Making All the Right Moves: Saving Ericsson and Dassault From a PLM Failure
Verdi Ogewell posted on October 08, 2020 |
Dassault and Ericsson have succeeded in reversing an initially poor PLM platform implementation.

Reaching Phase 1 in Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE PLM platform implementation at the Telcom giant Ericsson should have taken 15 months.

Instead, by the time the first phase of the system launch took place last week, replacing the old mainframe-based system and Dassault Systèmes’ ENOVIA V5, the project had been delayed by nearly three years.

The good news, however, is that Dassault and Ericsson have succeeded in reversing an initially poor development—including a halt to the implementation, a reorganization of staff and a rethink of the project with a completely new strategy.

When Ericsson and Dassault Systèmes announced that they have reached the first phase of their implementation project, it is therefore something of a comeback for the company.  It is also a feather in the cap of the new team, led by the Ericsson head of operations and PLM transformation, Michael Gallagher, at the Network Development Unit.

The same is true for Dassault and its Euro North manager, John Kitchingman. The almost-failed project landed in Kitchingman’s lap in 2018, but together with Ericsson’s team and through resolute action, he reorganized the business and got the project—as it looks right now—back on track again.

"Ericsson has begun the implementation of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in specific functional areas, as part of Ericsson's PLM transformation," states Dassault’s press release on the matter.

This is a significant achievement, given the problems encountered and the fact that at this point, the staff which originally took on the challenge have mostly been replaced or left their jobs. But what were the challenges encountered, and how did Dassault and Ericsson untie the knots? I have looked at several aspects of this in today’s article.

A turning point in the development of Dassault Systèmes' work to establish the 3DEXPERIENCE platform at Ericsson came in 2018 with the new head of Euro North, John Kitchingman. "We have gone through a redefinition phase around the strategy, and together set up a new five-year schedule where we also looked at the architecture of the solution. We have appointed a person who is responsible for the job working and that we deliver as we should. This has fallen well and our collaboration with Ericsson is now run with a team and with a collaboration that is among the best I have seen," Kitchingman says to Today, Ericsson takes the step to launch a first rollout phase across its global organization.

Implementing an upgrade or a new PLM system is never easy. Disrupted schedules are one of the most common phenomena associated with this, and the larger the user community, the bigger the problems. For example, if there are over 25,000 potential users in the R&D organization alone, as was the case with the 3DEXPERIENCE installation at Ericsson, the original 15-month schedule to replace the old mainframe system and Dassault Systèmes ENOVIA V5 appears to be directly unrealistic—which today, with the clarity of hindsight, has proven to be the case.

But it was much more than simply the number of users that made it difficult to keep to the schedule. Managing the technical complexity of the products was another success-critical factor. If you also consider legacy migration problems such as compatibility and, where applicable, low-quality, inconsistent data, it hardly becomes easier. In short, it was obvious that things would take time—and significantly longer than planned.

More of a Brand-New System Than an Upgrade

Since the 2016 decision to invest in an upgrade of its then mainframe-based PLM system, Ericsson has encountered precisely the type of problem mentioned above.

The word "upgrade" is not entirely accurate in this context. Although Ericsson built its existing PLM platform on Dassault Systèmes' predecessor to the new 3DXPERIENCE platform—the cPDm solution ENOVIA V5—this change was tantamount to implementing a completely new system.

The original plan spoke, as mentioned above, of a directly unrealistic 15 months before people in the R&D organization would be up and running on the Phase 1 of the system. Instead, it is only today, three years later, that they have come this far.

In any case, the good news is that Ericsson and Dassault have reached this stage at all. There are other examples of more unfortunate outcomes, where an implementation ended up being six or eight years out of phase compared to the original plan; the case of vehicle manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is one such an example.

However, no one can lay the blame for delays of this magnitude at the feet of only one or the other—after all, it takes two to tango. If someone ends up out of step, ignores the complexity of a change of this size, or has the wrong organization to face the new, it's easy to stumble on the “dance floor” that is the introduction and migration of the project.

A New Clear Strategy Paved the Way

But at Ericsson, both Dassault and the company itself have now shown that you do not have to get stuck with extremely long delays, as long as you act resolutely when things go wrong. To that end, the companies jointly announced that together they are “ripe” to begin the company-wide global launch of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform at Ericsson, which is known as one of the world's leading suppliers of information and communication technology, these days particularly related to high-speed 5G solutions.

In the press release, Dassault writes that the launch marks, "the next step in Dassault's long-term relationship with Ericsson and strengthens Ericsson's digital transformation when it comes to product management and R&D workflows."

“We did chose the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to support the digital transformation and we’ve   created a clear strategy for our transformation of PLM, where the platform is an integral part,” says Michael Gallagher, who has had his current role for just over three years. Prior to that, he has been at Ericsson for 19 years.

Olivier Ribet, Dassault's head of the EMEAR region.
Olivier Ribet, Dassault's head of the EMEAR region.

"Decisive For 5G"

By entering into this agreement, Dassault also claims that they support Ericsson's agile strategy, which is a reasonable point. Ericsson will use the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to integrate its product management and R&D workflows, and tie the supply chain together. The unified digital environment increases productivity and improves real-time collaboration throughout the organization.

Dassault's Olivier Ribet, EVP for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR), also asserts that the solution means Ericsson will increase its efficiency, manage increasing complexity, reduce costs and improve time-to-market capacity for its products.

“R&D, innovation and time to market are crucial to be able to develop 5G solutions. Ericsson strengthens its digital capabilities with the help of Dassault Systèmes' versatile knowledge and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform,” Ribet says.

A Turning Point Came with Dassault Systèmes’ New Euro North Chief

Dassault Systèmes' head of Euro North, John Kitchingman.

Dassault Systèmes' head of Euro North, John Kitchingman.

Although a lot of work remains before the 3DEXPERIENCE system is in place in its full functionality and capacity in the organization it will serve, Ribet says this ideal level will be the case.

We should also note that the new PLM platform, based on 3DEXPERIENCE, has meant missed deadlines. According to information provided to by sources at Ericsson, it has also incurred extra costs.

It is also clear that one can see a shift and change in the work with the platform at Ericsson—partly due to the replacement of leading actors in Ericsson's PLM organization, and partly to the appointment of the former IBM employee, John Kitchingman, as the new head of Dassault Euro North.

As a newly appointed manager in 2018, the Ericsson problem ended up in Kitchingman’s lap, even though it was a deal initiated before he took office. He commented on the matter when he spoke to

“I really see a positive development that is connected with how we have chosen to continue working with Ericsson's PLM platform,” he says. “We have gone through a redefinition phase around the strategy, and together set up a new five-year schedule where we also looked at the architecture of the solution and we have appointed a person who is responsible for the job working and that we deliver as we should. This has turned out well, and our collaboration with Ericsson is now run with a team and with a collaboration that is among the best I have seen.”

Former PLM manager at Ericsson, Johan Torstensson.
Former PLM manager at Ericsson, Johan Torstensson.

What Were the Problems at Ericsson Which Created the Delay?

What were the initial issues that caused the PLM platform implementation to suffer the heavy delays we talked about in this article? We have described these problems in an earlier article:

A general observation is that the toughest problems in connection with system changes of this magnitude are in many ways related to migrating legacy data, i.e. things that already exist in the systems. This is a complex task, which partly affects the quality of existing data, and partly requires extensive translation and consulting efforts in connection with the migration of legacy data.

According to our sources within Ericsson, the legacy data in many cases had become corrupt and, in many instances, became distorted in connection with the migration.

“Every time we have tried to migrate data, all use cases have failed,” said a source within Ericsson. “Not once has old data been successfully migrated. The [former] CIO had been fully aware of this when he repeatedly stated that ‘the schedule holds, we will deliver.’” This is an extremely important piece of the puzzle, and taking care of historical data has always been high on the agenda.

One explanation could be that a code has been entered into the database to ‘clean’ it before the migration. However, in this case there are a huge number of sources of error, which might have occurred partly during the database cleaning and partly from old errors that are included in the new database during the migration. The end result was a difficult-to-understand data "salad" with so many errors that the system became sluggish, inefficient and in large part didn’t work at all when, for example, items begin to point or link in the wrong direction.

In short, the data could not be used as it stood.

During our research inside Ericsson, we received indications from our sources that problems were already encountered during the test migration, which meant that the new system did not measure up.

Schism Between the Integrator IBM and Dassault Systèmes

What could be even worse is that during this first period of implementation and migration, corrupt data may have disrupted the functionality of Ericsson's crucial Corporate Basic Standard (CBST), which is the company’s product description. If this had happened, it was a serious and tough problem which needed prioritized action. We have had some indications of this, but we have not been able to clearly verify that this would have happened.

Other problems have revolved around the integration of downstream systems and sub-systems, of which there turned out to be a significantly higher number—as many as 400 to 500 such systems—than Dassault knew about or failed to insure. This in turn has allegedly created schisms between the integrator IBM and Dassault, where they blamed each other. Who was right or wrong, or what the Ericsson people missed in their specifications, is impossible to answer.

On the bottom line, it also boils down to the fact that nothing gets any easier related to Ericsson’s choice to invest in a solution—in this case, 3DEXPERIENCE—which was not fully developed or adapted for product development in the telecom industry.

On the contrary, one of the basic ideas of the deal was that the companies would jointly develop this piece within the framework of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. There was simply no ready-made solution—just a "general" set of tools for creating a PLM infrastructure and software platform for the development of mobile telephony solutions.

PLM System Up On the Course

But as I said, today most of this belongs to history, as Ericsson is now mature enough to make the first major launch of 3DEXPERIENCE within the organization. Exactly which pieces this applies to is not clear from the press material, but we hope to be able to come back with more information in the near future.

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