The end of debates about out-of-the-box PLM?

The end of debates about out-of-the-box PLM?


PLM implementation discussions are usually brings lots of controversy. Vendors, analysts, advisers, service companies, customers are all involved into implementations. It brings different and, sometimes, conflicting interests. In my view, one of the most debated topic in PLM implementations is related to so called ability to implement “PLM Out-of-the-box”. I’m not sure who first used that term. I think, it came out of PLM vendor marketing trying to demonstrate how easy and quick PLM implementation can be done. However, since then, the debates about “PLM Out of the box” had never ended.

Two other related topics are customization and configuration. For long period of time, I didn’t differentiate much between these two terms. However, modern enterprise software lexicon (and PLM vendors are in a full compliance with that) will define “configuration” (opposite to customization) a process that doesn’t require to write a software code for PLM implementation, but only use some elements of PLM user interface to configure a system. It probably turns all PLM implementation into “customization”, since writing programming scripts (using VB scripts or JS) is a widely used practice during all PLM configurations.

But let me get back to OOTB topic. I covered PLM OOTB few times in my blog. You can navigate your browser and read PLM Out-of-the-Box: Misleading or Focusing?  published almost four years ago. From my latest posts, I can recommend you to take a read of the following article – Why My PLM won’t work for you?  My attention was caught by an article that looks like trying to end all debates about PLM OOTB.

Aras Corp. published an interview with Dr. Martin Eigner who recently joined Aras’ board of advisors. In a very short published interview Dr. Eigner dots the i’s and crosses the t’s in the debates about out-of-the-box PLM and customization. Here is a main passage I captured. It has a strong Aras marketing flavor, but to quote it is important to bring a full message:

Dr. Martin Eigner: The kernel PLM functions are very similar from all competing PDM / PLM solution providers and from functionality it’s not a big criteria to differentiate each other. The user interface, performance and customization is important. Customization is very important because I do not believe even for small customers that you can buy PLM solution out of the box. That is a dream. You have to customize it. The real differentiator of existing PDM systems is the amount of money and capacity to customize a PLM solution. So I think usability, performance, upgrade capability and how easy it is to customize and maintain the customized solution are the most important points. They have the strongest impact on the total cost of ownership. I think in all these topics [performance, usability, upgrades, and customizations] Aras is leading. There are independent tests which show the system’s performance. We did internal tests at my university and found Aras to be the easiest to customize and upgrade. That is a big difference to the competitors. Customization is the most important aspect of PLM. Out-of-the-box works for no one.

I’m not in full agreement with Dr. Eigner about the fact you have to customize every PLM implementation. However, there is one point, which I think it is very important and I liked how Dr. Eigner emphasized that. It is related to the ability to maintain a customized PLM solution. This is one of the key differentiators of something I call a sustainable PLM platform. Customized legacy PLM is data management titanic in many implementations. Companies have to spend resources to maintain the solution, which is in most situation cannot support latest version of PLM platform provided by vendor.

What is my conclusion? Sustainable PLM platform. This is should be an important element of every PLM strategy these days. Modern business environment is very dynamic. Customer are looking for an agile way to implement business solution, adopt it to a new requirements as well as to maintain existing configuration. In my view, the concept of OOTB PLM should be revised with modern open architecture approach, which can simplify configuration, customization and sustainability of existing solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • Better than sustainable… Resilient PLM !!

  • beyondplm

    Yoann… thanks! I didn’t know you’re moving towards marketing roles :).

  • Ketan Suri

    In my opinion – Importantly if you go OOTB are you getting the Industry best practices. I would recommend a PLM solution that would build on the strength of the company existing processes and / or implement processes that are industry standards / industry best practices.

    You would not buy a Change management tool if it is highly configurable but does not follow CMII principles. What’s the value?

  • Great article! @Ketan: every PLM has a CMII CM Process OOTB, thats not the Point. The Point is: you will change it! After almost 30 years in PLM: I never saw a Successfull (!) PLM implementation without customization. This does not exist. My conclusion: PLM System MUST be built to get costomized without making Upgrades hard. Thats exactly what Aras did. Industry best practice Solutions reflect a good concept, nothing wrong with that. In reality, every Company will make changes to fit their needs. Individual processes in the product creation process are often the base for competitive Advantage. Inflexible PLM Software will compromise this processes. The Feedback I get from my customers at Aras is very clear: we like Aras because we can implement our processes and still get upgrades done easy.

  • ahah touché!

  • beyondplm

    Ketan, an absolute advantage is to start with somewhere and not to configure system from scratch. Then… the question how costly to make a change in configuration and customization code and maintain it within time.

  • beyondplm

    Martin, thanks! I agree – flexibility and customization are two very important characteristics of successful PLM.

  • Ketan Suri

    Thanks for the insight Martin !!!
    I never saw a successful PLM implementation without customization – Can’t agree more to this so the rush for each product to prove it is more flexible.
    I am trying to point that the System should not become a configure only usage to be considered or ready to be changed as needed. It brings in core process that major companies have invested in.

  • In my view this post discusses two important topics.

    OOTB or Customize: I can agree that I have not seen a “successful” PLM implementation without customization however I have seen many more PLM implementations which were not “successful” that attempted customization. I think we can easily blame the company that they did not have the correct expectations, culture or even executive buy-in . The reality is you rarely have all of these and the many other things required for a successful PLM implementation. Dealing with this unfortunate reality I wonder if it is better to shoot for an OOTB for your first milestone that can be used in production. It may have limited features, functionality and not align perfectly but still adds value. Then you can build and customize from there. If this is to be true then the OOTB functionality does not have to be perfect, just good enough.

    A pure OOTB implementation does have a cost since it will not align with the organization perfectly but I sometimes wonder would a less ideal OOTB be better than a poorly implemented customized solution especially if you do not have all the conditions for a fully optimized implementation (Executive buy-in, culture, acceptance to change, etc.).

    Platform which embraces customization: Knowing we are going to customize PLM I do think that a platform which supports customization from the core is needed. Not all platforms are the same and even if some say they are easy to extend, the truth is that they are not. As mentioned in the post Aras has customization as a first class citizen. This is becoming more of a trend in software however many PLM vendors have a whole lot of legacy code to update.

    I also wrote an article about this very similar topic earlier this year.

  • beyondplm

    Denis, thanks for sharing your insight as well as link to your article.

    The competitiveness of manufacturers is a foundation for their interest to customization solution and “tweak a tuxedo” to fit it a specific manufacturing and product development model.

    I found it interesting, especially in the part where you compare different “customization”-ability related to COTS and COTS+. This is clearly something I see as a foundation for PLM platform. The right choice for PLM platform can lead the ability of platform to be customized in a cost-effective way. Flexibility and cost of customization are two critical factors here.

    More thoughts are here

    1- The foundation of next PLM platform

    2- PLM: Tools, bundles and platforms

    Thanks for your comments!
    Best, Oleg

  • Michael Viala

    I have very little to add (except at a 10.000 foot level). I would like to say I’ve enjoyed the discussion.
    My only input could perhaps be seen as mediating between the idea of “core capabilities” that are OOTB and “customization”. It seems to me that unless the actual definition of PLM is debatable, there is a core requirement in the marketplace. To the extent that is understood OOTB capabilities can and should be developed and vendors (trusted advisors) should assume the sometimes difficult roll of speaking truth to power. “Sometimes the way you want to do it is NOT the best way.” I would submit that what is left for customization may well only be what has not yet been identified as a best practice and cannot therefore be provided as OOTB capabilities. This is were the trusted advisor has to know when to “listen to power” but what is heard and taken away should always be considered beyond customization in isolation but customization that will ideally reflect a best practice which in turn can be rolled into future OOTB development.

  • beyondplm

    Michael, thanks for your addition to the discussion! I can see two reasons why customers want “to add” something to PLM – 1/ missing or undefined function; 2/ need to have a specific (unique or custom) behavior. The second specifically comes as a need for manufacturing company to innovate. What is interesting that it is also related to another thing you mentioned – agreement (or disagreement :-)) about what is PLM. For people that see “PLM as a product”, it is more about how to customize a function. However, for people that see “PLM as a strategy”, customization is a way to implement a strategy. Thanks! Oleg

  • Michael Viala

    Noted. Thanks Oleg. Nice distinction between those who view PLM as a product or as a strategy.

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