Is PLM Customization a Data Management Titanic?

PLM implementations are not simple. At the time when PLM vendors are working how to improve their out-of-the-box product offerings, PLM customization plays a very significant role. According to the analysts, customizations and services can be estimated as about 40-50% of total revenues in PDM/PLM domain.

What is behind these numbers and why it happens? In order to understand it, I think, we need to get short round-trip in the history of Product Lifecycle Management. The roots of PLM are in the first implementations made by large aerospace, defense and automotive manufacturers. This is the birth place of PLM and origin of PLM ideas. Since then, PLM started their journey downstream by proliferating ideas, software products and implementations. I can identify the following three trends in Product Lifecycle Management these days:

Maturity of the basic product offering
The PLM core functionality came to the stable form and mostly represented by product data management, lifecycle components and additional modules related to the business process activities – requirements, program, project, services and other processes. Interesting is that PDM and Lifecycle are considered as the most mature components of these portfolios.

Industry specialization
Initially, PLM started in aero/auto domains. However, nowadays it is moving towards all industries. In order to play industry game well, PLM vendors decided to invest into industry orientation. This trend can be characterized by a wide range of options starting from industry marketing and ending by providing packaged PLM solutions for the specific industries (i.e. Apparel, CPG, Food and Beverage, etc.)

Emerging trends
I can identify two main emerging trends – SaaS / OnDemand and Open Sources. Both are focused on how to satisfy needs of customers differently utilizing new software technologies  and deployment as well as by investing in the alternative form of business models.

When PLM industry focused mostly on providing out-of-the-box functionality, I didn’t find any technological trends focused on core data management capabilities of existing and future PLM systems. This is a very bad sign, in my view. Looking backwards, I can see significant improvements that were made in PLM software by the introduction of flexible data modeling. It allowed to decrease cost of PLM implementations, but created the huge amount of today’s customizations and implementations based on existing PDM/PLM platforms.  And this is a growing conflict between customized PLM software and upgrades to the coming releases of PLM portfolios.

I found the following Develop3D’s article as a very interesting. Al Dean is writing about replacement of highly customizable instance of MatrixOne by Open Source PLM Aras. There is more information about this event on Aras website. Read it. It looks like customer made the decision in favor of Open Source because of absence of alternatives to move to the next version of out-of-the-box MatrixOne version. I want to point out on the discussion about PLM software upgrades – PLM, Cloud, SaaS and Software Upgrades. My conclusion was simple – technology and architecture matter. If PLM data management capabilities could manage the upgrade event from highly customizable solution, I doubt the customer’s decision was to dump out existing vendors. Does it mean Aras has such technology? I don’t know. However, coupled with Open Source business model it crushed existing PLM implementation.

So, what is my conclusion? My hunch is that PLM vendors forgot to invest into data management technologies. PLM data management technologies were created 10-15 years ago. Since then, industry developed huge amounts of customized implementations. I see these implementations as Titanic pushing forward… Do you think they will be able to achieve port of destination or will die in front of icebergs of upgrades? I see it as a real and dangerous problem.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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