How to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems

How to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems

Plm-technology-matters

It is hard to sell PLM. Sigh… Even today. Even with all modern open source, cloud, browser, web, mobile, big data, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and other cool product and technological buzzwords. How to get PLM right? Startups and large companies are trying to bring new ideas and products to the market in hope to make it different. I certainly can confirm that modern PLM systems are better in many ways than what we had 10-15 years ago. They are nicer, faster, more flexible, better integrated and better equipment to deal with problems manufacturing companies have today.

Here is the point. They are better…. Which brings me back to the the sales dispute about difference between vitamins and painkillers in PLM. Analysts and industry pundits are trying to find the reason why is so hard to sell PLM. A very respectful PLM analyst and my good blogging buddy Chad Jackson  of Lifecycle Insights came with an interesting research related to that. Navigate to his article to read more – Engineering’s struggle to justify technology. His main point – engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments. As a result of that, engineers just cannot sell these great technologies to CxO executives. Here is the passage from Chad’s blog:

Engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments. I wish it wasn’t true. But in my mind, the findings prove it. The technologies aren’t lacking. Otherwise, technology capabilities would rise to the top of these lists. They don’t. If there was a problem with the underlying value proposition of these technologies, then that would bear out. However, as seen in a post I published last week, the value of some of these technologies is high. To me, the failing lies in the inability to justify these tools.

chad-jackson-plm-challenges

In the conclusion, Chad stated clear that price is also not an issue with regards to the problem related to engineering software sales. It all connected to the ability of engineers to justify the value of the technologies.

Pricing, in my opinion, is not the culprit for these issues. It lies in the difficulty that engineering has in justifying the technologies they need. Engineer’s decisions directly affect company profitability ever single day. Understand that connection and engineers should be able to easily justify their technology needs.

Well… I feel bad for engineers. At least for some of them that struggles to implement complex PLM systems. Certainly, if technological value is clear and price is not an issue, then to sell PLM should be an easy deal to make. But it is not… Which takes me back in my mind into product and technology. I’m sure you remember an earlier attempt of Microsoft to develop tablet computer. If not, the picture above can remind you Microsoft tablets circa 2002. The technology was right and all buttons were in place. However, something was missed. And Steve Jobs iPad circa 2010 confirmed that it was about technology and products. And Bill Gates confirmed Apple did something different. Here is a passage from BI article:

Last July, during an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Gates explained that Jobs “did some things better than I did. His timing in terms of when it came out, the engineering work, just the package that was put together. The tablets we had done before, weren’t as thin, they weren’t as attractive.”

What is my conclusion? Engineers are easy target to blame. It sounds like product and technologies are right, price is perfect, value proposition is articulated in a most clear way, but… customers are not buying. Yes, it could be about market and prices. Maybe market is not ready for PLM or many be prices are too high or too low. I was in the situation once when customer didn’t recognize the value of PLM product because price was too low. But I doubt, this is a case with PLM systems today. Getting back to the product, we need need to think how to make it more attractive? It is certainly the moment to look again on product and technology. Just in case. Maybe there is still a small chance PLM vendors missed something. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg

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  • Nathan Helfman

    Oleg greetings!
    I’m rather familiar with the problem…
    It may be worth developing the “Engineer’s Value Add Kit for Selling PLM “. The paradigmatic tendency of the major vendors (Dassault, PTC, Seimens) is to target the CxO level with “incisive questionnaires” and bristling PowerPoints. What is missing is the “packaged” and systematic engagement of the primary leverage point: the engineers. It is indeed ian inept sales force, but in potential, it can be substantially boosted given the tools. Has this been explored?
    Cheers,
    Nathan

  • beyondplm

    Nathan, this is a very good question. Thank you for brining it up! I will think about the kit (sounds like a blog post title :)). I never seen that in practice. Usually pre-sales activity is trying to approach wide range of people in an organization to get a buy ins from them and then pitch CxO level. There is a trend to pitch CxO levels to sell PLM vision. What surprised me in Chad’s research is that engineers are becoming responsible for the failure to sell PLM to C-level. On the other side, companies are not satisfied with the speed of PLM projects and ROI. If you speak to large manufacturing in aero and auto industry you can see their point of 5-7 years implementation cycle with upgrades. It is not black & white, of course. Best, Oleg