Three Keys to Digital Transformation

You don’t have to look past the smartwatch on your wrist or the navigation system in your car to realize that we are living in the age of digitization and transformative products.  It’s everywhere, and it’s fundamentally transforming the way products are being designed, built, and maintained in an era of increasing complexity and ubiquitous connectivity.

The question is, How do we get to true digital transformation with product lifecycle management? In our view there are essentially three keys to achieving digital transformation.

As a lifelong fan of science fiction (OK, maybe geek fiction), I recently used an analogy from Steven Spielberg’s new film “Ready Player One” in my presentation at the Aras ACE conference.  (If you grew up in the ‘80s gaming on a Commodore 64, like me, you may have read the book.)

The movie is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. The young hero, Wade Watts, must save humanity and sets off on an adventure where he (spoiler alert) evades the bad guys, meets the girl, and ultimately emerges victorious.

To be successful, our hero must find three keys – the copper key, the jade key, and the crystal key.  Following this analogy, we believe that Wade’s journey is not unlike the one your organization faces on your path to digital transformation using a strategic and open PLM platform.  We see three keys to success here as well.

The first key or the Copper Key is about eliminating the underground. You know what I’m talking about: the shadowy underground where people try to achieve product development through antiquated means, such as Microsoft Excel, email, legacy tools, and FTP.  It’s a world where meetings are plentiful and communication is limited as engineers work in a sea of disconnected islands of blissful ignorance. Can you picture this place?  How do you fix it?

The answer is to emerge aboveground and take your activities and processes onto a common platform.  Many companies are doing some aspects of this already, but we have invested in helping take this move to the next level. One such area is extended classification. Think of it as an Excel killer. It allows you to stop managing properties in Excel spreadsheets and achieve greater flexibility to assign properties, even across item types.

Another example is configuration services, which is a Legacy Tools killer.  This is a deep platform service for defining and resolving variability, which is crucial as products become more complex and variable than ever.  By defining Families, Options, and Rules using interactive editors, you can drive variability into any aspect of your product, not just Parts and BOMs.

The second key or the Jade Key is about broadening your horizons. This includes extending your PLM platform to include new applications and services that allow you to connect all data in one digital thread.  This is only achievable in an open environment where everything is connected, allowing you to leverage underlying services such as Tech Docs Framework (TDF) that enables document editing within a web-based PLM system. By linking your document text with business items and images managed across the PLM system, you can build a true digital thread and keep it updated as content changes.

Another critical aspect of broadening your horizons across your digital transformation journey is to extend into new application areas such as simulation.  Bringing your analyst team into the common PLM platform supports their work by organizing their file and process management, while at the same time providing tremendous benefit to the rest of the organization by providing key simulation results such as visualizations that are easily accessible and support decision making.

Now that your horizons are broadened and connected in a digital thread, the next step is the third key or Crystal Key letting users in.  As technologists, we sometimes get caught up building fancy, whiz-bang systems that people don’t want to use. How can we fix that?

Well before we even get to usability, we literally have to let them in.  Having an extensible authentication framework is important to provide a wide range of secure ways for users to connect to the system from any client or environment, whether it be a mobile app, a CAD integration, or the standard web client.

But now to usability.  Having started with PLM in the 90’s (well even before it was called PLM), I understand the challenges of user adoption.  True adoption is only possible through a focus on usability that encourages and empowers the user to be more effective, collaborative, and productive… and maybe it could even be a little fun?  PLM will never be simple, but it should be clear, intuitive, and straightforward enough to enhance the productivity of every role involved in the product development process.

With these three keys, you’re ready to more effectively innovate and execute in a world that is being truly transformed.  Like our movie hero, you may still encounter foes, challenges, and battles, but with the right tools, you, too, can emerge victorious.  And unlike our movie example, this is not the stuff of fiction. It’s available today.

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