Search and Discover Solutions: Gaining Commitment – How to Start
Dick Bourke posted on December 15, 2014 |
Creating awareness is an essential first step. . . .

You're fed up with wasting time in futilely searching for product data you need to do your job. So are your fellow product design colleagues.

Now, you're thinking, “How do I justify a Search & Discover Solution (SDS)? It's all new to me.”

In this column, I'll answer that question and explore some proven tactics to help gain commitment for an SDS.

Creating awareness for a product data search solution– don't start without it

The very first step is to create awareness that there is indeed a problem finding product data to support R&D efforts and that the problem is worth solving. Calling in an SDS vendor for a demonstration may seem like an easy answer. But timing is important. Hold that thought.

A prematurely proposed solution won't be considered, much less approved, if your colleagues and the C-level executives don't feel there is a problem. If that's your scenario, one viable strategy is to bring enlightenment from current industry experiences. For example, you can cite the findings of many research and consulting firms: Aberdeen , AIIM , CIMdata , IDC , Tech-Clarity and others.

Figures as high as 25% of an engineer's day being wasted searching (and often not finding) product data have been cited. CIMdata identified that engineers spend half or more of their time searching for data and then validating it. One source stated that they found it took eight searches to find the right document. Other unfortunate circumstances include the costs of recreating documents, and other ills, such as missing timely information.

Intensifying awareness of how useful search tools can be with a purposeful survey

Another way to build awareness is to conduct an internal survey to identify the time lost by knowledge workers in searching for information.

Be sure to include all knowledge workers – your allies - in other enterprise functions, not just in product development. You may need their support to justify an SDS investment.

Conduct your survey by estimating and documenting the potential time-savings of all knowledge workers based on the assumption of an implemented SDS.

Your product data search survey results can be translated into dollars to gain commitment

Then document your company's “missed opportunities,” that is, painful episodes that cost time, money and status in the eyes of your customers. You should be able to use these examples to heighten emotional interest in the survey numbers. For example, customer service personnel in one company indicated losses of tens of thousands of dollars per job due to inability to answer customers' questions.

This research should yield quantified numbers that may be sufficient to gain a commitment to an SDS, but, claiming just time-savings may not resonate with C-level executives who approve new IT projects.

Dollarizing the time savings to heighten awareness is a valid tactic. For instance, with R&D headcount and salaries, estimate the time that can be saved and extend those figures. That should get some attention! From this result, you could also calculate ROI of an SDS.

Source: IHS Quarterly Ql 2014

One question that may arise is, “What can be done with the time savings?”

This visual from IHS suggests that the value of improved knowledge worker productivity can be substantial, if the time saved is used productively .

Under The right decision the first time banner, Design Reuse is one of the most common values attributed to an SDS.

Other values include reducing product development times, risks and associated costs that contribute to achieving the company's strategic objectives, such as, “Reducing time-to-market.”

To gain C-level commitment, relate the value of an SDS to tactical and strategic enterprise objectives.

Let's say another strategic objective is “To support innovation.” Innovation certainly requires timely and complete access to all relevant data, access that can be facilitated by an SDS. The many research/analyst firms in the engineering and manufacturing space identified earlier emphasize the above sentiments.

Quantifying these “soft” values may be problematical; yet, well-explained “missed opportunities” that stir emotions should be helpful to gain acceptance of your business case.

So, think in terms of presenting the proposed values, in terms of different C-level interests and strategic company objectives. While doing so, remember that the motivations of your colleagues may be different. You will need to recognize their issues to gain their support at a personal level in contrast to a C-level.

Building the business case for a product data search tool

The days of buying on a whim without a business case are over, if they were ever here. Note that Selling is not telling. One aspect is handling objections. That will be a crucial ability in your environment. One objection you might encounter from a once-burned C-level executive could be, “Didn't we already pay for these features when we implemented our PLM system?”

How will you be prepared to answer that objection and others?

Properly used, the sales presentations from SDS vendors can contribute to gaining commitment. As I stated earlier, the timing to introduce solutions is critical. Most vendor presentations that identify the problems their solutions address are valid – if properly related to the company's circumstances.

One final point - don't finish your project without a trial run or Proof of Concept to validate the values of an SDS before final contract commitment.

Here is another document you may find useful on a related topic: Making Your Case for PDM .

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