Who Owns (or Pwns?) PLM Master Data in Your Company?

Who Owns (or Pwns?) PLM Master Data in Your Company?

Who Owns Data?

Continuing my series of posts about fundamental PLM topics this week, I’d like to talk about PLM data today. Below you can see my previous posts related to core PLM topics this week:

Do we need to fix PLM basics?

Do we have problem managing history and time in PLM?

Are you familiar with term Pwn? From Wikipedia: In hacker jargon, pwn means to compromise or control, specifically another computer (server or PC), web site, gateway device, or application. It is synonymous with one of the definitions of hacking or cracking. 

I think that the questions about data are always complicated. There are multiple factors that influence decisions such as what is the master location and system for the data? These factors are sometime technical and related to is the capability of a particular system that a company has in place. Sometimes, this is purely political and depends on who has a bigger influence within the organization.

 PLM Data Landscape

 What is the typical data landscape for PLM? I see two main domains of data in organizations – engineering data and operational data. Engineering data includes information related to product requirements, design, and various aspects of product engineering. Operational data includes data related to warehouse, manufacturing and logistics, supply chain, customer-related and finance information. In my view, there are multiple systems that can be considered either as related to engineering or operational data, such as electronic archive of documents, content management and collaboration systems, but they do not change the basic differentiation between engineering and operational domains.

 Who are the players?

 Without any doubt, there are two main organizational players in the game of ‘who owns product-related data’. One is the IT department in the company and second is Engineering department and/or R&D (depends on company organization). For some situations, manufacturing can also play a separate role if a company runs multiple manufacturing facilities, but in most of the cases I see them as players under the IT department.

 What other (non-PLM) technologies affect decisions about PLM Master data?

 In my opinion, ERP remains the core influence on how a company manages its product data. Depending on the system and country, the influence of ERP will be different. In some situations, especially when a company is using multiple ERP systems on different sites and/or company divisions, the influence of ERP can be smaller. There are some situations affected by the history of the company’s development –homegrown ERP systems can have a major influence not only on operations, but also on all data in the organization.

 Master data management (MDM): I don’t see MDM technologies as something that will be widely adopted by manufacturing organizations, but if this does happen, MDM will be one of the major influences as to how a company manages and stores master data about everything in the organization. And product data will be the first domain MDM will take over, especially in relation to released product information, customer-related product information, etc.

 Business Intelligence: In many cases, business intelligence is a part of the ERP implementation (especially after major ERP players acquired BI companies). However, sometimes it has a separate IT infrastructure. Although I don’t see a significant BI influence on the domain of engineering information, I expect that its influence may increase in the future.

 Supply Chain Management. Mostly related to the operational domain (except the design supply chain) and very oriented towards ERP. Engineering and Product related data have strong dependencies on the supplier’s data, but they are rarely affected by SCM systems deployment, in my view.

 Content and Document Management. This is a strong technological and system player in many cases affecting company decisions with regards to Product data. Since product data historically comes from the need to manage design and other types of documents, content management system (commercial or homegrown) has become the first to pretend to have the ability to manage these documents at a low cost. Content and Document management systems are normally belong to the IT department. Sometimes, these capabilities can be provided by a larger ERP vendor as well.

 Business Process Management. BPM is not related to the system that manages data in the organization. But indeed, it can influence how an organization manages processes related to product information. Therefore, it needs to be taken into account.  I don’t see massive deployment of BPM technologies today in manufacturing, but this domain is growing too.

 Microsoft SharePoint Paradox. WSS and/or MOSS are very disruptive technologies and systems positioned on multiple domains related to content management, collaboration, process management and some others. WSS/MOSS provides very cost-effective solutions for multiple types of information, but mostly for content. For the last 2-3 years, I see SharePoint as one of the significant influences on various domains related to content and product data.

 What are the core problems in ownership of PLM Master Data?

Currently, I don’t see any blueprint solution for how to manage PLM and product data. In my view, Product Lifecycle Management influence has increased significantly during the last few years and has become more mature. However, it still cannot provide ultimate tools to control all product data in the organization. Bill of Materials in various forms and configurations are portions of the data that have to be co-owned by multiple players and systems in the organization – so the discussion about ‘who owns Bill of Materials’ is on-going and non-stop J. IT definitely owns most of the fundamental systems in the organization. Sometimes, IT-related decisions are not always very aligned with the needs of engineering and product information.

 I’m sure that the situation is very different in many organizations, so I’m expecting to have your feedback and good conversions on this topic over the next few days.

 Best, -Oleg.


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  • Gerard Schouten

    Many seek a common information platform that:
    – manages data from a wide range of different applications
    – manages information relating to the product, manufacturing processes, factory or production facility and required manufacturing resources
    – provides key data management functionality: offer security; be open to many users; always provide the right revision; store the best manufacturing method/ plan
    – interfaces with other major systems.
    but after 30 years in Engineering I can tell you that fairy tales really do not exist. Some Suppliers are moving the right direction but is a slow, costly and mostly painful process.
    Since IT owns the all systems in the organization users (the business) must understand that proper, clear, business requirements are needed AND use cases. If not, IT-related decisions will not be aligned at all with business needs creating not wanted functionalities.

  • http://www.plmtwine.com olegshilovitsky

    Gerard, Thank you for your insight. yes, I agree, prob. after 10-15 years of fairy tales people are trying to get pragmatic approach. The problem I see is that business requirements and use cases by themselves are not solving problem. In the end, you need to deploy system that will work. In today’s enterprise world, this is very costly and extremely complex task. In the enterprise with dozens (if not more…) major sources of data, the question of data ownership, access and transformations is additional vector of complexity on top of all you already have. -Regards,Oleg.

  • Krithi


    This is another interesting topic by you on PLM.You have mentioned about the relative non relevance of MDM in manufacturing organisations compared to others.Can you elaboarte further as to why this holds good?


  • Aruna

    Nice insight.

    Can CDI be incorporated with PLM?

  • http://www.plmtwine.com olegshilovitsky

    Yes, I think CDI definitely can be part of overall product data. Think about having customer information and data linked to requirements and other manufcaturing and support issues. Best, Oleg

  • http://www.plmtwine.com olegshilovitsky

    I think MDM have strong back in the very centralized organization. I assume modern manufacturing organization have relatively high level tendency to decentralize operation (design, manufacturing, suppliers) and therefore provide less chance to MDM to show their value. Regards, Oleg.