Who needs “simple PLM”?

Who needs “simple PLM”?


It was almost 20 years ago. I was developing AutoCAD software for customers in Israel. I remember a conversation with a prospect customer who told me with a directness you can only hear in Israel during customer meetings – I want to have “one button application”. I looked sadly at the program we just demonstrated full of buttons and menus and asked him – how do you want me to put all these functions in a single button? The answer was very simple – you need to figure it out. I want to have a single button and this button should do what I need when I click on it. Many years ago, I still remember this conversation. And also how hard to create simple things.

Jos Voskuil made me think about simplicity in PLM earlier this week. Read his article – PLM is not simple. The picture in his blog is very insightful.


Article says vendors are tying to convince customers that PLM is simple, while in fact it should not be simple. According to Jos, when it comes to PLM, the demand for simplicity is actually wrong thing to think about. Because PLM is business transformation and it cannot be simple. Here is the passage from his article.

Never implement the past, implement the future. For my customers, implementing PLM was never simple as every PLM implementation was driving a business change. In the early days of SmarTeam, we had the theme “We work the way you work”, which is in hindsight a very bad statement. You do not want to automate the way a company is currently working. You want to use a PLM implementation to support a business change.

Jos’ article made me think about who needs simple PLM – customers,  PLM software vendors, service provides, PLM consultants? Below I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the demand for simplicity in PLM:

Customers (Industrial companies)

A typical PLM customer isn’t a single user. A typical PLM buyer is engineering IT organization purchasing software to solve business problem. His interest to solve business problem, but not really to make it simple. Complex software requires more people, an increased budget and can become an additional reason to highlight IT department skills and experience. End-users hate complex software these days, therefore usability is desired, but not top priority for enterprise PLM.

PLM software vendors

Don’t underestimate the complexity of software we created. This is a phrase I’ve heard from one of PLM vendors in the past. Apple, Google and few other consumer companies are demonstrating how hard to create simple solutions, but in fact most PLM vendors are far away from a desired level of simplicity. Marketing will like “simple” messages, but if you know how to sell complex software, you won’t be much interested to see “simple package” everyone can sell. However, for the last decade, PLM vendors were criticized a lot for complexity of their solutions, so they are pretty much interested how to simplify things and present it as a competitive differentiation.

Implementation and service providers

Complex software, customization, configuration, know-hows, best practices, installation… you name it. More of these things can only lead to more services which is core business of PLM service providers.  PLM industry is very much competitive, but simplicity is not a desired characteristic for PLM when it comes to service business. Guess what… customer can figure it out how to make it and stop paying for services.

PLM consultants

Complex software can lead to good consulting revenues. It was true many years for enterprise software. Although, most of PLM consultants are trying to distant from PLM software and sell their experience “to implement the future”, simplicity is not a favorite word in consulting language. Customer will hire consulting people to figure out the future and how to transform business, but what if software is simple enough to make it happen without consultant? Good question to ask, but most of them will tell you it is not a realistic scenario. Which is most probably true today. But here is the hint – remember the time PC technicians knew how to configured jumpers on PC cards to make printer actually print something?

What is my conclusion? My favorite quote about complexity and simplicity belongs to Richard Branson: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can do something complicated. It is hard to make something simple“. Complex software has many pitfalls. All people involved into PLM implementation can be digging hours, days and weeks through a software package helping customers organize some data. This is a nature of every PLM implementation. Each customer is using software in a slightly different way. Engineers are paying great deal of attention on every element of PLM data management software. Only small number of users can really grasp the true intention of PLM developers. And it becomes the problem. How to mobilize service and support team to help customers to use software? Do you re-do all the clients mistakes or do you clean all settings to default, save time and energy and go with best practices to prove software can actually work. PLM software implementation is a chain of many interaction each one can profit from complexity, but also can benefit from simplicity tomorrow. However, it requires to make a change, which is very complex thing to do. 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

(c) Can Stock Photo / blamb


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