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It is no secret that the pace of business has increased and life cycles are compressing. There are so many buzzwords that it is hard to distinguish between some of these new initiatives, especially when we have processes that have the same names and different meanings.

Here's an example: When you use the words “product life cycle management,” what do you think of? What if you hear the acronym “PLM?”

When I use the term product life cycle management, it is used within the context of the strategic and tactical management of products after they've been launched into the market. You know, growth, maturity, decline, and exit…and how you adjust the levers of the marketing mix to optimize the performance of your product. Right?

Think again.

A dramatic shift is taking place in the business of managing products. It's called PLM.

Huh? Yes.

PLM stands for Product Life Cycle Management (some spell it lifecycle, some spell it life cycle). Anyway, the newest approach to PLM involves the use of automated systems and technologies to afford manufacturers (or others with an extensive value or supply chain) the ability to improve development processes and to infuse a more product-focused perspective throughout the business.

Earlier ERP or back-office systems achieved efficiencies throughout the supply chain, but did nothing for the underlying business processes, including the entire new product development cycle (concept, feasibility, definition, development, and launch).

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Steven Haines is the founder and president of Sequent Learning Networks (www.sequentlearning.com), a firm providing product management and marketing training and consulting. Reach him at sjhaines@sequentlearning.com.