Friday, October 14, 2011

What Google+ failure can teach about PLM implementation and User Adoption?

A few days back, Google engineer Steve Yegge wrote a classic tirade about Google's inept handling of the Google+ platform. (You can read it all here). Google+ was supposed to be a Facebook killer, but slowly it is turning to be another Google Wave/Buzz. One of the most interesting things pointed out in the blogpost was “The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The fact that Google doesn’t even eat its own dog food is very evident in this post from a few days back.

As I read this post, I realized how many times we have implemented PLM at various sites and, what the end result has been - all along we have known for a fact that the one of the key measure of a winning and thriving PLM implementation was effective user adoption. And this not mere consultant conjecture, this has been validated by research too - According to a study done by the Sand Hill Group and Neochange, the most critical factor (70% listed as number 1) for software success and return-on-investment is effective user adoption. Software functionality came in at 1% surprisingly, with organization change at 16% and process alignment at 13%. No wonder Google+ has been a nonstarter (Paul Tassi has even written “A Eulogy for Google Plus”)

So what can we learn about Google+ hopeless case and how it relates to a successful PLM implementation from a user adoption standpoint? Several I would say:

1.     Not Enough Power Users (or Management Support or Practice what you preach): Google's Schmidt finally took to Google+ only a couple of days back. Most members of the company's management team aren't still using Google+. Likewise if your PLM implementation has to be successful the concerned top level management has to use it. No point if the VP or Director of Engg/Rnd still uses emails to approve designs or wants printed copies or whatever completely bypassing the system.

2.     Have Real Value for the End User: If the current PLM system is just a replacement for the old one with lots of cute UI’s and bells and whistle – quite likely the reaction is going to be the same as was with the old one once the initial hype cycle dies down.

3.     Launch when ready: Most people would advocate implementing PLM in phases. Good point. But just because you have to close out one phase to start another doesn’t mean you need to roll out a half baked product/service to the user community.

4.     Vendor Size Doesn’t Matter: Even with an 800 pound gorilla’s backing, Buzz, Wave and now + failed. Likewise even if the vendor is large or their PLM system caters to the biggest of the big Fortune 500 companies, it’s not necessary that it will cater to all your user needs. Give your users what they want to be successful in getting their job done. Don’t focus almost exclusively on tiny little features that few people will ever use.

5.     Customize if needed: Oh yeah, that’s a bad word – We don’t want to customize and keep on paying for the maintenance! Right – But what is the point in using terminology or vendor mandated business processes which the user community doesn’t understand? I still don’t get circles, stream, hangouts or whatever.

6.     Motivate People to Use it: People simply didn’t move in droves from Facebook to Google+ as was expected. There was no motivation to do so. FB was sufficient to satisfy the needs of most of the users. Just because something is mandated by the organization doesn’t mean that the users will use it or be happy to use it (sometimes you don’t have a choice – like using LotusNotes or HP’s Quality Center for example!). Motivate the end users to use the new PLM system – Have a plan much before go-live!

7.     Integration: Well Google+ has probably integration with lots of websites and stuff, but Facebook is better! Host of games and apps and I can even sign into/comment on a bunch of websites using my Facebook id. Similarly if the PLM system doesn’t have integration to systems like corporate LDAP, or the SMTP server or inaccessible externally users would have tough time getting on-boarded.

Probably I can go on and on but I hope readers get the point! Don’t take user adoption unconscientiously – it’s the key to a triumphant implementation. (I wouldn’t underestimate Google though – Maybe this time they will get it right – eventually)