The beginning of the new year is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and to see if past predictions have aged well. While no one could have predicted the events of last year, few would argue that, when such unimagined challenges arise, what really matters becomes strikingly clear. This is as true in our professional lives as it is in our personal ones.
A previous Aras blog, Own the Lifecycle, predicted what manufacturers could need to succeed in an unknown future market: one that is ever-transforming as new, unpredictable business and technology challenges emerge. In this blog, we’ll examine a few of these past ideas to see if they’ve held up to one of the toughest years we’ve all had, and to explore more about what it means to Own the Lifecycle of your product data and business processes.
Ownership is Access to Your Data
This statement may be more true now than it has ever been. Teams across the product lifecycle suddenly find themselves members of a nearly all-remote workforce and need access from anywhere, at any time, to the critical product information required to do their jobs. Without this access, the impact on product development is clear: especially in a workplace where my kids’ online classes have a stranglehold on my productivity.
Which begs the question, what more can be accomplished with access to more data from the end-to-end lifecycle of your products: from every domain, including the customer’s experience, service needs, operating conditions, the supply chain, and data currently stored in external tools? When you can no longer complete work by “walking around”—and other in-person, manual processes and workarounds (Excel spreadsheets, anyone?)—the need for access to complete, accurate, and up-to-date digital information quickly, to drive critical product development decisions, is brought into sharp relief.
Ownership is the Ability to Change
Without the agility to quickly respond to the truths you find in your data, that information won’t do you much good. Over half of the respondents in a survey of 890 CIOs from across 23 countries reported they seek “a more nimble technology platform” to address unpredictability in their markets.
Owning something means you can quickly and easily change it, and that ability to change, with agility and purpose, is at the heart of Digital Transformation. The ubiquity of the term belies the fact that organizations are having a hard time changing their existing digital systems. If those systems house your digital data—your intellectual property—and the process of changing them to accommodate a new strategy is really that painful, do you own your data at all?
If this past year has taught us anything about global businesses, it’s that an inability to keep transforming as worldwide markets change and new technologies emerge leaves companies open to risk, limiting their strategic advantage. Your company should be able to rely on its technology platform to help it continually evolve.
Ownership is Strategic
“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.”
Strategy defines a set of choices. For product and services companies, successfully driving innovation within your offerings to support new product strategies requires agility and speed, along with the means to connect your teams with information about each change so they can all respond in a concerted way: quickly, efficiently, and accurately accelerating that new innovation to market.
Technology to own this lifecycle of product and service improvements can sustain your business throughout these repeating cycles: from one emerging trend to the next, from one market upheaval to the next, and from one set of customer requirements to the next. Maintaining your product changes centrally, and making them easily accessible across the extended enterprise, is key to transforming your business strategy. A platform technology that can support and accelerate this cycle of change is a strategic imperative.
Ownership Relies on Your Technology
“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… 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.”
This system of cascading changes—that is, automatically updating related information and alerting relevant personnel to the change across connected tools and systems—describes a complex, interwoven Digital Thread of product information capable of traversing your extended enterprise.
What platform capabilities are essential to constructing this Digital Thread? The right platform will offer fully connected applications, purpose-built for users within their unique domains, while maintaining a familiar user experience to make it easy to understand and consume data from other domains and applications. It will be open, to connect data across disparate systems while still allowing teams to work in the authoring tools they prefer.
What’s more, the right platform to build this Digital Thread must be customizable. No single organization has data and processes identical to another’s, which means that, to capture and instantiate your organization’s unique Digital Thread, applications must be able to be customized or built from scratch while still maintaining connections to other applications across the platform.
The speed with which applications can either be customized or built anew must match the velocity of change in global markets. Digital Transformation is not “one and done”: it is continuous, ever-changing, and core to your business strategy. Customizations should, likewise, be agile and iterative—quickly launched, tested, and improved upon.
Finally, the platform should remain fully upgradable, despite customizations, as the vendor adds new features and capabilities. If any part of the process is a waiting game—a time sink that delays product and process innovations for your business—or a money pit of customizations and upgrades that incurs a cost comparable to that of purchasing another new enterprise system all over again, it may be time to reevaluate the platform you’re entrusting your valuable IP to.
Ownership Can Advance Your Business
“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.”
When companies need to quickly change direction, a technology platform that lets them seamlessly execute this change, try it out and get feedback, and then change some more in response to what they’ve learned, is critical. New technologies are always emerging that companies will want to leverage onboard their products or to improve their back-end systems, enhancing the customer experience, adding business value, improving the work of their product development teams, or all of the above. Among PLM technologies, only the Aras platform is built for industrial low-code development so teams can customize or create applications; seamlessly integrate new tools, data types, processes, and teams; and upgrade quickly and easily, free from additional costs.
As we’ve seen this past year, unpredictable events change markets quickly. Your business lifecycle, like your product lifecycle, is a cyclical force that can learn from what has come before it and impart wisdom to change and improve the next cycle, offering new advantages for your customers and for your internal teams: if you have the right technology to build upon.
Check out our previous blog, Own the Lifecycle, or read our eBook, Own the Lifecycle: Sustainable Business Transformation, to discover the connection between the Aras platform and successful Digital Transformation initiatives.