Which PLM solution should I choose?

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If you are reading this post then, like many others I meet, you are potentially looking at PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solutions and may be confused with which direction or vendor to take.

There are many vendors and solutions out there… with, what I personally class as, the major players being (listed in no particular order):

  • Siemens’ Teamcenter
  • PTC’s Windchill
  • Dassault Systemes’ Enovia
  • Autodesk 360

(Some others I have seen can be classed as purely Product Data Management (PDM) masquerading as PLM ..or ERP with some added “PLM features”…   if you disagree or feel another “PLM system” should be added to this list above …feel free to comment below)

Choosing the right PLM is an important strategic decision that can impact the whole of the organisation… not just design/engineering ….but also can affect areas such as manufacturing, quality, sales, project management, service, and more.

Your whole organisation could be based on this platform in the future and will have to live with this solution for years. Getting it wrong can be costly in many ways – and won’t be easy to swap.

At this point even if you envisage PDM/PLM only being for design/engineering and manufacturing and not spanning the whole of organisation… I believe what I follow with below is also applicable.

So if you are at the start of your “journey” in looking at PLM …. I would argue you should not be asking “Which PLM solution should I choose?”

Many people, and I hold my hands up …. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, jump straight into reviewing the technology.  My first port of call in the past was searching google and the vendor’s websites for features/functionality as well as clients, asking for a demo or even pricing.

 

What’s the problem with this?  Well.. this will give you a feel for what could be possible… or help write a functional requirements specification BUT will they meet what your business really needs?

 

Imagine speaking to 3 different vendors immediately… you can easily get lost… as they all say they can deliver the functionality … so what are you going to base your selection criteria on?

Amount of functionality?

User Interface?

Cost?

Really? …. would you risk your reputation or even your job… by selecting a solution… that had lots of features, was the lowest cost or had the best user interface … but actually didn’t solve what the business actually needed – today and in the future?

So it shouldn’t be Teamcenter vs Windchill vs Enovia, etc review at this stage.

PLM isn’t a technology project, although it can be a key enabler, PLM is “business transformation” that becomes a way of life for your organisation. What will really help your business and the people within it achieve their tasks, projects and the ultimate mission?

So before looking at the technology (apologies if I am teaching you suck eggs but I see this all the time) ask yourself….

  • why are we considering PLM?  what are we looking to address?

Specifically business needs and if/how it will fit with the company’s missions and goals.   Are we, for example, trying to; reduce costs, be more efficient, reduce waste, be quicker to market, be more innovative, etc?

  •  why are we looking at this now?
  • How do we manage currently without PLM? what do we expect PLM to improve upon?
  • why don’t we continue to operate as we are currently?

Answering these questions will give you the beginning of a business case but also start to shape what are the important factors that need to be addressed… before getting into detail of what “functionality” you need.

This capturing of the “as is” is also an important factor further down the line… when you have selected and implemented a PLM solution.. this can act as a yard stick… against which you can track progress and benchmark/verify the improvements delivered/being delivered with PLM. I would strongly advocate tracking measures such as time and money spent currently on various areas… so that you have a tangible calculation to compare against in the future.

In addition, try to think about the scope… short term and long term…. with consideration of:

  • the users and departments (including geographic locations) involved…. along with levels of access and by what method of access;
  • what information you want to be available, maybe easily reportable;
  • process and procedures / stage gates / life cycle are to be followed, including tracking adherence to these and compliance with regulations;
  • where your data / information currently sits and in what form – then whether this legacy needs to be transferred to the new PLM system (if so, what is the quantity and “document”/file types?)
  • what the existing systems and technology landscape in the business looks like today and are planned in the future, along with how it is envisaged this will fit/interact with PLM
  • roll out and training requirements*
  • infrastructure / hosting preferences*
  • On-going support*

* these might come later when looking at the technology

In creating “the scope” or in effect the PLM strategy it is important that representative stakeholders from the “users and departments” are consulted…. What would help them? What are the current issues they can see? As a business transformation piece gaining the buy in of those users that will be effected in how they do their “day job” will be a key to success.

In consulting, maybe start with one department first (typically I see this as design/engineering or manufacturing), look for the pains and issues area e.g.:

  • where are skilled resources doing non value added tasks?
  • where is the paper?
  • What processes are manual? can they be automated?
  • What takes time? where are the bottlenecks?
  • Is there any waste?
  • What is costing you money?

These are just a few high level examples that you should consider.

I would recommend sharing the background information gathered on business requirements and the ultimate vision with any technology partner/vendor you are engaging with …. if they are worth their salt.. they will want to know this

(if they only want to talk about their technology’s features and functions…I would worry!!).

It helps both parties ensure that the end solution meets functional but importantly the business goals. Plus as the partner / vendor is probably engaged day-in day-out on PLM projects, if they know your end goal they might be able to advise on important elements to consider that might have been missed…. Or maybe use them to help create your PLM strategy!

So in summary, before looking at the PLM technology available… be clear on your business needs behind looking at PLM… what benefits do you want to gain. And have an answer to the all important question that executives like to ask “we’ve always done it like that, why change?” Looking at technology before this may waste your time.

Neil Burton

I am an PRINCE2 Practitioner and Scrum Master qualified IT professional with experience gained from both technical support and commercial roles on various technology projects including; Digital/Web 2.0 solutions integrated with Content Management Systems (CMS), Mobile applications, File scanning & Document Management Systems, Virtualisation (Citrix, VMware, RSA, Wyse). I have been involved in scoping requirements, creating business justification and associated business case as well as being the communication channel between the client and development teams (including offshore in India). Employing a consultative approach with clients I aim to understand business needs and drivers before being able to talk technology (in clear non-technical terms). Prince2 Practitioner and Scrum Master qualified with involvement in both AGILE and waterfall based software development projects. Now actively seeking an entry level IT Project Manager / Project coordinator position. Specialties: Business and Technology Consulting, High level of Customer service, Attention to Detail, Negotiation, Communication, Organisation, Planning, Strong work ethic, Documentation, People Management Tools used: MS Office, MS Project, Basecamp, JIRA, Zoho Project.

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