How to escape from old PLM ideas

How to escape from old PLM ideas


I’m on my way to Las Vegas to attend Autodesk University 2016 – an annual Autodesk gathering usually brings around 10’000 customers, partners and Autodesk employees together for endless number of sessions, presentations, classes and activities. The show is such big that I usually like to ask for somebody coming to AU – what AU are you going to? People can come to AU and attend sessions and classes without any chance to cross their paths.

For the past few years, I’ve been attending AU in different roles – blogger, Autodesk partner, Autodesk employee. Full disclosure – this year I’m coming to AU to talk about my new company openBoM and to share experience about openBoM using Autodesk Forge web services to develop cloud applications.

I wanted to take an opportunity of long flight and high altitude to reflect on cloud PLM – the topic that near and dear to my heart for the past few  years.  Autodesk did a gigantic work by pioneering the vision of cloud PLM since first announcement about PLM360 back in 2011. You probably remember my articles from AU2011 sharing news about cloud PLM – AU2011 Autodesk PLM story is about to begin.

Fast forward in 2016. Many things changed in PLM eco-system with regards to cloud development. Cloud technologies have changed the way we think about PLM deployment and how much IT do we need to run PLM system. The structure of PLM investment manufacturing companies are making in PLM has changed. The speed of implementation has changed. But the demand of customers has changed too. Nowadays, all PLM vendors are providing some sort of cloud – private, public, hybrid, live, online, true, false… you name it. For many manufacturing companies, cloud became a buzzword that requires explanation and clarification.

The trajectory of cloud PLM ideas went into how to make PLM faster, cheaper, nicer… Nothing wrong with that. Current step in the development of cloud PLM is absolutely important thing. Read more about it in my blog about trajectory of cloud development – company servers, cloud servers, multi-tenant applications.

But here is the thing… I doubt cloud PLM innovation is about how to shift from corporate IT servers to cloud PLM services.. Don’t misunderstand my point – cost and speed of PLM implementation are very important for customers. However, very often I can hear comments from manufacturing companies saying cloud PLM is not different from on-premise PLM. The difference is only where servers are installed, who maintain it and what is the cost. This is not a good message for PLM vendors thinking about PLM innovation.

Reflection on last few years of PLM development made me think about how to innovate in PLM and make it different for users. I surfed the Internet on my way to Las Vegas. My attention was caught by Peter Hall tweet. The message is resonating –  The difficulties lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. Cloud technologies created a huge acceleration to think about new PLM development. However, as much as companies moved forward, old PLM ideas kept the systems at the same place and ideas deteriorated towards only using cloud servers instead of on-premise PLM installations.

Here is my take from 30’000 feet on the plane about what 3 old PLM ideas we need to escape to unlock our future thinking about PLM innovation.

Old PLM idea #1 – PLM is a central system of record for product development

For many years, data records is a fundamental element of any enterprise systems. PLM is included. PDM and PLM are all about the data. First, it was about CAD files, and then about related information. Nothing wrong with this, but data is a very complex thing. Organizations have complex multiple sets of SOR (system of records). These are complex organizational, technical and sometimes even political systems. We need to think how to outsmart existing system of records to move forward and make a progress.

Old PLM idea #2 –  to succeed PLM should transform an organization and and change business processes

Changes are hard. Culture eats technologies for breakfast and stays hungry for the rest of the day. This is what happens with many PLM implementations aiming to change how companies are doing business. Great PLM technologies and products are stuck with corporate transformations similar how Napoleon army failed during French invasion of Russia . A traditional thinking is that PLM technologies are ok, but companies need to hire consultant to help them to manage change. Good luck with that.

Old PLM idea #3 – PLM sales process should be focused on organizational value proposition

PLM is a value based sale – organizational value is a fundamental thing enterprise and channel  sales are focusing on. However, combined with idea about business transformation, it creates a huge slowdown and sometimes blockers in a process of PLM development.

What is my conclusion? It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! Old PLM ideas are powerful and they stuck in people minds hard for long time. It takes a power of imagination and hard work to escape from everyday habits and something that for many years was considered as a fundamental in PLM business. However, manufacturing industry is changing, company business models are changing, technologies are changing as well. These days manufacturing company is a network, a community of business partners working together. New manufacturing networks should inspire future PLM development and innovation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit – Innovation as a state of mind

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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  • Michael Wendenburg

    Hi Oleg.

    Do you see any of the traditional PLM vendors technologically prepared for the move to cloud? I think that the software architectures of Teamcenter, Enovia and maybe even Windchill have to be overhauled, no to speak about their licensing models. From the German point of view, SAP and CONTACT Software seem technologically better prepared for but I do not see a strong move towards PLM in the cloud.

    Regards, Michael.

  • beyondplm

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Why do you think SAP and CONTACT are technologically better than ENOVIA, TC and Windchill?

    Cloud is pretty much everywhere. But I expect large German companies are still very conservative. It will take few more years. Not a big deal IMO.

    Best, Oleg

  • Michael Wendenburg

    CONTACT for their modern and modular software architecture which I think enables cloud deployment more than monolithic architectures and SAP for pushing ERP anyway into the cloud. You are right, cloud is pretty much everywhere, even in Germany, but difficult to use for PLM when you have to adapt the software to your business processes and needs. Unless you implement your customized installation in a private cloud which reduces the value add of cloud deployment. Just my thoughts.
    Best, Michael

  • beyondplm

    Michael, Thanks for your comment!

    I’m interested to learn more. Modern architecture sounds like marketing buzz. Can you be more specific? What CONTACT can do that existing PLM vendors cannot? Public cloud? Multi-tenant architecture? Cost? Web API integrations?

    I heard nothing about SAP cloud PLM. Is it available?
    Best, Oleg

  • Michael Wendenburg

    Hi Oleg,

    CONTACTs PLM offering called CIM Database has a very modular concept with CONTACT Elements as platform and different apps on top. (Te be honest, the architecture has some more layers) The interesting thing about CONTACT Elements is that it is an open platform that the company offers to third party vendors. F.e. Zuken is using it to develop a PLM or TDM for its E3 product line and PROSTEP, Germany builts a kind of PLM system for collaboration on top. Another important feature is that customization is very much managed like the own modules or apps which makes updating very easy. Technologically I think it is best suited for a pre-configured cloud offering though the company has not communicated plans in that direction.

    With respect to SAP I ignore their cloud PLM strategy but they are pretty active with ERP in the cloud (see and I still consider SAP PLM nothing but an extension to their ERP offering.

    Regards, Michael

  • beyondplm

    Michael, thanks for sharing the info about CIM database and the fact it used by other vendors. Usually, it is a very good sign of platform maturity and the indication of solid open architecture. It is hard to me to say anything specific without more detailed look. Unfortunately, terms like “layers”, “modules”, “openness” are heavy used by marketing and it is hard to say something specific. If you have links or published documents about the architecture, I’d love to have an opportunity to take a look and maybe compare it with other systems I’m familiar with. Or maybe we can have a call? My email is or Best, Oleg

  • Michael Wendenburg

    Oleg, I have no published documents at hand, but I have asked Michael Murgai, Business Development Manager of CONTACT (who says he knows you), to provide you with technical documentation and information on the company’s platform strategy. He is also responsible for the Joint Venture with Zuken.

    I also recommend to talk to Frank Patz-Brockmann, Head of Development of the company and “architect” of CONTACT Elements. At PROSTEP the best person to talk to about the cooperation is Udo Hering, Head of Product Management. I will be pleased to put you in contact with him, though you might have met him at the ProSTEP iViP in Stuttgart.

    Regards, Michael

  • beyondplm

    Thank you Michael! I just sent you an email.