How to avoid PLM software selection mousetrap

How to avoid PLM software selection mousetrap


To select PLM system is not a simple task. While the number of manufacturing businesses asking about Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems is growing, the process of selection is messy and sometimes can become ugly. Especially if you’re coming unprepared. It is like to buy a luxury car on budget. Check-out my earlier article – 7 Rules for selecting PLM software in 2014. I still believe same rules can be applied in 2016 with some corrections related to cloud PLM development. You might also check TechTarget article – Choosing a PLM system for your company? Start with strategy written by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity. There are few more and you can easy Google them.

In my consulting business last year, I helped companies to make right decision and I’ve seen how complex selection process could be. Which made me think a lot about how to make it more rational and simpler.

My attention this morning was caught by EngineerLive article – Choose the right PLM software written by Bob Hillier,  is managing director of UK based PLM software provider, Design Rule. I specially like the title of the article. One of the mistakes companies made in the past often is tried to select the best PLM software. You can find a good explanation about why it’s wrong here. The article is a bit old, but straight to the point. Here is my favorite passage:

For a PLM project to be successful, you must have your product development process agreed upon, defined and “sufficiently documented so that you can apply your PLM environment to support it,” says Vrinat. “Otherwise, you don’t have much reason for investing in PLM. You can also use the opportunity of the PLM to make your development process better.”

Getting back to EngineerLive’s article… It speaks about selection principles such as compatibility with existing software, implementation support and services as well as the need to support global system deployment. Although, there is nothing wrong these things, you need to get prepared for the process. Which made me think about some additional steps you can take in advance. Note, these are things I recommend to a company that never purchased PLM software in the past. In one of my following articles I will focus specifically on the case how to deal with migrations and upgrades of PLM software.

Organizational assessment

You need to get some data points about readiness of your company to buy and implement PLM software. Find 2-3 company similar to yours in terms of product development, manufacturing, industry, size, etc and ask them about PLM implementations they’ve made. It will give you lot of data points. You might learn about their problems. However, if you cannot find any company likes yours purchased PLM software, it can be an indication to be specially careful with your software purchase decision. You will finish organizational assessment with a ballpark numbers of what needed in terms of budget. However, even more important you will understand what transformation needed from your company to make the change. Because the change is hard.

Software and technology assessment

Modern PLM software is still a very complex system and to implement one is not a trivial process. Make analysis of the state of software in your company. What CAD software are you using today? Are you already running enterprise software such as ERP, CRM? Do you have IT organization or people to take care of software installation, configuration and implementation? What is a level of trust in modern cloud software technologies? Software and tech assessment will help you to decide between 3 possible options: 1/ Don’t acquire PLM software and use a combination of software tools and online services to manage product development processes; 2/ SaaS based PLM software packages; 3/ A traditional on-premise or hosted PLM system.

Vendor preference

You might have some vendor preference based on existing software and trusted vendor connections. Make the decision if you want to follow your gut feeling. You should acknowledge how much weight this preference will play in your selection process. It will help you to avoid some hard organizational choices later in the process.

What is my conclusion? PLM software selection is not a simple process. You can save lot of resources by making few small validations upfront related to organizational readiness for upcoming change, software and vendor preference. All together these steps can help you to avoid the mousetrap of finding the best match between PLM software and your company processes. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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