Role of an external PM in PLM Implementation Projects

With two recent experiences (in fact bad experiences) of working with external project managers, I thought it is worth sharing my observations on this topic. By external PM, I mean a part-time project manager hired by the customer, other than primary implementation partner, to manage PLM implementation project. These observations apply to small to medium size companies which have limited resources to establish full-time PMO office and usually have small Document Control teams.

Companies hire external PM, primarily due to following reasons:

  •  They lack expertise/confidence to manage PLM projects
  • They don’t have capacity
  • They want to mitigate vendor related risk and involve third person to protect themselves against vendors

Before discussing external PM, let’s see what is really expected from a PM. He should be someone who:

  •  has long-term stake in the success of the project and gives highest priority to customer’s interests
  • is deeply involved in the project on day to day basis
  • understands the dynamics of the PLM implementation projects
  • can spare enough time/attention for the project

Whenever customers hire an external PM,

  •  It creates extra overhead in the communication. PM wants vendor to report to him/her instead of talking to primary project sponsors and users
  • In creates conflict of interest, remember vendors are interested in building long term trusted relationship with customer, they simply get frustrated due to this middle-man.
  • Due to part-time availability, PM can not engage enough with internal users, his/her availability becomes an issue.
  • Since PM is not a functional and technical expert (implementation partner is supposed to be expert) , he/she does not understand the dynamics of the project and focuses more on reporting aspects, meeting with deadlines, saving pennies, and justifying his/her role.

Instead of hiring external PM, what is recommended is to identify somebody internally in the organization to play this role. If internal person lacks prerequisites skills, he/she should be trained and enabled. You should look around in Quality, Engineering or Document Control teams to identify suitable person, someone who will live with project results for many years to come, not someone who will be out of the door in few months.

Remember, nobody else can take care of your interests except you.

Alternatively, if internal PM is not possible, then implementation partner should be trusted with PM role. Due to their prior similar experiences, Implementation partners can add a lot of value to the project by sharing industry insights. Clear expectations and success criteria should be set with vendor at the beginning of the project.

Integrating Employee Training with PLM in Medical Device Industry

In highly regulated industries , like medical devices , employee training have paramount significance.  Training employees is important for two reasons:

  • Regulatory Compliance

FDA requires medical device companies to capture all training for employees. As part of audits, FDA ensures that proper processes and systems are in place to capture training records.

  • Building necessary skillset

Since risk is very high, especially when human lives are at stake, it is absolutely necessary that

employees are adequately trained on all relevant processes and procedures. This includes whenever a new document is released or an existing document is updated in PLM.

Capturing Training Plans and History

One of the pre-requisites to execute training is that you capture training plans for each employee. This can be done by defining training profiles that align with job descriptions or roles of the employees. Once you have training profiles, you can assign these training profiles to the individual employees and then track actual training against these profiles. If you have LMS in place, you can define these profiles in LMS. Alternatively, you can define these profiles in Agile PLM.

Capturing Training Requirements in Real Time

Whenever a new SOPS/process document is ready to be released, system should enforce that all related employees are trained to this new document before this document is actually released. Once employees are trained, then system can release new document and make it accessible for every one.

Document change management processes in PLM should be enhanced to ensure that necessary training are identified and executed before new document is released. In Agile PLM,  you can enhance workflows to capture training before document is released.

Employees need to have a very intuitive interface to submit their training.

ETR Blog

Integrate with LMS

Many companies have implemented LMS system with very rich functionality to define, execute, manage, and report on training. However, documents are usually managed in PLM system. This necessitates to sync new or updated document with LMS as soon as it is ready for training in PLM. Once training is completed,  LMS can update Agile PLM about completion status so that document can be released.

Xavor offers a suite of product s in PLM space to streamline the employee training processes, especially with Agile PLM. Following two products work together seamlessly to provide an end-to-end solution:

  • Employee Training Records (ETR)
  •  xEngine

For more information,  please reach us at

Need for Integrating Product Data

If you look at any product company, you will see that PLM is the primary system where you manage all parts information, BOMS structures, design documents and any other supporting content like work instructions, SOPS, data sheets, and diagrams.

In addition to PLM, there are many other systems which are needed to manage your business processes like manufacturing, financial, operations, and sales & marketing.

PLM and Other Enterprise Systems

In ERPs, you manage financial and operational processes. Many customers have MRP built into their ERP. This is where you need PLM related data like parts, BOMs, and related suppliers and vendors for those parts.  When an ECO is approved in PLM, either,  to release a new part or to update a design document, you may need to sync this ECO with your ERP to reflect this change in MRP. Similarly, if part cost is updated in ERP, you may need to bring updated cost in the PLM. This is because many customers need this information in PLM for cost management.

On the other hand, all interactions with customers are managed via CRMs. All quality events,  which originate from customers, are recorded in CRM. This is where customers can submit product requests as well as change requests. Many companies implement design win process in CRM as well. If your product is being used in the field, whenever there is a failure in the field, you will be capturing support cases in CRM. All supporting information like attachments and affected items will be recorded in CRM. Subsequently,  this information will be fed into PLM for further investigation and root cause analysis. Once analysis is done, you will need to update , case status and resolution details,  back to CRM.


Folks in Product design and engineering community spend most of their time in CAD tools. This is where most of collaboration around design activity takes place. These CAD tools have part lists & attributes along with engineering BOMS. This information has to be brought into PLM for change control and further integration with other systems.

There may be whole range of other business applications which need product data. Business Intelligence and analytical apps are just one example. You may have legacy PLM systems which need to be retained until all processes are fully migrated.  Suppliers and Customer Portals also need PLM related information. In industries like, medical device, you may have integrations with FDA for regulatory reporting.

We see that there is lot of overlap between PLM and these systems and there is a definite need for integrating product data between PLM, ERPs, and CRMs.

Benefits for integrating PLM with ERP/CRM Integration

If you have an efficient and reliable integration solution in place, it can add a lot of value to your business.

Product profitability may go up because of the elimination of errors and waste in the product development process.

Manufacturing process will also be efficient because of sharing updated docs with suppliers and vendors.  You can also quickly respond to market demand by ramping up volume production by coordinating with your partners across whole supply chain.

For CRM,  key objective would be to have a great customer experience. If your CRM does not have all the required information available, e.g. product list, you may have to look up that information from multiple systems,  or in worst case, you may have to hang up customer call before you can find all relevant details. Eventually, this will degrade customer experience and will increase case resolution cycle time.  Having all relevant information available in CRM, can greatly improve customer experience as well as improve case resolution cycle time. Cost will also be reduced because of elimination of the inefficiencies in the whole process.

You can also improve product quality by feeding customer input directly into PLM and product design process.

xEngine – Integration solution By Xavor

Xavor, as a consulting company has been offering integration solutions , almost for 15 years, for a wide range of industries. Now, based on that experience, we have built an integration solution, called xEngine.  xEngine is a light weight solution, highly configurable and is specifically designed to work with Agile PLM

You can use xEngine to sync parts, documents, BOMs,  from your PLM system with EBS, SAP or any other system.  It has capability for bi-directional synchronization. That means  you can sync parts from PLM with EBS,  as well as,  sync cost information from EBS back to PLM.