The project team
Engineering data and engineering activities are cross-functional, and the EDM/PDM project has to involve people from all the functions. They should be involved at the earliest possible moment. This will help them to understand what is happening, and it will increase their commitment to success.
The team involved in carrying out the project should be multi-functional and should include important individuals (managers and users) from the various departments (Engineering, Manufacturing, IT, Marketing, Field Service). The aim of being multi-functional is not achieved if some departments propose lightweight team members whose questions and opinions will be ignored. Similarly, there is no point in including departmental bosses on the team if they intend to 'delegate' their role to junior staff. Positive team membership characteristics include involvement, commitment, support, hard work, an open mind, a good knowledge of a function, the power to make changes happen, the ability to avoid pulling rank, and a good understanding of the fact that nobody knows everything.
The team leader should explain to the team members what they are doing, and why. They should discuss this and try to come to an agreed understanding of what EDM/PDM might mean for the company. They have to decide on the rules they will follow, how they will communicate among themselves, and how they will communicate with people outside the project team. Team members must realize that working together is useful, even though in the past they may have worked in isolation or in competition. Information should be shared openly among team members. The team leader should check if a sufficient level of agreement has been reached among team members. The team leader can do this for example by asking each team member separately to explain the overall objectives of the EDM/PDM project, and to list the three most important areas where EDM/PDM could be used. If all the answers are different, or if each team member answers with areas that relate mainly to their own function, then the team is not ready to move on. Perhaps they need to discuss again their objectives, or to spend more time understanding each other's needs.
It is only once the team members have reached some kind of agreement as to the overall objectives of the project, and can understand each other's points of view, that they can move on to the next step. Let's recall the objectives of the EDM/PDM implementation project. They do not include finishing as quickly as possible, or selecting a system. The project team leader has to measure whether the objective is being met, and this means checking with the team members, not with the aim of seeing whether they give the right or wrong answer (since there is no right answer at this stage), but to see if they are working as a team, and understand what they are trying to do.
Once the team has reached a consensus about its objectives, it then needs to define the scope and the boundaries of the project - the activities that will be investigated, the level of detail that will be needed, and the key people to be interviewed. They should define which operations, functions and activities they will investigate, and the type of information that they will collect. They should define how much time they need for the project, identify the support services they need, and agree on the way they will report their findings. Once agreement has been reached on these points, the project leader should discuss the project again with top management, to make sure that it meets requirements, and is generally acceptable.
A project kick-off meeting can then be held to inform everybody involved with the project that it is about to start, and to explain what is going to happen. At this time, top management can also inform the middle managers who will be involved in the project that the project is about to start, and remind them to provide assistance.
EDM/PDM is a relatively new subject and few, if any, of the individuals in the project team will know much about it. Some of the team members may lack some knowledge, or may not be used to working in a team. It may be necessary to provide appropriate training and/or education. Although both the members of the project team and other members of the company will learn much from their participation in the various project activities, it will be helpful if they can receive some basic information right at the beginning of the project from an acknowledged specialist in EDM/PDM. Otherwise it is only too likely that they will go round in circles for a considerable time, with each member of the project team becoming more and more closely attached to the idea that EDM/PDM exists mainly to solve his or her everyday problems. Some will see EDM/PDM as being only a solution to CAD data management problems. Some will see it as a Bill of Materials project.
Some will see it as being the answer to configuration management and traceability problems. Some will see it as a way of making sure that their favorite procedures are implemented. Others will see it as an answer to connecting PCs to the corporate mainframe. As time goes by, each one will become more and more convinced that they alone are right. The intervention of a neutral, experienced expert at an early stage can prevent this negative and resource-wasting state of affairs arising.
The project team members may be able to attend an introductory EDM/PDM course so that they can find out about some of the basics of EDM/PDM, and learn together some of the jargon and vocabulary of EDM/PDM. Useful information on EDM/PDM can also be gathered from books and journals, from conferences and seminars, from demonstrations by vendors of EDM/PDM solutions, and from visits to other companies using EDM/PDM.
Engineering journals generally provide some information about the EDM/PDM market, and from this it should be possible to learn about the typical cost of EDM/PDM implementation and of individual systems. The initial understanding and awareness of EDM/PDM should not be restricted to the project team, but spread as widely as possible. Management should be kept up-to-date, as should potential EDM/PDM users. The more that management knows about EDM/PDM, the more supportive it will be of the project team. The more the users know about project team progress, the more supportive they will be, and the less likely they will be to start competing activities and overlapping projects.