Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a high-level business process that captures a product’s lifetime, from conception and design, through to product launch, maturity, and eventual cancellation. Each of these phases consists of a business process that typically spans long periods of time and the full breadth of the org chart, and such a broad scope brings inevitable management challenges.

The top level process takes a product from an initial proposal to decommissioning, which may take years:

Product lifecycle management overview

Although we usually think of product lifecycle as an engineering and manufacturing discipline, similar business processes occur in other industries, such as financial services. This article explains how workflow automation helps you manage one part of product lifecycle management in the financial services sector: product conception to product launch.

Product Lifecycle Management in financial services

A financial services product may be less tangible than something built from metal parts in a factory, but it can have just as much complexity in its design. Legal and compliance issues alone prevent a financial product development project from being easy. In practice, several departments will have to assess the new product’s feasibility before the organization can decide whether to proceed with product development and launch.

In The New Product Development Dilemma In Banking, Ron Shevlin claims that although top-performing companies generate a significant percentage of revenues from new products, many banks do not regularly launch new products. He cites a lack of product development capability as a key factor.

Like Business Process Management in general, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is principally a management discipline. The main benefits of PLM affect the time, cost, and quality of product development:

  • Reduced time to market
  • Reduced product development costs
  • Improved product quality
  • Improved forecasting and resource planning

A company’s ability to realize these and other benefits determines how effectively it can launch new products and what proportion of its revenue they will deliver.

Deploying a product launch workflow solution

One of Signavio’s investment banking customers uses Signavio Workflow Accelerator to manage and optimize their product launch business process. The following simplified process model shows how this process’ scope extends from an initial product proposal to product launch, which can all be managed in the software.

Product launch process

These tasks and sub-processes incorporate:

  • Using standard forms to capture details of initial product proposals
  • Collecting feedback from multiple departments, as part of a feasibility study
  • Notifying involved stakeholders of key product development milestones
  • Focusing development on a key go/no-go decision milestone
  • Streamlined handover to other departments on product launch

After product launch, the product development team hands over to the ongoing product support process that directly serves their customers. Meanwhile, the product development team has an overview of all ongoing product development ‘cases’.

Signavio Workflow Accelerator standardizes how product information is collected and shared and provides a complete product development history that shows who made each key decision and when. This results in a faster and more reliable process than the earlier approach, which collected information in spreadsheets and shared it with product stakeholders by sending spreadsheets by email.

Broadening the scope

Using workflow automation to improve the product launch process is only the beginning. After all, product development and launch are only the first (and shortest) phases in the whole product lifecycle. Workflow automation has much to offer support processes, to optimize repeated work, as well as a decommissioning process that happens infrequently.

While workflow automation focuses on interactions between people and the information they use, in the context of a business process, it does not directly address decision-making. Another way to broaden the scope of tool support for product lifecycle management is to use workflow automation together with decision management tools.

Decision management can clarify the decision-making that determines whether to reject a product development proposal or to abandon development. For more about decision management, see Signavio Decision Management.

Conclusion

Product lifecycle management or PLM is a natural fit for business process management techniques and tools. Workflow automation software, in particular, can help large organizations keep track of product lifecycle processes that take months or years, and enable competitive advantage by improving product development.

Financial services companies can especially benefit from using workflow automation to support product lifecycle management, due to the industry’s unique need for faster product development lifecycles and the challenge of launching more new products each year.

If you would like to investigate how you can use workflow automation for product lifecycle management, sign up for a free 30 day trial of Signavio Workflow Accelerator.

Published on: February 28th 2017 - Last modified: February 23rd, 2018