical understanding of how the PLM system will be utilized and helps stakeholders visualize its impact on specific processes or workflows within your unique business. This will lead to a more complete PLM solution and greater innovation and customer satisfaction support.
For more information on how to properly select your next PLM solution, take a look at our eBook. This eBook will show you how to select a new PLM solution properly and provides a guide that will save you hours of wasted time and many sleepless nights.