Agile product development: the next PLM frontier?

Agile product development: the next PLM frontier?


Product Innovation Platform is an interesting concept emerged for the last few years. It addresses few very important aspects of PLM deployment and architecture – openness, integration and sustainable deployment. Unfortunately, it is very hard to create a clear definition of Product Innovation Platform. Catch up on some of my earlier articles about product innovation platforms – Sweet dreams about product innovation platforms, Architecture options for product innovation platforms and, finally, Product innovation platforms: I know when I see it.

Some companies are connecting the idea of product innovation platform with agile product development process. Redshift Autodesk article Don’t go chasing waterfall by Stephen Hooper, senior director of industry strategy and business development for Autodesk Manufacturing brings a perspective how Autodesk product innovation platform is expanding traditional product life cycle management (PLM). Here is the passage that caught my special attention:

 It also offers the opportunity to shun waterfall product development in favor of a more agile, iterative process. product innovation platforms offer the ability to conceive, design, engineer, optimize, manufacture, sell, and connect to a product in the field—all around the same set of common data. It’s a development cycle that allows you to abandon waterfall processes for good and, ultimately, offer better service to your customers. But to truly adopt a product innovation platform means that you’re willing to take the leap from linear, waterfall product development to agile product development—and that means being ready to embrace some process changes in your organization.

According to the article, iterative process is faster, more efficient and allows to accelerate innovation process in the organization.

Autodesk is not alone to speak about the idea of iterative processes and innovation speed. Onshape, a startup company that trying to challenge CAD industry by bringing a completely new type of full cloud CAD software recently came with the ebook – Introduction to agile product design. You can download it for free. Here is a passage I captured in the book:

Agile Product Design is a new approach to build products faster and with more innovation – strongly emphasizing rapid iteration, tight communication between a geographically diverse team, and an openness to embracing change. The idea of Agile Development has already been widely adopted with great success in the software world. Favoring “responding to change over following a plan,” the approach breaks down software development into short review cycles or “sprints,” with incremental product improvements being delivered at the end. Agile Software Development is a collaborative process, using customer feedback to determine the next set of tasks

So, fast iteration and tight communication  are key elements of agile product design and development. And I think, it demands new type of tools. For a long time, PLM was well known by waterfall planning, long strategic roadmap and years of implementation. You can think about the following picture as a demonstration of a typical PLM implementation in the past


Such process is prone to fail. The fundamental problem is complexity of the system combined with long implementation cycle. The result is not what customer is looking for. But the time is over and to fix it cost a fortune. Which remind me one of my favorite John Gall’s law. Gall’s Law states that all complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked. If you want to build a complex system that works, build a simpler system first, and then improve it over time.


Agile product development introduce a big problem to existing PLM architectures with complex data modeling, workflow based business processes and slow implementations. It made me think about new concepts of PLM product development and implementation. The following slide deck is my first take on how to bring new ideas and change legacy PLM architectures.

What is my conclusion? Agile product development is 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. 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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