From Vertical Application-Specific Integration to Knowledge-Based Integration with CLM

One of the striking aspects of the COVID-19 lockdown has been the acceleration of digital transformation in all companies.

The work-at-home rules in place across the globe forced companies to take a leap of faith and look past whatever reservations they might have had with automation and widescale implementation of digital solutions.

The tremendous success achieved over the last year has proven that it is not only possible to move a lot faster than previously thought, but it has created an appetite for more.

In the recent webinar, “Take your digital transformation to the next level with Configuration Lifecycle Management,” I outlined the need for digital platforms that can leverage the information and capabilities of existing core IT systems to enable the creation of integrated digital solutions. While there is an appetite for creating more efficient digital solutions, the current siloed, vertical application-specific integration of systems like PLM, ERP, MES and CRM is inefficient, difficult to maintain and does not scale well.

Using cross-functional digital platforms, such as Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM), enables a more efficient and scalable knowledge-based integration that can break down siloes and unleash the power of digital transformation.

Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) for the Enterprise

Listen to the CLM Summit 2021 Keynote speaker Dr. Reinhard Geissbauer, Head of EMEA Industry 4.0 Digital Operations Team, PwC,
presenting "Configuration Lifecycle Management as a Catalyst for Your Digital Transformation."

Appetite for More Digital Transformation

PwC conducted a number of studies over the last year tracking CEO attitudes to digital transformation. For example, CEOs expect remote working and collaboration to be a permanent part of how they operate going forward. The success of this significant digital transformation in such a short time is also reflected in the prioritization of other digital projects, such as automation. CEOs will, in fact, prioritize digital business models in the future by digitizing core business operations and processes and offering more digital products and services.

Integrating Siloed Data to Create Common Consolidated Data Models

One of the challenges of supporting new digital products, services and flexible business models is that current company IT infrastructures are a mix of siloed system solutions developed to address very specific challenges, at different times, and in very different ways. Each of these systems was developed in a different era making it difficult to create a common integrated data model. For example, ERP systems, which are broadly used to manage manufacturing, logistics and pricing, were first developed in the 1990s, while PLM and CRM systems were developed in the 2000s to manage product engineering and sales respectively.

While one of these systems, for example the PLM, could be used as the master for other systems, it would require extensive integration and adaptation of the data models and logic to reflect the needs and paradigms of other systems.

Consider the development of a digital twin for a given product. The purpose of the digital twin is to provide detailed information on the product for different needs spanning product engineering, manufacturing, sales and service. But, to do this, information from all the supporting IT systems needs to be integrated into a common data model that can be shared and understood for each application.

One way of achieving this is to create an integrated data model by retrieving the required information from each of the different siloed systems. This will require a bespoke integration for each solution, in this case, a digital twin solution. However, the next challenge is developing a common taxonomy and way of referring to data that is common to all users. Otherwise, the data presented will be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Once a common consolidated data model is established, it is possible to create a cross-functional solution that can be understood and leveraged by all users.

CLM Provides a Digital Platform for Easier and Reliable Integration

As the digital twin example shows, there can be considerable effort in integrating the various siloed system data models and creating a common consolidated data model. Cross-functional digital platforms, such as CLM, are designed to make this process easier while providing a scalable, efficient and reliable solution that is easier to consume and use in a variety of both cross-functional and functionally-focused digital solutions.

From Vertical Application-Specific Integration to Knowledge-Based Integration

With digital platforms, it is possible to transform the organization and enable more innovative digital solutions. Digital platforms, such as CLM, provide the integration and common consolidated data model required for effective cross-functional collaboration on resolving issues, improving products and business models, and innovating new products and solutions.

CLM is the backbone or glue that connects the various islands of information across the organization. It provides a single-source-of-truth on product configuration options, critical knowledge required for every function and at each step of the product lifecycle. Product configuration information can be used for many different solutions, such as integrating product lifecycle and application lifecycle management, enabling more efficient CPQ solutions or digital sales solutions where salespeople are not required.

Once CLM is in place, it is no longer necessary to create application-specific solutions with their own integrations to various systems. CLM provides a knowledge base that can be leveraged for a variety of digital solutions and business models.

Watch the Full Webinar

Listen to Jochen-Thomas Morr, Product Development Lead at PwC, discuss how to manage product complexity
throughout the product lifecycle by enabling collaboration, communication and cooperation.