PLM: Lipstick on a Pig or Missed Opportunity?

PLM: Lipstick on a Pig or Missed Opportunity?

I had a chance to read AESSIS blog post – Why Some People Don’t Like PLM? Graham started absolutely important discussion about mainstream adoption of PLM in the organizations. I had a chance to write about this in the past. Navigate your browser on the following link – Complexity Kills or 3 ways to improve PLM adoptions. I specially liked this passage from Graham’s post:

…I think the bottom line is that PLM requires people to change their behaviours.  This is hard to do.  Just look around you.  People continue to do all kinds of things that are bad for themselves and others.  And managing information poorly, not sharing it, not organising it etc…seems pretty benign compared with some things I could mention… and yet it costs organisations billions. People don’t want to change despite obvious benefits to the wider organisation.

The last statement is just brilliant – “people don’t want to change“. However, the next conclusion got my blood boiling somewhat. Graham is proposing to think about “incentive” for people to start using PLM. This is a place where I think we have a kind of disagreement with Graham. So, I decide to put some thoughts about that below.

Enterprise Software: Love and Hate?

Have you had a chance to hear the following statement? – “Enterprise software is not fun. We came here to work and not to have fun”. Let me guess what is that about? It is probably coming from some kind of enterprise software implementations. Enterprise software consistently sold to executives and IT and not to end users. Then, obvious statement came – you should not love this software, just do your job! However, I see this paradigm slowly changing over the last decade. Usability started to play a more and more important role. Users started to dump consistently buggy and not useful software, and vendors started to think about how to make their enterprise portfolios nicer.

PLM Idea vs. PLM Reality

I can see PLM as a step child of enterprise software. PLM wasn’t born as a pure “enterprise package”. Predecessors of PLM – CAD and PDM, had deep roots in engineering and R&D departments. Competition brought the usability revolution to CAD software first. PLM didn’t get there… yet? The original PLM idea was good. To provide a way to manage information about products on all stages of product development. The implementation reality was different. Engineering and product development is a complex field. One size doesn’t fit all. Vendors failed to create simple and easy to implement software. Complexity of PLM environments and implementations made people dislike the changes that always coming with PLM.

Quality, Incentives and Opportunity

I’m thinking about a quality. Something wrong happens with a quality of enterprise software. PLM is just a very good example. Time ago, the quality of cars was awful. It created an opportunity and we got much better cars during the last 10-15 years. Similar things happened with consumer software and the internet. You run away from a low quality website, stop using low quality phones and other consumer software. Nobody is thinking about how to create an incentive to use a bad consumer software. Why we think it should be acceptable for PLM or enterprise software? I think,  real incentive is an opportunity to create a better software.

What is my conclusion? Last then years were prime time for “consumer IT”. Think about how much was done during these years in the internet, office applications, telecommunication, etc.? In my view, we are coming to the point when we need to start counting next ten years of “enterprise IT”. Next ten years will put enterprise IT “on fire”, so in 2020 we’ll not need to find incentives to use buggy PLM enterprise software. Will we call it PLM? I don’t know…

Best, Oleg


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  • MarcL

    Oleg – Couldn’t agree more. Seems to me like the disconnect is between the people selling (i.e. PLM salesmen), people buying (i.e. Executives that don’t actually logon) and the day-to-day users (who don’t have a real say in the purchase).

    Because all the salesmen really care about is convincing the execs to buy the PLM system it just needs to demo well and the rest is a fancy story on slides. There’s little or no incentive for the PLM provider after the initial sale has closed to have the system work well.

    I agree that incenting the users to rely on bad PLM software is not the answer. My take is that PLM (and enterprise software in general) are headed to a place where the providers only make money when people actually use the system. Then, software providers have a REAL economic incentive to create great software that people can’t stop using.

    Put a few thoughts on this topic on our blog at

    Just my 2 cents.


  • beyondplm

    Marc, thanks for commenting! I think, the idea of “pay as you go” is beneficial, in general. However, what need to be taken into account is that “lock-in” strategies. Enterprise software heavy lock-in customers on their software. There are multiple reasons for that – data lock-in, implementation and customizations, etc. Bottom line, if you are spending 6 digits on implementations and customizations, you won’t be running fast to another system, even you are paying subscription only. So, my conclusion is that we are facing more complex problem here… Just my thoughts. Best, Oleg

  • Chris

    He got it totally wrong. When users get value systems get used. This is the only incentive needed, make sure your solution provides a value to those who feed the machine. Or better yet ensure your solution is something people use to get their job done, vesus a place to report something.

  • beyondplm

    Chris, couldn’t agree more. There is one issue with the value. I can see an organizational value and personal value. I think, data management, was considered as a tough discipline. People said it is boring and requires additional effort and attention. In short – only management needs it. It resulted, in fact, in the situation when some software vendors decided they need to “push”. So, we came to the situation when enterprise software pushed to the companies to C-level. Sales were focused on “organizational value” first to sell it to CxO. However, such personal values as the ability of users to perform their daily tasks was missed. Best, Oleg

  • Graham Mccall

    Glad my post got everybody going.. I’m not saying you should incentivise people to use bad PLM systems.. That would be bad.. What I’m saying is that human nature is complicated.. There was a great section in the Superfreakonomics book talking about how hard it was to get very clever medical consultants to wash their hands frequently to avoid the spread of bacteria.. Those consultants knew very well the benefits of hand washing but just didn’t do least not enough.. So they offered Starbucks vouchers to proven hand washers.. And handwashing went up significantly (despite the fact that these folk didn’t need the money!).. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.. Of course PLM systems should deliver value to every user, at an individual level,..rather than value only accuing at the organisation level.. but this is not always the case…especially in the early days of an these cases perhaps we need to be more imaginative and develop strategies that work with real live people..

  • Graham Mccall

    PS..Paul Tyson came up with the Lipstick on a Pig phrase (in the context of PLM at least).. I suspect there are indeed some heavily made up PLM pigs out there… In fact I know there are..Thing long can you keep slapping on the make up to cover up the wrinkles..? At what point should you just go out and get a new face?

  • Dave Hadfield

    I agree with Graham’s point. You have to make the solution both required and desired, doing just one of those two things = failure.

    Multiple conference room pilots throughout implementation is part of that answer, but there is much more to it than that also.

  • beyondplm

    Graham, Life is not always balanced. PLM was hugely oversold. It is a big question if the idea is dead and need to re-born with a new name. However, to provide incentives to people to use PLM is likely to push forward the same direction. Sometimes “change” is good not only because it is really better, but because it is a change. In case of PLM, it is very complicated. It will take a time to clean it up. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Dave, thanks for commenting! Just commenting on what you said – the balance is important. PLM considered as required by companies (thinking about product lifecycle). However, it is very “not desired” by engineers. Best, Oleg