Is bi-modal PLM a Fad or Silver Bullet?

Is bi-modal PLM a Fad or Silver Bullet?


To implement PLM isn’t an easy project. Especially when it comes to large PLM implementations going beyond document management control and CAD files lifecycle. These PLM implementations are usually multi-year endeavors involving IT personnel, business and PLM consulting, PLM vendors and service companies. What is the right architecture and strategy for these implementations? Until now, you probably heard about two main approaches – big bang and staged approach. As much as some PLM strategists and vendors loved to have one big beautiful and shiny PLM system implemented in one big shot, it never happened in a real life. Slowly, step by step, manufacturing companies have stabilized their PLM implementations to run their business. A typical successful PLM implementation is a result of few years of work. Once it is done, the challenge of such environment and PLM implementation is to make a change to react on new requirements, technology and new development. And it is not easy. Manufacturing companies have stuck with old PLM platforms, technologies, implementations and services. Obsolescence is a big deal it IT and technology.

Have you heard about bi-modal PLM? I’ve been following conversations about bi-modal PLM for the last few months. You can read about it in my earlier blog – PLM and bi-modal IT. The term was originated by Gartner as bi-modal IT.

Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.

I found quite a number of controversy around the topic of bimodal IT – Saying goodbye to bi-modal IT, Bi-modal IT: good or bad idea, The pros and cons of bi-modal IT. As much as it sounds like a silver bullet approach that can support both legacy IT stack as well as a new digital transformation movement, I can see lot of valid criticism of bi-modal approach. But, bi-modal IT ideas are coming to PLM. Earlier this year, Jos Voskuil introduced the topic of bi-modal PLM in some of his articles.


Companies that have implemented their classical PLM environment are failing to move to a PLM infrastructure supporting modern customer-driven delivery of products and services. However, the evolutionary approach takes too long; the alternative is to disrupt your business. Or try a bimodal PLM-approach. The picture above is fascinating. However, the devil is in details. I’d like to see a company that put together blue and red arrows and made it work. If you know about companies implemented bi-modal approach in PLM, I’d love to talk to them.

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss Aras conference (ACE2017) later this month. As I learned from the article, Prof. Martin Eigner is going to share his ideas and experience in implementing SysML approach, which is according to him is an example of bi-modal PLM implementation strategy. I’m interested to learn how Aras technologies can be mapped with bi-modal PLM? Is Aras represents model 1 or model 2 group of vendors?

Dr. Eigner’s talk will also reflect on similar approaches like “bimodal PLM/IT” (Gartner, 2016) and “Digital PLM” (Accenture, 2016) which, like SysLM, call for an evolution in product development processes and tools. This evolution will see the transition from document based to model bases processes, integrated Configuration Management, and traditional hierarchical product structures to network and linear structures.

The dilemma of manufacturing companies and PLM IT is how to balance between large PLM investment done for the last decade and the need to modernize PLM implementations to adopt new technologies and keep up to the speed of innovations in manufacturing and technologies. Check my earlier article – Airbus PLM: Data Archeology and Death by Obsolescence. The problem is painful and I can see why IT organization see some advantages in keeping a balance between model 1 and 2 in bi-modal approach. As much as the idea is nice, I can see lot of problems in such model related to creation of silos between two stacks, lock-in of new technologies in a narrow implementation scope and human interest to be on the side of new and shiny technologies with little interest to maintain old stacks.

What is my conclusion? Technological transformation is not simple. I look forward to learn more about bi-modal PLM approach. I know, the criticism is easy. What is the solution then? I think the idea of end-to-end transformation is much more interesting. It starts from establishment of a new technological stack that is agile and can scale. It can absorb legacy stack and to converge into new business and technological platform. Traditional IT in such model remains responsible for maintenance of existing system of records until they will be replaced by new agile stacks. In such case bi-modal will play a transformative role? Maybe this is a trajectory bi-modal IT will be taking to replace old PLM practices with new agile and global product development methodologies and technologies. 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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