Best Practice Series: PLM Information - Organize, Formalize and Learn
By abhijit.kakhandiki on Oct 22, 2008
Project Management in any organization and context involves managing issues, risks and action items as well as maintaining and storing non-structured information arising out of discussions and meetings. Project Management in the context of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) focuses on Product Development Processes (PDP) and basically a creative yet rigorous process. The creative aspect of PDP projects results in a lot of non-structured information being created especially in the early design stages of a product. The rigorous aspect, on the other hand, dictates that you organize non-structured information in a form that is easily accessible and can be leveraged in the future. 'Learning from failure' is just as important as learning from success.
This blog post talks about some of the best practices that you can incorporate into your existing PPM deployment to effectively organize your non-structured PLM information.A PPM project can be effectively used as a container to organize information, both structured and non-structured. A PDP project, besides storing schedules etc., organizes information relevant to various stages of product development - from concept to launch phases.
In this context one can organize information as follows:
o Structured Information - This is primarily composed of various objects that represent the Product Record. This is anything from Parts, Documents, Sourcing Projects, Declarations, etc. and is well known as it resides on the Content tab of a project and may or may not drive program execution.
o Non-Structured Information - Almost all non-structured PLM information currently resides in e-mails, or hard-drives. Some of the collaboration, creativity and problem-solving that goes into product development can be modeled using the Discussions base-class in PPM, thus formalizing this 'tribal knowledge'. I will elaborate on this aspect in detail below.
Recommendations for modeling Non-Structured information in PPM:
1. Use Discussions to document questions and responses: Discussions are similar to e-mail threads, but they are directly accessible from the Summary page of the project. Another huge advantage is that they are full text searchable.
2. Create two sub-classes under Discussions:
i. Risks: These objects will store key project risks. Risk is defined by the Project Management Institute as a possible event that may affect your project either positively or negatively. Risk reviews try to anticipate future problems and develop a strategy to reduce or avoid their impact. Attributes such as 'Priority' and 'Severity' can be created on these sub-classes to help you focus on appropriate risks. An additional attribute, called 'Overall Risk Priority' or ORP can be created, that can be a number that helps rank your risks and drive focus among the project stakeholders. An example of a risk is 'shortage of qualified engineers may delay our prototype phase'.
ii. Issues: These objects will store issues of a technical or non-technical nature. There may be a need to sub-class these further into 'Hardware Issues', 'Software Issues' etc. in certain cases to help search better, but just an 'Issues' subclass will help tremendously. Both risks and issues can be closed when resolved.
3. Create a document sub-class called 'Meeting Minutes': You can either create a separate document sub-class with specific Page 3 attributes such as 'Meeting Topic', 'Attendees' etc. or use the Document class to do this as well. The important thing to remember is to provide a file attachment with the right template to capture all the details. This can be an MS Word file with sections such as Topic, Goal, Attendees, Agenda, Conclusions, Next Steps etc. clearly laid out.
4. Use Action-Items in PPM: Action Items provide a great way to track what's being done to resolve a particular risk or issue. This traceability is combined with urgency ('Due Date') and person responsible for carrying it out ('Assigned to'). They appear in the Project Summary page for program managers to easily manage these. They also appear in a user's 'My Assignments' screen for easy tracking by due date, project etc.
Overall Organization of PLM information in PPM:
Organize all information in the content tab using Views functionality: Views on the content tab allow organization of all PLM information pertaining to a project in a very flexible manner. Views are essentially tags i.e. the same object can be part of two different views. Some recommended views and the PLM information contained in them can be:
i. Business Plan & Strategy: Market Size calculations, market share forecasts, production, distribution and partnering strategies
ii. Standard Operating Procedures: Quality Assurance, Lab procedures,
iii. Requirements & Specifications: Product Requirements, Functional Specifications
iv. DfX: Design for Cost (sourcing projects), Design for Compliance (Declarations), Design for Quality (CAPA, PSRs)
v. Preliminary Designs: CAD drawings, design objects
vi. Meeting Minutes: Meeting details, links to Wikis etc.
The above best practices should help you organize and make better sense of your PLM information. The real returns will come from the continuous improvement of your PDP process due to useful insights you will gain as you access this information in the right context.