For many years, customization was considered an unavoidable thing in enterprise software. At the earlier days, PLM system was a toolkit that used to create an application customer demanded. Companies understood that PLM customization is a data management Titanic, but had not much to do about it. A typical large PLM implementation back early days was like a big mess of best practices, configuration, templates, customization and a little bit SQL hacking code. If you deal with large PLM consulting and service partner, you can hope that they “will figure out” how to solve the problem. A service bill will be mailed, of course.
The problem with such approach is that heavy customization creates a future problem when customer wants to migrate to the next version of PLM software. Industry people called it “release lock-in” because it prevents a customer to move the next product release and leverage new product functionality. If customer decide to move anyway, it cost even more in additional services to re-implement or fix existing custom code.
One of my earlier thoughts back in 2013 was that “decustomization” trend will be an important element of future PLM infrastructure improvement. Navigate here to read more. That was a short conclusion I made – Decustomization of PLM will be one of the most important elements in the future PLM infrastructure improvements. To make implementation cost effective and to support future cloud deployments, PLM vendors will have to invest in technologies and methods to simplify deployment, flexibility and speed of implementations.
So, how to eliminate customization problem? There is no straight answer on this question. But, I think, PLM vendors are aware about the problem. My attention was caught by PTC Windchill Upgrade Center. Navigate here to learn more. You can download PTC whitepaper – Unlock opportunity in your Windchill 11 upgrade here. I found the following passage interesting:
Can we reconsider our customizations? Customizations have plusses and minuses. An upgrade is a good time to re-evaluate both. Some customizations provide a competitive advantage and should be migrated into the new version. Others were created to add necessary functionality to earlier versions of Windchill that potentially can now be replaced with new off-the-shelf capabilities in Windchill 11.
By strategically decustomizing Windchill, organizations can reduce TCO and risks for future upgrades. Customizations increase costs because customers may need to use professional services to resolve technical problems rather than being able to turn to tech support. Heavily customized systems can also be more difficult to upgrade if customizations must be rewritten for the new system.
I’m glad PTC picked up “decustomization” word and thinking about complexity of upgrades. Strategic decustomization of PLM to reduce TCO will be an interesting move. It raises the question of how decustomizable PLM will be used by customers with functional requirements going beyond OOTB product features. I didn’t find an answer on this question, but this is probably a topic to discuss in the future or ask PTC people.
What is my conclusion? The need to decustomize existing PLM systems is a big pain in PLM industry and it is getting stronger. Traditional out of the box implementations cannot always solve a problem and customers are not ready to lock themselves into heavy PLM customization. The solution to solve the problem is probably between technology and business model. Cloud PLM and service agreements are predominantly two ways to insure new PLM system is always up to speed with upgrades. Do you think PLM vendors are ready for such challenge? The jury is out. Just my thoughts…
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.