Change Management – A Cornerstone

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Karl Wennerholm

“….most design is a variation from or modification to, an already existing product or machine”.

(Cross, N. (1989), Engineering Design Methods, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons).

That was said and written back in 1989. A lot has happened since, but the importance of managing change is still the same. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, was quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life”.

As part of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Change Management is a high-volume activity and it consumes a large amount of time for everyone involved. This translates into an activity that carries a very high cost. The ROI of getting your change management process effective is significant due to the high volume and the number of effected teams and people.

One of the challenges with change is the propagation, a change to one engineering component will most probably cascade and influence the 2nd and 3rd order as well. And when we look at full scale PLM, the effect of change on engineering is just a small part, it is the effect the change has on all other adjacent areas/parts/organizations that will be the complex part to manage.

One of the aspects of being able to deal effectively with change management, is to make use of a system that can support the activity. In a product development process, to believe you can effectively manage change without, is to a certain extent naive. It is for sure possible, but due to the nature of product development these days, which involves management, customers, suppliers, partners, manufacturing, operations, support, services and so on.  There are too many moving parts, connections and relations in order to manage it effectively and successfully without a solid solution as part of the foundations.

Therefore, it is clear that within every project concerning change management, there is a lot of stakeholders’ requirement lists and wish lists. it’s important to have a holistic approach to the requirements, especially when a system support is implemented for the first time. People with the ability to see the big picture as well as role specific competence, will be needed for the project to be successful.

Change Management also means Data Management.

We want our change objects to carry data so that the definition of the change is clear and at the same time supports searchability, categorization and prioritization. Another important aspect to this is data that enables capturing of KPIs and other report generation.

But, what data do we capture from other system and what do we need to transfer to other systems such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)?

These are all important questions. We cannot think of change management as an isolated island where everything happens in a single system. When it comes to change management projects, there are always case by case challenges. If the starting point is a paper-based process or perhaps some in-house developed solution, there will be a big difference in the user experience when moving to a system for the cause.

In these cases, it is important to get engagement from all stakeholders to achieve user acceptance in a successful solution. The question then becomes – How you are working with PLM today?  

Furthermore, is structured and effective Change Management a part of your everyday life or is your PLM system just a CAD vault? No matter what your answer are to the questions, you need to consider how much time your engineers have available to invest in activities related to change. There is not uncommon that 30-50% of activities are change related. With this insight you just need to do a simple computation to realize the impact this has on the extended ecosystem outside of engineering.

Are you as most of the other organizations that we have discussed this subject with, dazzled with how much time and resources are required in order to deal with area’s that have to do with the only constant there is in life – Change?

If this is the first time you have needed to consider your PLM strategy, reach out to me and I will be happy to informally discuss your needs.



 Thank you for reading – All the best!

Karl Wennerholm, PLM and Change Management Expert – PDSVISION


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