How to Extend PLM Reach – Process vs. Content?

I was reading a review <PLM Extends Reach in Product Development> over the weekend. My short conclusion – PLM is growing, expanding its horizons and reach in different areas of product development. Jill Jusko quoted many analysts from Forrester and CIMData, as well as vendors such as PTC. They explained how PLM is growing in different areas of corporate activities (such as social collaboration and the product value chain). So, I tried to figure out where we need to go and how to prioritize PLM development to reach a wider audience with a Product Lifecycle Management solution.

My conclusion actually was very short, so I’d like share it with you: PLM has two major opportunities to reach within and beyond the organization:

(1)    To extend Content

(2)    To extend Processes

I will try to explain what I mean. With my very pragmatic state of mind, I tried to analyze the current PLM organizational positions. PLM providers with roots in design and 3D (and this is the majority of PLM mind-shares) are deeply engaged in the business of CAD modeling and 3D. So, PLM of these companies do well in initial product creation. But what happens afterwards? In most of the cases, 3D is going to die. Most of the information is translated into PDF, paper and/or other alternatives to original 3D. Therefore, the 3D PLM content will disappear. This is definitely a bad situation for PLM providers. So, regarding my first clause – to extend PLM reach – companies need to invest more in content-availability. As soon as this is done, more people will be able to leverage original valuable PLM 3D information. In parallel, we have an alternative – processes. Many companies, including PLM vendors, and especially their ERP patrons, involved in different areas, are encouraging customers to share their process difficulties. So, this alternative is to transform business processes and implement various initiatives (from complex business orchestrations, and down to workflow automation). In my opinion, this is definitely a second option for extending PLM reach.

What is my short conclusion? I’m  a believer in data. In my view, data is much important compared to process. So, I’d expect that extending PLM successfully would start  when the PLM system gains more share from the PLM data (content) management extension. Extending capabilities to manage, share and collaborate on more data will  ultimately pave a successful path for manufacturing companies.


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  • Roberto Picco

    Oleg, your analysis is absolutely correct. I think you’re missing the reason why 3D is “flattened” into PDF, DXF, printed sheets, etc. The main reason is that suppliers, mostly small ones but bigger ones too, do NOT invest in IT. We could go further looking for reasons why this happens, but we’d lose focus. Small suppliers, and keep in mind that PMI in Italy are a huge part of the whole, invest in process and not in infrastructures. I’ve personally met some suppliers without email… How can you exchange data with them?

  • Hi Oleg,

    I’m also a believer in content for PLM.

    I think there is an opportunity for integrating specifications (ex. Globalspec) as well as 3d part catalogs from external companies (ex Traceparts, SW Content Central) into the PLM environment.

    As we’ve discussed before there is also the opportunity to integrate data from internal sources like testing, labs, etc.

  • Roberto, Thanks! I probably underestimate status of process development. How supplier can live without email these days? On the other side, I thought we are flattering CAD data since suppliers (especially Tier2 and smaller) are not investing into expensive CAD systems. Is it right assumption? Best, Oleg

  • Tom, Yes. Make sense to integrate data. However, integration business is tricky and almost completely belongs to service providers. May be in OSS is different, but in “licensed world” this is what is going on. On the other side, I think we are very bad in managing data (yes!). So, before integrate, let see how we manage what we have :)… Best regards, Oleg.

  • Roberto Picco

    Oleg, you’re surely right. The cheaper the better, when it comes to IT expenses. Well, there are exceptions, of course. This is a cultural problem, so very hard to solve…

  • I don’t content integration is significantly different in the OSS world vs the Licensed world, at least as far as the technology goes. Content providers will want to target the PLM environments that make the most business sense. Important factors include size of installed base, costs of integrations, etc.

    You are right that the integrations will not be done by the PLM vendors. Time will tell if content providers and their customers see this opportunity.


  • Tom, Who are these content providers from your standpoint? Do you see current Content management systems are able/interested to do so? – Best, Oleg

  • I think that content and processes are complimentary:
    – processes help to generate better content (integration, security, collaboration, SLAs, quality, etc.) and
    – content help to make better processes (serving needs of a person who is carrying out a particular task, smart routing, KPIs, etc.)

    What mixture of content and processes you need in each particular case — all depends. And this is a very dynamic situation – each time the point of most leverage may change.

    I think that a properly architected BPM can significantly improve PLM.


  • Hi Oleg,

    The ones I’m most familiar with are:

    IHS, Traceparts, Knovel, GlobalSpec, Thomas Register, 3D Content Central, and any supplier that publishes geometry or specifications.


  • Alexander, thanks for your comment and welcome to pltmtwine! Yes, good mix of process and content can do best job. My point was that content is able to drive process. Actually I haven’t chance to see many examples where BPM used to improve PLM implementation. Do you know these cases? -Regards, Oleg

  • Tom, Thanks! Will take time to analyze it. Oleg

  • Oleg,

    To discuss further “content is able to drive process” I would like to know your definitions of process, BPM and other related terms. My terminology is available at

    My point is that improving business performance of an enterprise as a complex system requires its rational construction especially in the area of coordination of work. There are different techniques for such a coordination – data-based, event-based, control-based, etc. The ability to properly mix those techniques in a particular situation is the key enable for success (similar to a chess game). Certainly, such an ability should be architected.

    No cases — so far I have a draft article “Architecting enterprise PLM as an explicit BPM system”. It is about applying my BPM/SOA/EA/+ experience to the area of PLM. Do not mind to share it with you (of course, with proper confidentiality) for a review.


  • Alexander, I got your point. Actually would love to take a look your article. From top down perspective we can consider that PLM system should and actually have certain characteristics of BPM. On the other side PLM definition contains few additional characteristics related to rich meta-modeling content management and collaboration that never included into general definitions of BPM. So, my “content” related notes actually point on these specific characteristics of PLM. I’m looking forward our future discussion. Best regards, Oleg