“The Temple Structure—The sole entrance to the temple is a door, one half ebony, the other pale— thus one black door and one white door. The atrium is lined with statues of many gods from many different faiths… The Faceless Men believe that all of these gods are really one god who has revealed Himself to humanity in different ways: the Many Faced God.”

Last month, I talked about my preparations for a trip across the country to speak with a large retail company about their product lifecycle. With any company, it is critical to understand the foundation or core structure of their product conceptualization, design, planning, and manufacturing. Without this is it very difficult to determine a viable starting point. Usually, this is the physical door or entrance.

The physical product is very clear, there are no misconceptions about that. It is tangible, made of some sort of matter—it’s a physical product, just like the door to the temple and it is what most product companies or brands are recognized by. When companies conceptualize or visualize their product, they often require physical materials to create the product. This is a major component and has a place in the structuring of that product.

As we journey into the atrium, or digital representation, of the product, we find that it is an enormous vault with many categories and where the digital representation of hundreds of other products or faces of the company are born and where they expire or die. These are kept to be employed as the basis for the innovating and evolving abilities of the product companies’ many faces.

But how do we manage the digital representation or digital twin of our product along with all the other products we have in the market?

First, the bones of any company’s infrastructure—and by bones I mean people, process, technology, and data—need to be understood. In the Game of Thrones, the Faceless Man asks Arya Stark a simple but difficult question before she can enter the temple: “Who are you?” Until she can answer satisfactorily, she cannot enter and spends several days pondering it—much like building an effective representation of a digital product or product suite.

Examining the maturity levels in each one of these areas: people, process, technology, and data is an effective way to begin a digital adoption roadmap. I use a good set of templates and frameworks to approach this methodology ,which fits a company based on its size, industry, and product offering.

This is a critical step since each associated person will become a digital representation of themselves in the company landscape. Each consumed process will be an automated and governed workflow throughout the lifecycle. The enabling technology will support the digital thread of the product as it evolves and the data will be authored and subscribed to as it matures in its development, manufacturing, and release.

This is how we typically like to begin each product digitization plan, but sometimes there are exceptions. Arya Stark threw everything she owned into the ocean before entering the temple, but she did hide one thing in the rocks. That thing was a sword.

When I meet with any company, I usually say we only discard the things that impede our growth, stability, and innovation. We keep anything that has been an asset so that we can use it to our advantage later.

On my next engagement, I will be working with a large medical device company that is creating an effective reference to device history records through digital integration and transformation. The battle begins with a strategic plan, followed by an aggressive course of action. Stay tuned for more faces of PLM.