PLM and ERP – race to agile implementations

PLM and ERP – race to agile implementations

Image credit – Dave Gray

Agile software development was a popular thing for the last 20 years.  If you lived under the to rock check Agile Software Manifesto. The things like Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools, Working Software over comprehensive documentation, Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation, Responding to Change over following a plan are the norm of software development these days.

Things are different in enterprise software implementations. For many years PLM implementation was considered as a multi-year project with huge planning effort requires alignment from multiple stakeholders in the organization and long implementation cycle requires, IT planning, configuration, and customization. Once done, it hardly can be changed and will live for many years even it is not aligned with business needs.

The demand for adjustment of business practices, faster response, improved ROI, demand for faster new product development is only a very short list of why PLM implementation practices are changing. But, it is not so simple. While people are one of the most critical elements of successful change management and agile development. the tools are not less important. What if it takes IT one month to install PLM software and another three months to configure and customize it?

For the last few years, I published a few articles related to agile PLM implementations and product development. Check some of my earlier articles:

New Agile PLM development

Agile PLM development – New PLM frontier

Thoughts about agile PLM consulting practices

Aras PLM – fast, agile and … expensive?

My earlier conclusion was that agile product development is a challenge for existing PLM architectures. Modern manufacturing has no luxury of long PLM development roadmaps, slow workflow processes, and costly changes. In the next few years, we will see how PLM architectures and tools will start switching towards fast implementations, fast workflows, and fast ROI.

PLM is not alone in agile product implementation race. My attention was caught by a publication from Inforum 2019 – Infor Annual Customer Event. Check this article – Infor’s Inforum 2019: Embracing agile for ERP success – (https://www.information-age.com/infors-inforum-2019-embracing-agile-for-erp-success-123485445/).

ERP vendors are fighting the same problem PLM industry is fighting- complex implementation, high failure rate. Replace ERP with PLM and it will be a still true statement.

How often does a typical business decide on a new ERP system? Perhaps once a decade. It is a big decision and one that incurs massive costs if errors are made – on both a financial and an operational level. A bad ERP strategy can ruin a company’s bottom line and stifle its growth moving forward – the irony being that growth was probably the very factor that informed the need for an ERP system in the first place. There’s no shortage of horror stories with analysts regularly publishing research on the high failure rate of ERP deployments; such as Gartner, reporting that 55% to 75% of ERP projects fail to meet their core requirements, due to a lack of awareness, skills, and expertise within enterprises.

However, my favorite passage is the following.

As a former analyst, Johnson said he has had a lot of time to reflect on these significant software deployments and has seen the good in the promise of technology, but he’s also seen the reality. Insights such as these have brought Infor to a place where they are now asking how it can fundamentally make it easier for enterprises to take advantage of these technologies.

“It’s really important that we stop thinking about the big bang and we start thinking about multiple sprints to get multiple goals live within a programme,” he said. He then quoted Gartner’s ContinuousNext concept: “Perpetual renewal, swift delivery and interaction to consistently benefit from unending change.”

There is no real recipe for how to make agile ERP deployment feasible. But, there are some ideas that approach can work.

The last almost two decades of cloud technologies and web development provided many tools that can be used in enterprise software today. PLM and ERP are great candidates to adopt these tools. But the development is going slow. There are some great examples such as Aras PLM as a tool that can download and install for free. Some techniques related to upgrades and metadata management can help to deploy these tools faster. But even Aras PLM is the best free tool, it falls short when it comes to fast deployment using cloud IaaS infrastructure. Check Aras page on Azure Marketplace – you need to get Aras subscription and separately to get Azure IaaS infrastructure to set up. The demand to have cloud-based services that can be rolled, updated and configured at the highest possible rate is here and the tools are not here yet.

What is my conclusion? Both ERP and PLM vendors are facing challenges to adapt to agile product deployment and implementation methods. While you can see a lot of articles and questions related to the company and people changes, the existing PLM and ERP technologies are another significant inhibitor of agile product implementations. New tools and technologies built for multi-tenant deployment, instant upgrades, and new feature deployment will be needed to make agile implementation reality. Just my thoughts…

The last almost two decades of cloud technologies and web development provided many tools that can be used in enterprise software today. PLM and ERP are great candidates to adopt these tools. But the development is going slow. There are some great examples such as Aras PLM as a tool that can download and install for free. Some techniques related to upgrades and metadata management can help to deploy these tools faster. But even Aras PLM is the best free tool, it falls short when it comes to fast deployment using cloud IaaS infrastructure. Check Aras page on Azure Marketplace – you need to get Aras subscription and separately to get Azure IaaS infrastructure to set up. The demand to have cloud-based services that can be rolled, updated and configured at the highest possible rate is here and the tools are not here yet.

What is my conclusion? Both ERP and PLM vendors are facing challenges to adapt to agile product deployment and implementation methods. While you can see a lot of articles and questions related to company and people changes, the existing PLM and ERP technologies are another significant inhibitor of agile product implementations. New tools and technologies built for multi-tenant deployment, instant upgrades (http://beyondplm.com/2019/05/13/what-is-better-than-free-plm-upgrade/) and new feature deployment will be needed to make agile implementation reality. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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.

Image credit – Dave Gray

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