PLM Complexity: What Does The Future Hold?

PLM Complexity: What Does The Future Hold?

One of my blog readers shared with me slides of Paul Saunders presentation about MRO software from the Miami Aircraft Commerce Aviation IT Conference March 2011. I found the presentation very timely. Author is focusing on MRO systems and makes analyzes about why MRO systems are so complicated and who is responsible for such a situation. In addition to that Paul made some prediction about the future of MRO systems as well as some software development trends. Despite the fairly significant size (110 slides), I recommend you to spend some time and go through the slides. Do it and make your opinion?

This presentation made me think again about PLM complexity. About a year ago, I wrote about PLM and Collapse of Complex Societies. Following the Tainter’s theory, PLM system just created another level of bureaucracy. What are the sources of bureaucracy and why complex PLM systems are following these rules?

Sources of Complexity

The fundamental intent of Product Lifecycle Management is to organize a product development processes. It implies lots of assumptions about what is the process? how data is organized? how people are interacting? what are organizational boundaries and other business processes? PLM system development followed the set of rules developed by predecessors in enterprise software and mostly MRP and ERP systems. Software vendors built the top down system organization and tried to formalize organizational data and processes. However, product development process diversity between manufacturing companies made this formalization process impossible. Development created multiple “options” and predefined schemas. When it came to the implementation, it resulted in a huge amount of customization and system tailoring. In addition to that, companies were concerned about the competition.

The Future is Open?

Play with openness and data in enterprise organizations was probably the most dangerous and destructive for end users. As I wrote in my post – The Ugly Truth about PLM-ERP Monkey Volleyball, enterprise software companies are trying to control data and, as a result, limiting availability and access to this data from other vendors. The openness creates a situation when a company will be able to choose a better tool without sniffing around the existing tool. The biggest lesson PLM and other enterprise software need to learn is how to switch towards open data, open systems and open architecture.

What is my conclusion? The following sentence from Paul’s slides is a key: this software isn’t complex enough. Have you had a chance to hear it for the last week, month, year? No. Vendors need to fight complexity in PLM products. The first things to target is a system openness and a complexity of user experience. The complexity game is over. Finally…

Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg,
    Thank you for linking to my presentation. Your readers who are daunted by the quantity of slides might prefer to see a (very amateur) video version which you can see on my Vimeo page

    I’m glad the subject was relevent to your field of expertise. I am intrigued that it is. This topic came about due to the frustration I was feeling to hear software sales guys boasting about how fantastically complex their systems were. I do not see the need or demand for complexity that these guys were so proud of. As you pointed out… you never ever hear it. The path to simplicity is ironically very complicated – but I agree with you that the first steps is towards openness (of data, architecture and source)

  • beyondplm

    Paul, you are welcome! I think you touched a very important point – usability and simplicity of enterprise systems. It will become a key in the next 4-7 years. Enterprise software won’t survive in the way it is now. Massive influence of consumer software, devices, etc. will create a strong trend to re-shape existing software categories. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg