Intertwined trends and the future of PLM

Intertwined trends and the future of PLM

Digital transformation and innovation are among  the most powerful trends you can hear these days. The traditional three letter acronyms such as PLM are pushed aside and new buzzwords are coming into PLM ecosystem. In such a way Innovation Platform is the way to transform traditional PLM systems. Check one of my previous articles – The best PLM for product innovation platform.

Last year, CIMdata introduced a diagram explaining Innovation platform in a way to multi-disciplinary lifecycle optimization.

Some vendors even created matching scores for PLM innovation platforms. Check one for Aras here. Some quite simple – next step in PLM development is Innovation platform.

Well… not that simple. New trend is coming – Digital Transformation and Digitalization. Now, you think how is that connected to PLM. And interesting enough, digital transformation is next step in PLM evolution. Another side from CIMdata speaks exactly about that.

Digital transformation vs Innovation platform. Are those competing trends? What manufacturing companies should do? To make it even more complex, let’s take a look on a recent publication about corporate innovation and digital transformation. Here is a passage I captured:

Innovation is the Sixth Stage of Digital Transformation. Corporate innovation is vital to uncovering new means and opportunities to better compete. Over the years, I documented the evolution of businesses as digital transformation efforts take shape. In 2016, I introduced the “Six Stages of Digital Transformation” as a maturity model for companies to benchmark their investments and progress against other organizations. The sixth stage of digital transformation is “Innovative and Adaptive.” To get there requires that companies explore the innovation landscape and learn how to be innovative.

It made me think that trends loop back. While Digital Transformation is the next step in PLM development and PLM key role is support innovation and to become innovation platform, it comes back to be a sixth stage of digital transformation. To make it even more dramatic, you can learn that culture is an ally or foe of innovation.

Culture is an Ally or Foe of Innovation. You can’t compete for the future if you don’t invest in the present. One of the challenges in corporate innovation is that executives believe that their organizations are perhaps more innovative than they really are. In a recent research project with CapGemini, “The Digital Culture Gap,” we learned that 75% of senior executives believe their organizations have a culture of innovation, but only 37% of employees feel the same. We also found that only 7% of organizations can test, learn and deploy new ideas rapidly. Company cultures continue as a top impediment to change; affecting support for digital transformation initiatives on all fronts. This year, culture was tied with lack of budget as the third greatest challenge at 30.5%. Our 2014 research showed corporate culture as the top challenge, with 63% of respondents saying it was “very important” and 34% stating it was “somewhat important” to facilitating progress.

Culture gap takes us back to one of the core problems of PLM implementation – people and culture. So many PLM implementations stuck in their business transformation and implementation roadmaps because of people their problems.

What is my conclusion? Too many intertwined trends and dependencies to explain the future of PLM. Nothing wrong with trends, but I found the future of PLM very uncertain between digital transformation, digital twin, innovation platforms and people. Is it a time to take a deep breath and start to simplify things by rationalizing data structures, connecting systems and streamlining communication. It can create a simpler model and systems that can help people to manufacturing better products faster. 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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  • Kent Keller

    I’m with you. Decisions about structuring your data and improving communication establish the goals and business model. Unity of vision between disciplines within any organization can go a long way. New buzz words and software solutions won’t fix fundamental philosophies that underlay the culture within an organization.

  • beyondplm

    Kent, thank you! So, what can fix it then?

  • Kent Keller


  • Kent Keller

    Ok, I will elaborate a bit. To have a successful PLM implementation you need the following:
    1. A well-defined business need and/or recognition of current state problem
    2. An efficient, cost effective software solution
    3. Unwavering buy-in from top management
    a. Accurate identification of stakeholders
    b. Elimination of undesirable stakeholders from influence
    i. Not well informed enough or not qualified
    ii. Pattern of decisions based on fear or job security
    iii. Pattern of unethical behavior including deliberate divisiveness, disinformation
    4. Well informed technical staff
    a. Active listeners
    b. Fully qualified
    c. Driven by company objectives
    5. An implementation timeline that sees immediate ROI
    a. Avoid Waterfall methods that require exhaustive up front specification and offline development prior to implementation
    b. Continual re-evaluation using Agile methods

    Just my thoughts.

  • beyondplm

    Kent, thanks for sharing your thoughts… It makes sense. Those are absolutely important things. My favorite is #5. However, some of them such as #3 are really hard.. Usually organization cannot be changed fast. Especially if it is large organization.

  • Kent Keller

    3 is bread and butter. The larger the organization, the larger the pool of those likely to say no and resist. Also, larger organizations tend to have much more specialized job functions, making it even more unlikely that any given stakeholder fully understands the process of the requirements. Top management is not an exception to this rule. In large organizations, they are even more likely to operate on trust of key individuals with whome they have built trust relationships. If this needs to be undermined to facilitate change, the organization will likely see more frustration than progress. These personal dynamics, more than any other factor, determines whether you can see success or a long trail of frustration. Correctness, business models and software play little role actually.

  • beyondplm

    Kent, you explained the reality of large organizations. Then a specific “event” can bring them to the change such as 1/ management changes and initiatives propagated down; 2/ departure and/or retirement of key members; 3/ business gown down and requires turnaround to become profitable or die; 4/ vendor stopped the support for a software company uses. In very large OEMs, starting a new program can be a trigger to bring new software.