Everything in our life is seems to be a project. It can start from a very simple set of tasks that a designer needs to follow up and end with complex product development that needs to plan the work of hundreds of developers, suppliers, manufacturers etc. So, in today’s product landscape I can see two orthogonal trends – the development of specialized project management tools deeply integrated with PLM (or even becoming part of PLM portfolio) on one side and general purpose project management tools on the other side. And when the time comes to make a decision – how can companies and end users can decide what is the right choice? What are the benefits of each approach? Will they get married or divorced? Although the difference between these two approaches is obvious, is a clash already inevitable? Let me summarize short how I see both of these tools.
General purpose project management tools are providing best practices of project management and their main focus is on product productivity, simplicity and general acceptance by customers. So, in their view, a product should be simple, with a sufficient set of features and excellent user experience. Product landscape in this category is heavily impacted by Microsoft Project. On top of the general purpose PM tools, there are a number of more specialized project management tools following specific industry and other best practices (i.e. project methodologies, regulation and other specific industry practices).
PLM project and program management. By recognizing project development needs during product development, more dedicated Project Management tools were developed by PLM providers (i.e. DS ENOVIA MatrixOne Program Central, TeamCenter Portfolio Program Project Management). The main point of these tools was to merge Product Lifecycle Management capabilities with product development. By doing that users have a much more dedicated environment focused on the specific needs and characteristics such as product information, automated tasks etc.
Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, in my view. General Project Management tools are targeting a wider customer audience, and can provide higher feature level, usability and lower prices. On contrary, these tools are sometimes too generic, disconnected from ability to work together with PLM tools and inside of PLM environment. PLM PPM (Program and Project Management) is heavily focused on specific tasks related to product development, better connected to rest of PLM design and engineering tools. At the same time, these tools are more complex and sometime lack behind of modern user experience, look and feel compare to mainstream general purpose tools. These special tools normally have higher price tag and higher value for end users.
In addition, I’d like to point at two more segments – Microsoft Tools and on demand (SaaS) project management tools. Microsoft offers Microsoft Project as well as promotes the active usage of Microsoft SharePoint for project management together with MS Project. With a very high market share, Microsoft provides a premium tool in terms of feature and functions and, of course, is an attractive offering. On-Demand tools as an opposite, offers a simplified set of tools, focusing on extremely fast learning curve of users and a fast adoption rate.
So, where is the silver bullet for manufacturing companies? When specialized PPM tools can definitely provide value, given the current economical situation, my prediction is that customers will try to follow a less expensive offering and will try to integrate general purpose project management tools within the product development environment. This trend will be clearer for smaller manufacturers compared to SMB companies. With this landscape, I think that PLM vendors need to focus on content integration between general purpose project management tools and PLM content. This combination will allow vendors to reduce the cost of PPM (Program Project Management) tools and improve the integration between enterprise systems in the companies.