The future of continuous PLM customization

The future of continuous PLM customization


One size doesn’t fit all. It is hard to standardize enterprise software. Engineers are always in a disagreement how to get things done. PLM system have started their customization journey as a toolkit based environment tried to shift to out-of-the-box templates and failed. Customers are very much aware about PLM customization challenge. They are afraid to get involved into complex customization project that will cost money and risk that customized environment won’t fit future version of PLM software. At the same time, PLM marketing is selling “configuration vs customization” stories trying to convince users that “configuration” is not as bad as you might think about it. Well… I don’t know actually. It depends on how it works. Devil is in the details.

I can see two trends in PLM customization. One is to sell upgrade subscription. I can see it as sort of “insurance”. Vendor is guarantee that he will take full responsibility to upgrade your system whatsoever. Unless you believe that vendor won’t get overwhelmed by the number of upgrades to run, it can be something that will work. Until the time it won’t… The second option is multi-tenant cloud software and continues delivery. Check my blog about Devops and continuous integration. Because of the nature of cloud environment, vendor will have to develop it in a way customization will become a natural function of every system behavior. In other words, multi-tenancy is a natural environment where customization can be done and users won’t be afraid to stay behind the next production update.

Can you customize PLM processes to be efficient and quick as 20 seconds? As many users are saying – “typical PLM experience 20 clicks away”. Rootstock blog article brings a very interesting story about how cloud software can customize processes in a cloud environment – “By Customizing Cloud ERP, What Used to Take Ten Minutes…Now Takes Only 20 Seconds” written by Pat Garrehy, Rootstock CEO.  I captured the following passage giving you an idea of native cloud customization.

Customization will always be a necessary component of user adoption and extension of software packages. It’s always been that way, and simply because an ERP solution is on the cloud does not change that fact. The chances are slim to none that any single ERP package, cloud or on-premise, will ever provide 100 percent of the “out of the box” functionality required by the entire the installed base.

While Cloud ERP demonstrates cost savings in almost every area – hardware, IT personnel, etc. – it only stands to reason that those planning on purchasing an ERP package must do more evaluation and analysis to determine how easy it is to customize and add enhancements to cloud ERP systems.

As an example, in the initial set-up, Rootstock ERP provides cost control which 1st Light Energy can tie into a project and build an item, harnessing materials resource planning (MRP). They have streamlined that to a 2-button click. To do this, Lackey and his staff establish the process first,and then they automate it. By customizing such processes, what used to take ten minutes to set up now takes only 20 seconds.

Rootstock’s example might not be a universal one. However, it made me think that an old paradigm of centralized PLM administration can be soon outdated. The future cloud based systems should have a diverse set of roles that can assigned to people responsible to tailor system based on what is needed. This is sort of “self-customization” idea can sound weird to somebody who is looking for authority and administration first. A whole process of “implementation” can be turned upside down into a process of applying specific changes parameters, tasks or even scripts (depends on your role)  by people using the system. The concept of “upgrade” might become outdated in such system architecture. Let me ask you this – when Facebook was upgraded last time to include a new feature? I guess you didn’t notice.

What is my conclusion? We are going to see a paradigm shift in the way enterprise PLM system will be customized in the future. Known as “data modeling” and “implementation” processes will be replaced with self performed tasks coordinated between number of people working in different organizations and having different roles. The system will be in controllable continuous change process all the time. It will allow maximum flexibility and agility to organization and software vendors. However, it might require a complete rethink about how PLM system is designed. 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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