The PLM Industry most confusing buzzwords

The PLM Industry most confusing buzzwords

plmbuzzwordsAs part of my daily life, I’m monitoring PLM industry and technology. I found very interesting part of news – pitches from companies about Product Lifecycle Management achievements. After reading, at least 50 of such press-communications on monthly basis, I finally can conclude that “A Company is a leading provider of Product Lifecycle Management Technologies, enabling to support full lifecycle of products, to decrease time-to market, enable data-reuse and in the end allows to everybody in organization to see single version of truth about what is going on in organization” 🙂. Of course, there are variations, industry influence, specific company terms and slogans, but in the end everything is pretty “buzzword-compliant” in my view.

So, I decided to take a bit closer  insight on these buzzwords and discuss with you what it possible means. I’m going to provide you my version, how I understand and will be very interested in hear your version too. These are my 5 top buzzwords in Product Lifecycle Management.

#1: Single Version of Truth

Buzz: Of course, PLM is about the single version of truth. Before PLM all data about product in organization supposed to be located in different places. Started from mails about customer requirements, CAD models designer’s workstations, custom-made-databases with CAE results and ending in multiple CRM-ERP-MRP and other manufacturing systems. So, PLM will magically replace (or consolidate) all these systems and will manage all product-related data. So, when you finally get into your PLM dashboard/workbench/web-portal/desk… you will see what actually happens with your product and organization. Sounds like dream… yes?

Real life: I think successful PLM implementations succeeded to create central product data location and track significant portion of product data. This product data is mostly originated in design systems. For PLM based on ERP, there is change to have product data more connected to financial and manufacturing data since ERP systems provide single backbone for data management. For rest of PLM, integrations with ERP are mostly custom-made, tailored to specific organization and provide very limited scope of data integration. Application landscape in organization is counting dozens and sometimes hundreds different systems… BI and MDM are trying to provide notion of place where right information can be found.  

#2: Full Product Lifecycle

Buzz: Since all product data is under control, we have control for how manage change of product information, and we can control it from early development concepts until final manufacturing and support stages.

Real life: I think, this buzz is mostly true on the level of product data managed by PLM systems. In most of the cases PLM successfully manages Product Models, Engineering Bills and Product Configurations and Portfolios. For this scope, PLM really can control lifecycle. I’m not sure mainstream PLM implementations successfully manage manufacturing, customer and support data and solutions for these problems are mostly custom-tailored.

#3: Data Re-use

Buzz: Enter data only one time. You can re-use design, bill of material, product specifications…. These are magic words. And yes, this is extremely important. Furthermore, very important to re-use existing projects, portfolios and orders.

Real life: What is the problem with data re-use in my view? If you know what do you want to re-use, PLM system can provide you this information, and you will be able to re-use it. The biggest problem is that you not always exactly know what do you want to re-use. In this case, modern systems still cannot help you. And answers are deep inside of organization and hardly can be discovered…

#4: Shorter Time to Market

Buzz: Since you have all (product data and all what you need) under control, you will be able to optimize time, effort, resources and in finally to deliver your products faster to customers/OEMs/suppliers etc. In our dynamic life, factor of time becomes very important…

Real life: I had chance to see very successful PLM implementations that significantly improved organizational processes and enabled performance nobody could  achieve before. In my view, this is still not mainstream PLM and very depends on actual organization and their implementation.

#5: PLM Value

Buzz: I thought about this buzzword a lot. Everybody likes values. You want to sell them on every level. I like my PLM values too…

Real life: Some time ago, I had chance to write post about Relative vs. Absolute values of PLM. I think PLM over-selling absolute PLM values. There are companies and products that serve similar needs, but not associate themselves with PLM. I think we need to be more accurate in defintion of PLM relative values, and it will help us to make PLM more valuable for organizations.

I focused on these top five, in my view, buzzwords. But in fact I can bring much more buzzword compliant PLM ideas J. I’m looking forward to your comments and discussion. Bring more buzzwords, let me know what do you think…

Best, Oleg.


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  • Oleg,

    I will posit that PLM itself is not a misleading buzzword, but a meaningless buzzword.

    In support of this, I would offer the disparity between the market-hype value propositions of PLM vendors, relative to what actually is implemented at customers sites, and what benefit they actually derive from their investments.

    Perhaps I am alone.

  • Hello Dave, Thanks for your insight! Your comment is the fastest one I ever got on this blog… :):)… I think there is strong disagreement between multiple actors in PLM and non-PLM world about values, buzzwords and actual implementations.. I’m looking for more practical examples. I’m sure you have them.. so, could you, please share it? Have a good week! Best, Oleg.

  • Roberto Picco

    I second Dave point of view, though mitigating his conclusion. PLM is often emphasized and hyped in a way that everything seems possible. In the reality, things go different and one realizes that when it’s too late. It wouldn’t be anything different from “usual” marketing, if the changes a PLM system implies weren’t so important, time-consuming and money-costing…

  • Roberto, I like your point. You defined it very precisely. PLM Marketing work in the way “everything is possible”. Unfortunately result of this approach can be huge additional cost, which will be realized during implementation phase. Regards, Oleg

  • In defense of PLM marketers, one of the reasons that the “everything possible” marketing occurs is that PLM is a fairly broad landscape, and every organization approaches PLM from their own vantage point. As a result, PLM doesn’t tend to have one single, high value implementation driver that appeals to everyone. So, PLM marketers tend to “spray out” different possibilities hoping that one catches the attention and need of an organization. It is one of the challenges of PLM adoption that there really isn’t a “high value” business base that can clearly be articulated and measured. I sometimes equate it to email — what is the value proposition and business case for email? But try to imagine running an organization today without it.

  • Roberto Picco

    Mark, I think PLM value wasn’t questioned. I just found that the “it does this” part outnumbers (if not annihilates) the “it doesn’t that” part and I find this not so “honest”… but probably it’s just me…

  • Mark, Thank you! Finally, somebody decided to defend PLM :)… With regards to email, I think time back value proposition of email was to allow cheap and asynchronous communication between people in organization and outside. Email was in competition with fax machines and won. Today’s mail providers are struggling with two things – (1) mails became a huge time consuming factor; (2) current “mail paradigms” are outdated compared with modern communication concepts. So, in my view, #1 is approached by companies that try to innovate and improve a current email client. This is mostly usability and I’ve seen many good examples. #2 is going to products like of Google Wave and similar… In my view, biggest problem in PLM Buzzwords is that distance between what promised (because of high spray) and possible implemented out of the box. Service component in PLM business is significant and gap is growing in my view in comparison to marketing promises.
    Best, Oleg

  • Mark,

    Roberto is correct. I’m not questioning the value of PLM solutions to the customers where those solutions are appropriate. To this last point, I see daily manufacturers, without one of these “classic” PLM soutions, whose businesses are doing just fine. They aren’t static, and are constantly improving what they do. They just choose to do that without buying into the PLM hype-cycle. The scope of some of these businesses would surprise you; they are not small businesses or businesses with wildly simply products.

    My counter to the notion that PLM marketers have to cast such a wide net to generate leads, is that if you have a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail. And I would suggest that the vast majority of what are sold as “PLM” systems are acutally implemented as “PDM” systems.

    Having been in this industry for 25 years, I’ve observed that, as a solution catagory reaches maturity in its lifecycle, high-end producers are confronted with the fact that if they reduce price to compete (which they invariably have to do), their earnings suffer. Shareholders don’t like that. So they choose instead to cast a wider net to try and develop justification for why their solution has a bigger value proposition. The end result of this process is hype.

    Something struck me about your comment. On the one hand, you suggest that there really isn’t a “high-value” business base that can be articulated and measured. Yet, you also suggest that one should try to imagine running a business without PLM, infering that it is a business pre-requisite.

    You would think one of those PLM marketers could figure out how to explain simply why this is a “must-have”. Given the low penetration rate of PLM solutions, the market would seem to disagree that it is an imperative.

    Just my .02

  • Dave, I will try to advocate PLM marketers. In my view PDM to PLM shift was about to expand product data content (initialy only about pure product design / model / BOM) to something more wider – requirements, suppliers, manufacturing, business etc. So, practically PLM-like implementation scope will be wider and system will allow you to track lifecycle of all these domains connected. Does it make sense to you? Best, Oleg

  • Dave, I think, your insight is great. There are customers that solved problem with PLM-like solutions, but there are others too… I just want to add to your comment this slide I had chance to see on COFES2009 and one of the unique slides presented PLM and non-PLM story on the same page…. Best, Oleg.

  • Dave,

    I can’t disagree on the challenge of convincing non-plm companies that it is a must have. And I’m very familiar with some very large companies that “do fine” without PLM. I’m sure there was also a time when companies “did fine” without email. I’m pretty sure that if you talked with an engineering or manufacturing leader in a discrete manufacturing type industry with an outsourced supply chain that was using PLM, and asked him if he would use it in his next company (start-up or existing), I’m pretty sure he would install a PLM system in a heartbeat. It’s a bigger challenge for companies that perceive status quo as “good enough” and are worried (rightfully) about the implementation challenge of a core business process system.

  • Hi Mark,

    I do talk with folks of the type you refer to. And I know there are success stories. However, on balance, I would have to say I’ve seen more people frustrated by the results of the implementation attempts for classic “PLM” systems, than are raving supporters. Its not to say they aren’t out there, but another common marketing problem is referred to as using a “sample of one” so to speak when making assessments of a marketplace (ergo, because it worked for a – or b or c, etc. – it will work for most/all members of a particular market segement).

    Over time, this has changed for the better, and will continue to, as people and products both evolve in their thinking and ability. But for now, the gap between hype and results remains quite large in my opinion.

    The email comment is interesting. To me, email is a “must have”, as you point out. But comparing email to PLM to me is a bit of an oversimplification – sorry – for lots of reasons.

  • My point on email isn’t circa 2009, it’s circa 1989. When I first used email I thought it was a great tool, but few organizations felt it was a must have. Today, it is absolutely. I don’t think PLM will get there in the same way, but as more people have experience and move into new roles they will view it as must have. In the spirit of full disclosure, I ran marketing for one of those PLM companies at one time (Arena Solutions)

  • Mark,

    On your last point, we are in agreement. My only comment would be that the adoption curve on email was hyperbolic; IMHO the adoption curve for “PLM” (whatever that means) will be closer to linear. Not exactly, but much closer.


  • Dave, I forgot to put link – Best, Oleg.

  • Dave,

    Would completely agree, and they won’t “peak” at the same point. EMail also benefits greatly from being cross-over to consumer use. PLM is much more specialized and doesn’t “seep” into daily life.

  • Mark, David,
    I’d like to add my view on your email example, which is very interesting in my view. Email have absolutely open architecture. You can send mail from one SMTP server to another. You are not limited in mail clients (remember time when not everybody were on MS Outlook) and this is pretty expandable (attachments, formating etc.).
    Now try to compare it to PLM and you feel why mail adoption rate was hyperbolic and PLM is linear in the best case from my standpoint. Cost is probably second issue. Since PLM first was adopted by bigger enterprises and customers, downstream adoption assumes (even if we want it) some cost implication…
    Best, Oleg

  • Oleg,

    I see an inverse relationship between adoption rates and complexity of process addressed, rather than architecture, as being the primary determinant. Having said that, architecture enables simplifcation of processes in my view, at which point I would agree that archiecture does indeed influence adoption rates, albeit indirectly.

    Great discussion – thanks to you both.


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