What Is The Role of Business Intelligence in PLM?

Some thoughts about Business Intelligence (BI). I found it somewhat under-invested in Product Lifecycle Management field. BI considered as a more analytic domain with the ability to slice and dice data from the past. However, I believe, one of the capabilities PLM can offer to users (designers, engineers, manufactures…) is to improve decision based on past, current and future analysis.

Looking on the ERP and software/platform vendors, I figure out, each of them – SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft are heavy invested in BI capabilities. Business Objects, Hyperion, Cognos, OfficeWriter and others – all products were acquired by major vendors to improve BI capabilities.

So, what options I see for PLM software and implementation in the context of BI:

1. To establish integration with available BI tools in ERP domain.
2. To partner with a platform oriented providers like Microsoft and IBM and use their BI tools and technologies.
3. To invest into development and/or acquisition of BI capabilities as part of PLM applications and portfolios.

So, do you see Business Intelligence as important for Product Lifecycle Management? How do you see it connected to everything PLM doing today?

I’m looking forward to your comments and thoughts.
Best, Oleg


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  • Hi oleg,

    I’m following your post and after each one i realize that these topics are way above everyone’s head on PLM matters. It’s just like Catia V6, with all the 3D PDM views. Is it really what we need? are we sure the basics are understood by the PLM vendors? if every vendor would have understand the same basics (as it should be) I guess they would all use Standards systems? which they usually don’t. I’m sorry to be off the topic, but as my work get more and more at the root of PDM&PLM issues, i realize that everyone is excited by going far ahead without handling the basics. What is a BOM, how many BOM can we have, how do we impact it, how do we handle parts in a Cad assembly, what happen when we want to rebuild a model from the pdm… I’m don’t think that these questions have been well answered yet.

    Back to Basics!



  • Yoann, Thank you for your comment and for following my blog. I’m trying to discuss a broad range of topics. I’m trying to go to basic stuff like why and how we can make PLM simpler, technological, and what you called “above everyone’s head”. However, I will take your comment and think about “back to basics PLM”… Thanks again, Oleg

  • AndyF


    We only consider items that tie to a part number to be “fair game” for a PLM system. That is a pretty big field because a lot of our information is associated with a part number. For instance, cost, vendors, tooling, process documents, inspection reports, etc. But the BI space can go anywhere including marketing, finance, sales, etc. So for us, if a part number isn’t involved then we’re probably not interested in terms of PLM.

  • Oleg, I dont know why you always pick the ideas I have in my mind. 🙂 Well, I have been working with Drools (red hat’s open source BI engine). Yes there are many things BI could bring to PLM. If you look at drools they have a solver module (Currently I am only using flow, rules and events) which could be integrated to PLM for product planning. We can analyse any engineering program and come up with some statistics for future project’s costing, timimg etc etc. I am thinking loud but change optimization also could be done with it.(which products to revise first or together?)

  • apandre

    Hello Oleg,

    I think synergy between PLM and BI is extremely important for the future of PLM. PLM systems collecting and processing huge amount of data and without abilty to visualize these data and visually drill-down large datasets data becoming less and less useful. So I will try to comment on 3 subtopics Oleg pointed out:

    1. Integration with BI: yes but with which one? SAP, IBM and Oracle are technologically behind (at least one generation behind). Microsoft tried to catchup twice already (ProClarity and PerformancePoint) and failed twice. But usually Microsft is good at third attempt and PowerPivot is coming in 2010.

    2. Partner with Platform Provider(s): yes again but see p.1 above. SAS is a Mindshare leader but how easy to partner with it? So far best partnership experience you can find with companies like Qliktech, Spotfire and Panorama.

    3. Development and/or acquisition of BI capabilities for PLM applications. Development is too late to start (why you need to invent the wheel and what is the time to market for it? BI and Analytics Market (BIA) is too crowded for a new development). Acquisition – yes, of course, but probably through OEM partnership and integration (API, scripting, common databases, common authentication etc.) – see p.p.1-2 above. If you want to check the Mind Share, the Market Share and some rating for BIA leaders, feel free to review my estimates here:

  • Andy,I’d agree, just in order to stay in the focus, better to define the scope of PLM/BI… However, my main point is that focus on BI will allow to PLM tools to bring more value into the organization. Especially if this is something called “operational BI”. Today, I can see PLM focus is mostly around data creation (design, engineering, etc.), processes and collaboration. However, ability to analyze data you have heavily missed in many applications and implementations I’ve seen. Best, Oleg

  • Prashant, Thanks for this example of Drools. I will take a deeper look on what they are doing. I thought this is a rule management system for jboss. Normally, PLM system also comes with somewhat that can be considered as a rule engine. How do you see integration of external one into existing commercial systems? Best, Oleg
    PS. The ideas are in the air. The question is only how to get them. If you breathe the same air, you have a chance to pick up the same ideas :)…

  • apandre, Agree with part of your analyzes. However, I think BI space is overcrowded on the one side and on the other side is looking for new market implementation. I think BI vendors either focused on “big fish” like company finance or trying to catch OEM deals with big vendors (actually they successfully picked all big – IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP…). So, today for BI can be next round of opportunities and PLM can be one of the targets and maybe even win/win business. Great examples and estimations- will dig into this…. Thanks! Oleg

  • apandre

    Hi Oleg:

    I hope you are right about “other side” and somebody really has burning desire and budget to create new, PLM-oriented BI implementation. I also hope that this somebody will contact me, because I know internals of many BI tools and know how to do the “new implementation” for this “win/win business” you mentioned. However so far nobody contacted me and you are right that BI vendors focused on big wish, see 10th column, named “Company size (for pure BIA players)” at http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=t_-iYfGHRTXVj5yLYiYDWZQ&gid=1 :
    their focus mostly Banking, Financials, Retail, Biotech and Pharma industries. My guess this is because these industries can afford BI tools and the usage of such software giving them ROI and solution for their problems?

  • Manoj

    Oleg…I am a keen follower of this blog……very interesting topics being discussed…too many knots to untie….let it keep coming

    Here is my take on BI and PLM. If a venbdor integrates BI into PLM, it will be one of the key differentiaters which be truly game changing. I believe the user community will benefit a lot if they have information on Past Trends, Current Bottlenecks and Future impacts. Decision aiding is one of the key feature of PLM when compared to pure-PDM and BI integration will only aid to it. How much thought is being put ito it by the current PLM vendors is a different question altogether. However, I believe any step forward in this direction will be welcomed with open hands by all customers….

  • Andrei, I think peeps in both industries still cannot see mutual benefits. Existing BI tools considered either as a very expensive toy for analysts or “per case” project. It doesn’t fit today’s PLM realities when PLM projects are focusing on how to reduce cost and mainstream adoption. This is my opinion. Best, Oleg

  • Manoj, thanks for your comment. One of the most challenging things in BI and BI implementation for PLM space is that BI can increase the complexity of implementation. I think most of PLM vendors these days are afraid of complexity, since customer perception is that PLM is complex. So, to resolve the complexity can be a big deal in this space. Best, Oleg.

  • Pascal Demeester

    Not sure what we should put under the umbrella of BI. If you include tracking part release status, related costs of parts or rolled up BOMs, get visibility on the sourcing activity of new parts, tracking parts in support of the APQP and other quality programs. Yes than I would agree there is a strong need for BI.
    PLM traditionally focusses on part creation and BOM availability, there is indeed a gap.
    For more than a year we have been investing in creating tools to support the above type of reporting. It allows us to build further on the meta data from our PLM, download it to an external database and as such creating a powerfull method of tracking and reporting against existing PLM and newly added attributes.
    The modules we included in our software are part release, sourcing, cost and quality tracking. As all these modules are working from one database it support our platforms to report in a consistent, fast and collaborative way.
    It gives platform responsibles a direct overview of the program release status and associated KPIs.


  • Pascal, Thank you for sharing your experience. When I talked about BI, I had in mind sort of capability to analyze various dimensions of product data managed by PLM today. Focus on Part Design and BOM is obvious, but the biggest value can come from multiple dimensions of PLM IP – requirements, design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain. Such BI tools can be a very good companion for Program Management and this is, in my view, very close to your example of program release status and KPIs. Best, Oleg